Excellent story in yesterday’s New York Times on comfort for Alzheimer’s patients. At one Phoenix nursing home, non-drug therapies like companion baby dolls and unlimited chocolate help calm individuals suffering from dementia and its terrifying complications.
I know — hardly sounds newsworthy enough for the front page of the Times. But these ‘therapies’ reduce the amount of sedative and anti-psychotic medication administered, meaning better quality of life for patients, at lower cost and with fewer side effects. In other words, if chocolate was a new experimental drug, people would be frantic to have access.
Not unlike chocolate and dolls is the therapeutic benefit of having a dog — in 2009 researchers at the University of Missouri found that elderly folks assigned to walk a dog twice a week were often able to give up canes and walkers, because overall fitness improved so dramatically. Good food for thought as we all contemplate new year’s resolutions.
I’m home after three days of continuing medical education at the Cleveland Clinic. For me being back in the lecture hall feels totally numbing — you’re bombarded with eight hours of Power Point slides daily — yet in hindsight I’m feeling recharged about my day job.
Perhaps the most striking lesson lay beyond the classroom door. One morning I visited a farmer’s market on the Clinic grounds, which is more of an anomaly than you might think; hospitals are far more likely to sell McDonald’s burgers than radishes by the bunch.
Turns out the farmer’s market is one small facet of a massive wellness push at the Clinic that focuses on weight and stress reduction, quitting smoking, and smart nutrition. Of course you already knew this stuff was good for you; the issue is committing to doing it.
At the Clinic a formal program to engage employees in their own health enabled the collective to lose 144,000 pounds in 2009. One man lost 30 pounds in eighteen months simply by deciding to take stairs instead of the elevator. As a result, while health care expenditures were on the rise everywhere else in the last two years, employee health care costs at the Clinic dropped 8%. Bending the cost curve, as the lingo goes.
In the months and years to come I’m betting we’ll hear more about like-minded efforts to promote wellness — much more. And not just because it saves money, but because we’re all starting to wake up to how unsustainably we live. A recent New York Times story about paying patients to take their medications would be a case in point.