The New York Times magazine recently published this article -- http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/01/health/01care.html?_r=1&ref=health -- in which they discuss how an Alzheimer's patient care facility is bucking the status quo in patient care by (my wording) caring for the patients in a way designed to lessen conflict and increase happiness.

I asked Sandra if it'd be okay to bring the link to this list because what the care facility is doing reminds me, in many ways, of what unschooling parents do -- we treat our children *as people* and focus on their individual wants and needs, and the care facility treats their patients as people and focuses on each person's individual wants and needs -- with a noticeable benefit being the decline of "behavior problems".

Some quotes from the article that specifically made me think of unschooling:

***Research suggests that creating positive emotional experiences for Alzheimer's patients diminishes distress and behavior problems.*** -- This immediately made me think of the recent discussion on-list about Oppositional Defiant Disorder. When interactions with the patients were changed so that the patients' wants and needs were being met rather than resisted, the patients' distress was reduced, as were behavior problems.

***Food became available constantly, a canny move, Ms. Dougherty said, because people with dementia might be "too distracted" to eat during group mealtimes, and later "be acting out when what they actually need is food.*** -- We talk often on-list about the impact being hungry can have on behavior! When my kiddo's gaming, I make sure to take him food so that he doesn't get too hungry -- if he gets too hungry, he has less patience for more challenging tasks, he gets frustrated easier, a game controller may be thrown, yelling at the game will probably happen, and all of that has an impact on everyone else in the house. Taking 10 or 15 minutes to put together a meal or snack for him when I know it's about time for him to be getting hungry is something I enjoy being able to do for him. No, it doesn't *eliminate* challenging tasks or game frustration or a controller being thrown or yelling at a game, but it absolutely lessens how quickly and how often those things happen.

***Realizing that nutritious, low-salt, low-fat, doctor-recommended foods might actually discourage people from eating, Ms. Alonzo began carrying chocolate in her pocket. 'For God's sake,' Ms. Mullan said, 'if you like bacon, you can have bacon here.' Comforting food [bacon, chocolate] improves behavior and mood because it 'sends messages they can still understand: it feels good, therefore I must be in a place where I'm loved,' Ms. Dougherty said.*** -- I thought this was a good reminder of the importance of having "tasty food" and "comfort food", and that the definitions of "tasty food" and "comfort food" differ from person to person. In our household, taste buds vary considerably and it's not uncommon for only 2 of the 3 of us to be eating the same meal, or for all 3 of us to be eating something different. We nearly always have some sort of comfort food on-hand for each person, too!

***Beatitudes also changed activity programming. Instead of group events like bingo, in which few residents could actually participate, staff members, including housekeepers, conduct one-on-one activities: block-building, coloring, simply conversing.*** -- A person can be lonely even in a crowd (exactly how I felt throughout my school years!). There's something about one-on-one time that creates feelings of being wanted, needed, and of being valuable. Those feelings exist regardless of how young or old a person may be.

***That afternoon, Ms. Nance, in her wheelchair, happily held her baby doll, which she named Benjamin, and commented about raising her sons decades ago. Ms. Alonzo had at first considered the doll an 'undignified' and demeaning security blanket. But Ms. Gallagher explained that 'for a lot of people who are parents, what gives them joy is caring for children.' 'I was able,' Ms. Gallagher said, 'to find Margaret's strength.' Ms. Gallagher said she learned when approaching Ms. Nance to 'look at her baby doll, and once I connect with the doll, I can look at her.'*** -- One of the things I value most about our unschooling journey is that I respect what's important to my child and I don't demean those things. That's carried over to my interactions with other kids, and I'm so appreciative of that. It means a lot to me to be an adult with whom kids enjoy hanging out.

It's an interesting article, and I like the perspective it offers on treating people as people, regardless of age (or memory function), and the positive impact that can have on the individuals as well as those around them.