Hebrew Home at Riverdale is testing a new approach to treating patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, inspired from the most unlikely place — the Adam Sandler rom-com 50 First Dates.
In the movie, the object of Sandler’s affections, Drew Barrymore, has suffered a brain injury that causes her to lose her memory at the end of each day. And so to win her heart, he takes videos of their time together to help her remember him.
“It was fluff, but it made me think, how could that translate to our residents with memory loss?” Charlotte Dell, the home’s director of social services, says.
The idea is to calm agitated Alzheimer’s patients who wake up disoriented each morning with a familiar, loving face. And so patients’ loved ones record video messages to say “good morning” and reassure patients that the caregivers are there to help them.
“Memory tools like videos and photos get a lot of use, but to have a couple of minutes with a loved one as a way to start out the day, I haven’t heard of anything quite like that,” Ruth Drew, director of Family and Information Services for the Alzheimer’s Association, says.
Although the video recordings from family aren’t a fix for every patient, for some who can still recognize — even on some level — their loved one, it can be a calming influence.
One patient named Louise Irving is constantly nagged by anxiety about being lost. So each morning her son-in-law, Mihai Radulescu, is able to remind her, “I know where you are… I will always find you.”
Perhaps for some who have lost loved ones to Alzheimer’s or dementia, it helps to give them a way to participate in their care and touch their lives every day and remind them they are loved.
“Good morning, merry sunshine. How did you wake so soon?” Irving’s daughter, Tamara Rusoff-Hoen, sings to her mother.
Then Louise smiles and repeats her daily farewell, “Kiss, kiss… I love you.”