Beatitudes Dementia Care

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A long-term care community in Arizona is receiving national recognition for its best practices in dementia care. Beatitudes Campus has created replicable ways to decrease drugs prescribed, eliminate physical restraints, stop adult diaper usage and increase the comfort of patients. Arizona Horizon visited the Beatitudes Campus to see the ground-breaking principles in use.

Ted Simons: Beatitudes Campus has created replicable ways to decrease prescribed drugs, eliminate physical restraints and generally keep patients more comfortable. Reporter Lorri Allen and photographer Scot Olson visited to see the principles in use.

Joann: These have been there, we see those every once in a while.

Lori: Joann and Phillip Young married soon after they met.

Phillip: On our first date she laughed at my jokes and she was a good dancer. I figured that's about all I really needed. We've been laughing together and having a great time.

Lori: 60 years later, Phil visits his wife several times a day at a place unlike typical dementia communities.

Joann: Here you are, sweetie. You're going to get your picture, too, aren't you?

Lori: Comfort first is the philosophy, with an emphasis on creating a sense of home.

Tena Alonzo: The home they are asking for may not be reality any longer. But we're looking for those elements that stress the importance of home, those things that connect us to a broader sense of community, and those things that ultimately at the end of the day are the things that give us peace.

Tena Alonzo: All things really boil down to what makes you comfortable. So the individual who has napped in their living room, the person who likes their recliner better than their bed, should still have the opportunity to have those same kinds of patterns that have always made sense to them. It's not my reality that's important, it's not what I say that matters, but it's rather what this person says that really counts.

Yes, that's for you.

Lori: Alonzo calls the fourth floor the neighborhood. And taking away the dietary rules here helped.

One, it's not too fattening.

No, ma'am, it's not.

Tena Alonzo: When people have dementia, it's important to know folks may not have the same kind of clock everyone else has. Being able to eat whenever you're hungry is really important. Being able to sleep whenever you want to is really important. If the person happens to be hungry or thirsty, there's something always available to help them provide a sense of comfort and security.

Tena Alonzo: You want to sit down for a little bit?

Lori: Alonzo is credited with many of the common sense ideas behind comfort first. She'll tell you it's a team effort; like almost everyone she works with Alonzo got into this career because a loved one suffered.

Tena Alonzo: My grandmother was my mentor, and someone that I looked up to more than anyone else in lifetime and when she succumbed to dementia and started to show all the symptoms that we normally see, it was really heartbreaking for my family. But what I learned out of the experience that is there had to be something more, there had to be quality of life. There had to be an opportunity to embrace who she truly was. And so I've been in pursuit of that.

Lori: That pursuit has meant the elimination of restraint, diapers and many drugs.

All right, good.

Lori: Instead of scheduled activities, play is spontaneous.

Dr. Maribeth Gallagher: What we're trying to do is get people to realize that indeed, there's this person inside this, beautiful, beautiful person. And there are so many other ways to make meaningful connection beyond the language of the brain, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. The language of the heart and soul through touch, through taste, through song, through a kiss, a smile, all of these things. From a change perspective, isn't this feasible? Isn't this easy to replicate? Does it cost a lot of money? No. Where is it taking place, the change? Between our ears and in our hearts.

¶ let me call you sweetheart ¶ ¶ I'm in love with you ¶¶

Dr. Maribeth Gallagher: That was beautiful!

Thank you.

Lori: Gallagher, a professional singer for year,s, has found a new audience. It happened when she started working for Hospice of the Valley and collaborating with the Comfort First program at Beatitudes.

Dr. Maribeth Gallagher: It's the most fulfilling thing that I've ever done in my life, every single day. It's difficult but it's very fulfilling, you know. Think about it, people with dementia lose their ability to think and interpret. So Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are diseases of the brain. But they are not diseases of the heart, the soul, whatever elements of a human being you want to label it.


Karen Mitchell: Everyone can do this. It is changing the way you think about giving the care.

Lori: And the comfort first philosophy saves money.

Karen Mitchell: When you anticipate someone's needs, you don't have to spend the money on products to keep someone dry. You don't have to buy expensive supplements or nourishments because they are eating good food. When you have someone who is comfortable, the staff that you have doesn't have to spend time trying to fix because they are uncomfortable. So the same staffing that we had back 10-15 years ago, is exactly what we have now. We always make sure that we have staff who know how to take care of the person. And so it is very economical. Being able to know that you helped somebody to smile or feel that there was a special moment is priceless. It is the kind of thing that nurtures your own soul.

You know, yeah, I would want to go.

Phillip: This is an intricate type of hanging and tapestry, but we comment every time we go by because it's so pretty. She can forget sometimes day to day but it's so nice again to be able to see something familiar like that, something we appreciate. Joann's had her memory problems, it goes back Eight or ten years really, but it was to the point where we knew we were going to have to have some additional help along the way. And Beatitudes has an outstanding program for that kind of memory support.

Christine Parish: It's kind of funny sometimes, she'll go, okay, she'll say, I know he's messing around with other women. He laughs and gets a chuckle out of it and brings daisy his little dog over, when she tells you I've been with other women, this is the only other woman I've been with. He has his little dog in his arms. They are so loving, you can see it when they are together.

Joann: O you're so cute. Honey I love you.

Phillip: We get by, we know we have to take it one day at a time. There's comfort in that.

Ted Simons: Comfort First considers what some call innovation as simple common sense. It allows residents the flexibility to live in a relatively unstructured manner within a long-term care environment. For more information, check out the Beatitudes website at

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