Innovation at work

Manor to pilot personalized memory care therapy

Lady flipping through a photo album, part of memory care therapy BBET.A new personalized therapy for residents in the memory care neighborhood is coming to Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor.

Called Behavior-Based Ergonomics Therapy, or BBET, the program uses music, photos and other emotional cues to soothe symptoms of dementia such as confusion, irritability, aggression and withdrawal, as an alternative to medication. It was developed by Dr. Govind Bharwani, a biomedical engineering professor at Wright State University in Ohio.

Bharwani first implemented his program at St. Leonard Franciscan Living Community in Centerville, Ohio. Caregivers spent about 10 to 20 minutes on BBET therapy as a preventive measure, resulting in up to four hours of calm. That allowed residents to eat, bathe and sleep with less cognitive stress. Within six months, resident falls decreased by 40 percent, and medication use for behaviors was down 70 percent.

“This therapy may be something that will allow someone to stay even longer in memory care than in health care,” said Jennifer Parr, director of assisted living services.

Bharwani and his daughter, Meena, have begun training Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor employees on BBET techniques. Sarah Standefer, nursing director for memory care, said they’re already working with families to develop customized therapy “libraries” and memory boxes for each resident that may include mementos, photos, CDs, videos of favorite pastimes, and even fabrics treated with calming scents. Another facet of the therapy uses games and puzzles to stimulate the brain.

“We want to know what they liked to do 20 or 30 years ago, because that’s where they are emotionally,” Standefer said.

Nursing staff will evaluate residents individually to help tailor their therapy to pre-empt difficult situations. For instance, Parr said, one resident is constantly looking for an exit and has trouble staying seated for meals. Caregivers want to see if a short therapy session before meals could help him stay at the table, she said.

It can also help family members and loved ones reconnect with residents in a different way. “Even if they don’t recognize their family anymore, their loved ones can sit down with them and engage in something together,” Parr said.

Arkansas City is the first Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America campus to implement BBET. The program will eventually roll out to other PMMA communities.