As evening approaches in the dementia ward at the Albany County Nursing Home, patients’ irritability and confusion rises. Come nighttime, many residents have problems sleeping — wandering, wheeling or perhaps falling in the halls.
So two years ago, health researchers installed what the home’s nurse manager Karen Pitcher calls “the miracle table,” a repurposed flat screen TV that emits a bluish-white light. They gathered residents around it at mealtimes, and allowed them to congregate there whenever they pleased from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The goal was to help stimulate the residents’ circadian rhythms — the hormones that ebb and flow according to light and other signals — and help correct the sleep disorders that are all too common among the ward’s elderly patients, especially those with dementia.
The miracle table worked some wonders. What happened wasn’t a complete reversal of symptoms, but was significant nonetheless for many patients. Read more