THE EFFECTS OF ROCKING
Rocking can be an important supplement to long-term care therapy programs. According to a clinical study of a clientele with a loss of autonomy, frequent use of a rocking chair improves balance and blood circulation, reduces muscle pain, anxiety and depression. "A very popular stereotype of elderly people involves them rocking on their veranda with satisfaction," says Nancy Watson, a researcher at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. "It turns out that this activity really brings greater peace of mind to many people." "It has been very well documented that a gentle repetitive movement provides a soothing effect to infants. We have shown that the same is true for an elderly population suffering from emotional distress."
In a study funded by the New York State Department of Health, Watson studied 25 residents of a long-term care center diagnosed with dementia, either because of Alzheimer's disease or other causes. Nurses at Kirkhaven Center in Rochester closely studied residents' behaviour for six weeks during which they were able to rock themselves. They then compared their behaviour for six weeks while the rocking mechanism on the chairs was disabled. During the weeks that they rocked, most residents experienced an improvement in their psychological and emotional well-being, according to Watson, an assistant professor at the university's nursing school and an expert in gerontological nursing research, an area in which the university ranks in the top 10 at the national level. "Right away, the caregiver noticed the most dramatic effect: the rocking chair could calm a resident when he or she was in emotional distress. A caregiver helped the resident to sit and rock in the chair, and the patient calmed down immediately.” In the study, residents rocked between half an hour and two and a half hours a day for five days a week. While not all residents improved, it was more marked among those who rocked the most, according to Watson. "The more they rocked, the better they felt. "
Behaviours such as crying or expressions of anxiety, tension or depression decreased slightly in almost one-third of 11 patients, of which 10 rocked for more than 80 minutes per day. Several patients also requested fewer pain medication during the weeks they rocked, according to Watson; generally, those who rocked the most requested less medication, down to around two or three requests per week. Patients who rocked the least asked for at least as much pain medication, and sometimes more. Those who rocked more consistently also improved their balance, a major concern for an older population, where a fall often leads to a drastic reduction in the quality of life. Watson believes that it is possible that a gentle rocking motion helps stimulate the residents’ vestibular systems, which helps maintain balance. Residents used glider rockers that work similarly to traditional rocking chairs, but they have a stable, stationary base and provide a gentle back-and-forth motion. Attendants gradually introduced the residents to the chairs, encouraging them to rock in them without forcing them to do so.
The researchers working with Nancy Watson were Mary Hauptmann, Director of Care at Kirkhaven, and Carol Brink, Associate Professor of Clinical Care at the university. Also participating in the study were Bethel Powers, Associate Professor of Care; Eileen Root Taillie, Project Director; Margaret Lash, Project Nurse; and Nurse-Researcher Thelma Wells, previously from the University of Rochester and now at the University of Wisconsin. According to Watson, staff at the long-term care center, as well as relatives of residents who seemed happier and less anxious, showed a lot of interest in the study. She believes that rocking therapy could become an important treatment for the 1.6 million people who reside in long-term care facilities in the United States, more than half of whom suffer from some form of dementia. "Rocking provides a gentle form of exercise for these people," says Watson. "It would be difficult to get every resident to take a walk, for example, but the residents can rock themselves, and many of them are happy to do so, with a little encouragement. This is an easy way to improve the quality of life for residents in long-term care centers."
THE RISK OF FALLS
The risk of falls among seniors has significant and sometimes dramatic consequences. A December 6, 2011 article by Radio-Canada noted that in the Quebec health network, more than 62,000 falls had been reported during a six-month period and of this number, half of these incidents involved people aged 75 or over. Fall prevention is a constant concern for managers and workers in the healthcare system and LPA SPECIALTY HEALTHCARE SEATING develops its products with this reality at the heart of its mission.
Falls can have serious consequences, as reported by nurses Moïra Pelletier and Louise Chenard, nursing instructors at the Cégep de la Pocatière:
Falls are one of the major health risks for seniors and are the single greatest cause of pain, functional disorders and disability in the aging population. For Canadians aged 65 and over, falls are by far the leading cause of injury leading to hospitalization. They are, in fact, responsible 85% of their admissions. A fall is very often the triggering or aggravating event resulting in a loss of autonomy. In 2004, falls were the primary cause of injuries leading to permanent partial disability (47%) and total permanent disability (50%).
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