New Alzheimer’s therapy developed by WSU prof spreading across US


Three years ago, Wright State University professor Govind Bharwani was given a challenge: Find a way to help people living with Alzheimer’s disease so they are less prone to becoming confused, agitated, withdrawn and falling.

Today, the breakthrough therapy he created has won five national awards, spread to 14 institutions in three states and there is a six-month waiting list for those wishing to implement it.

The therapy works by providing each person with their own “memory box” filled with family photos, books and movies they love and other special items. Videos and music from “soothing libraries” are also selected specifically for the patient and games and puzzles are available to stimulate their brains. The therapy is unique because it is customized for each individual and does not involve the use of drugs.

“This has an impact on their quality of life,” Bharwani said of the program, called “behavior-based ergonomics therapy.” “The purpose of it is to not only benefit the residents but the caregivers, as well.”

It started with a request from the St. Leonard Franciscan Living Community in Centerville for a new way to treat residents with dementia. The community was seeing too many falls among residents and frustration among the staff. Within six months using the new therapy, the rate of falls was reduced by one-third and the use of anti-psychotic medications was cut by 65 percent.

“It made a tremendous difference,” said Terri Walker, director of memory support services.

“The biggest challenge is trying to understand each resident who has dementia,” Walker said. “They can’t express their needs.”

With a sheet on each resident that describes what music, videos, games and other therapies they like best, the staff can easily respond to the first signs of stress and redirect them with the prescribed therapy. For instance, it only took a few minutes for nursing assistant Laura Spain to set resident Naomi up with her favorite video of zoo babies, and Naomi could watch the video for 30 to 60 minutes. After such a therapy session, the patient is typically calmed for four hours, Bharwani said.

“They start eating better, they start sleeping better and they start bathing better,” said Bharwani, an adjunct professor of biomedical engineering.

The therapy is more effective than a group activity, which can work for some patients and not others, but also does not require much one-on-one time from staff, he said. The St. Leonard’s staff has used the therapies 15,000 times since the program was created in 2010. Although the therapy was pioneered in Dayton, it is spreading around the world. In the United States alone, 5.4 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Wright State is now exploring how the therapy could be used for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s at home with the university’s neuroscience department, the Alzheimer’s Association and project coordinator Meena Bharwani, who helps implement the program and trains staff with her father.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in News

Stabbing victim flown to hospital; Springfield crews search for suspect
Stabbing victim flown to hospital; Springfield crews search for suspect

Springfield police are searching for a suspect after a man was stabbed in the chest, according to Springfield Sgt. Michael Curtis. Crews were dispatched to the 1100 block of Water Street around 11:40 p.m. Friday on a report of a stabbing.  Officers arrived to find the victim coherent and unable to recall the events leading up to the stabbing,...
Pennsylvania man accused of urinating on toys on store shelf
Pennsylvania man accused of urinating on toys on store shelf

A Pennsylvania man is accused of urinating on toys and other items in a store.  Police said David Pacoe, 74, was captured on surveillance video urinating on a shelf inside Playthings, Etc. in Butler on Nov. 2.  “It's not very nice at all and it's a toy store. You shouldn't have to worry about having security and guards or...
Ohio woman burned by coffee in break room spat
Ohio woman burned by coffee in break room spat

An Ohio woman suffered “significant burns” when another woman threw a cup of hot coffee on her in a break room at the YWCA, according to a Dayton Police report.  Officers and a medic were dispatched to the YWCA in Dayton at 5:25 p.m. Thursday on a report of an aggravated assault.  The two women involved in the altercation...
Louisiana veteran entertains motorists with saxophone
Louisiana veteran entertains motorists with saxophone

A Vietnam War veteran has become a fixture for music lovers in his Louisiana town. Donald Givens plays saxophone for several hours daily in his gazebo at his Monroe residence. His yard is located near the corner of two overpasses and commuters can listen to his daily jam sessions, the News-Star reported. Strangers pull up to his home and ask Givens...
Stolen Van Halen guitar returned to Hard Rock Cafe in Texas
Stolen Van Halen guitar returned to Hard Rock Cafe in Texas

A guitar owned by rock ’n’ roll legend Eddie Van Halen worth more than $100,000 was recovered Friday, hours after it was stolen from a Hard Rock Cafe in San Antonio, Texas, KSAT reported. The guitar, nicknamed “Frankenstrat,” had been reported stolen around 1 a.m. Friday. It was returned later in the day, but it is unclear how...
More Stories