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Dementia, Piketty, Borrowed Babies

The Morning Show
  • Jan 7, 2015
  • 01:43:52

CARING FOR DEMENTIA WITHOUT DRUGS  Caring for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia is a challenge. Nursing homes often default to putting residents with dementia - and those without - on antipsychotic medication to keep everyone calm. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, one fifth of all nursing home residents in the U.S. are currently being given antipsychotic drugs, even though the FDA says such medication can be deadly for people with dementia.  That’s a major reason that several years ago a Minnesota-based nursing home nonprofit called Ecumen decided to stop giving antipsychotic drugs to their residents with Alzheimer’s and try something else.  The program is called Awakenings because “people seem awake and alive again,” explains Shelly Matthes, director of quality improvement for Ecumen.  Instead of unnecessary medication for residents with dementia, Awakenings provides shorter hallways, private rooms, mood lighting and more activities. “Our program investigates the details of a person’s life to find out what made them happy and we put those memories in their mind so they can stay in a peaceful place,” explains Matthes. “We have to be good investigators.”  “I like to call it living in their reality,” says Ecumen quality improvement nurse Maria Reyes. “If you correct their narrative, you cause a lot of anxiety. You don’t have to fabricate additional details of the patient’s story, but you can ask questions about their reality to understand what their need is.”  Matthes explains the physical environment is important to Awakenings, too.  Activity stations are set up with memory triggers appropriate to the residents. “Some of our sites have doors and elevators disguised with murals, so residents don’t feel compelled to go through them.”  Families of the residents see a clear benefit, says Matthes. “Just the thrill of little things – being able to communicate with the family member, seeing him able to walk again or feed himself. One man heard his dad say his name for the first time in who-knows-how-long and it just brought tears to his eyes.”  “Anti-psychotic drugs are very appropriate for people who need them, people with an psychotic condition,” says Matthes. She recalls years ago being irritated when the government began talking about the dangers of anti-psychotics for people with dementia. “We know better now.”  Adopting Awakenings took some convincing, admits Matthes. “As a nurse, I thought I was helping my patients with those medications.” A drug-based approach to residents with dementia might be easier, but “it’s not the right thing to do,” adds Matthes. “It’s much easier to care for people who are happy. ‘Awakenings’ is not curing dementia, but this is a much better way to care for them.”  BIG EYES AND WOMAN IN BLACK 2  The name “Margaret Keane” probably doesn’t mean anything to you – even if you are old enough to remember her paintings of children with enormous eyes that were hugely popular in the 1960s. You wouldn’t know Margaret Keane had painted them because her husband Walter took all the credit.  Director Tim Burton sets the story straight in his new film Big Eyes starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz.  “I am old enough to remember those paintings, so that made it more interesting to me,” says Kerry Bennett of Parent Previews. “Big Eyes” was an interesting look at women at the time. The film portrays Margaret Keane as believing her art “really wouldn’t have been as popular if people knew a woman had painted them.”  Parent Previews’ Rod Gusfason says “Big Eyes” is “already showing up in awards circles. The performances are spectacular and the directing is very interesting. Artistically, it’s quite an intriguing movie.”  “Big Eyes” is PG-13. Parent Previews gives it a B-grade, because of some language and lots of tobacco use. (LINK: )  Also in theaters now: “Woman in Black 2,” which is PG-13. Parent Previews gives it a C+. “This movie has no surprises whatsoever, it’s a completely by-the-numbers horror film,” says Gustafson. One warning for parents: “There are depictions of very young children contemplating suicide.”  SINGING ABOUT GIRLS  Singer/songwriter – and high school student – Maddie Wilson’s music videos on YouTube have drawn upwards of a million views. She’s released an EP, had two #1 hit songs on the Indie Country Charts and toured with some of country music’s top acts. But when she visited our studio to perform on Highway 89, her entourage consisted of . . . her mother.  Maddie’s mom, Susan Wilson, spoke briefly with Highway 89 host Steven Kapp Perry during the taping.  Her first reaction to Maddie’s desire to be a professional singer? “No. No way. That was my first reaction,” says Wilson, adding the family decided if Maddie was intent on pursuing her music, they’d surround and support her.  Maddie Wilson sings about things she knows well, including “Girls, girls, girls can be so mean,” as the refrain goes in her song “Girls.” Watch her perform live on BYU Radio’s Highway 89. PIKETTY SAYS “NO”  The controversial French economist and best-selling author Thomas Piketty kicked off the New Year with characteristic flair: he snubbed his own government by refusing to accept France’s highest honor – the “Legion d’Honneur.”  Piketty said, “I refuse this nomination because I do not think it is the government’s role to decide who is honorable. They would do better to concentrate on reviving (economic) growth in France and Europe.”  Economic growth is at the heart of the book that made Piketty a “rock star” in the academic world. Over the summer his “Capital in the 21st Century” was much-talked about and flying off store shelves. Even at a hefty 700 pages.  It leans heavily on historical data to prove a central thesis that in a capitalist economy, the rich will always get richer and the poor, poorer.  “Everybody who thinks they’re somebody is talking about this book,” says BYU History professor Grant Madsen, adding that it’s probably not a book tailored at the general public. “The people who are buying this book are the rich people the book is about. The very people this book seems to be criticizing are those most interested in reading it.”  The book lands squarely in the polarized debate over in income inequality in America.  “A lot of folks on the right would argue it’s not a problem to have really rich people running around, provided the way they invest their wealth improves the economy, drives innovation and generates jobs,” says Madsen.  “On the other hand, there are many who say it would be better to have a more even distribution of wealth,” says Madsen. “But what exactly is the right response? Does it make sense to do what Piketty recommends – a global wealth tax? And what do you do with the money? Is it just a punitive measure for the rich? Could we trust the government to invest the money?”  A Robin Hood approach of taking from the rich to help the poor can lead to “perverse incentives,” says Madsen. You want a system where people have an incentive to work and innovate, but keeps a fair distribution of wealth.  Piketty’s contribution to the debate is the use of extensive historical, empirical data across countries to prove his thesis that income inequality is inevitable in a capitalist economy, notes Madsen.  AMERICA’S BORROWED BABIES  Until the 1960s, there were home economics classes around America using babies – real-life infants – as guinea pigs for students (mostly young women) to practice parenting and homemaking skills.  Ball State University English professor Jill Christman writes about this “long-forgotten” fact in her new e-book “Borrowed Babies: Apprenticing for Motherhood.” Here’s an excerpt: "AT CORNELL UNIVERSITY IN 1920, AS THE INK DRIED ON THE 19TH AMENDMENT, home economics was a new degree and the program director wanted to bring respect to the discipline. Why should the guys over in physics get all the grant money, the shiny new buildings, the full professorships?  The keeping and running of a healthy home, these college administrators and professors argued, should be considered a respectable science. The feeding and raising of children needed to be studied and understood. With the proper resources, the proper training, the proper outreach, mothers across the nation could learn how to raise a baby by the book.  The women enrolled in the home economics program at Cornell University in the 1920s—and they were all women, though they were called ‘girls’—were required to complete a homemaking residency. In the final year of their programs, they had to move into one of the university’s “practice apartments” with five or six other girls and a supervisor. For a few days, each girl was in charge of a different element in the running of a tidy, efficient, healthy home. One week, for example, she might reign over the laundry, sorting the colors from the whites, carefully measuring the most cutting-edge detergents, employing whatever modern amenities were available, starching and ironing and hanging away. There was cooking to be done, and general cleaning, as well as decorating, entertaining, and shopping. Plus, someone had to care for the baby.  But wait. They had no babies. Where would they get babies?” (EXCERPTED FROM: “Borrowed Babies: Apprenticing for Motherhood,” by Jill Christman. Available as an e-book from Christman says the babies generally came from orphanages or state custody after being abandoned or surrendered by their parents. She profiles one infant “Dickie Domecon” who spent the first 15 months of his life in a practice apartment with a rotating cast of “mothers.”  (Fun fact: “Dickie’s” last name “Domecon” derives from the name of the course listing in the catalog: Domestic Economics.)  “At the time, people thought ‘the more mothers the better’ for a child,” explains Christman. “This was long before attachment theory became the dominant belief in early childhood development.”  “People saw it as a ‘win-win,’” says Christman. “These babies needed mothers and the students needed a practice subject. Most of the babies were in orphanages and arrived in a pretty bad state – lots of rickets and malnourishment. They were considered lucky to become practice babies.”  But they could only be “practice babies” for so long, before they got too old. “The programs needed infants,” says Christman. “Once they got to a certain age, the majority of them were adopted.”  In fact, she says “borrowed babies” were highly sought-after by adoptive parents who knew they’d be getting a baby that had been well-trained to “sleep through the night and take his cod liver oil and eat his vegetables.”  The use of “borrowed babies” in college-owned practice apartments was wide-spread and entirely non-controversial based on Christman’s research. Only with the advent of attachment theory did they begin to fade away.  After writing her book “Borrowed Babies,” Christman says she was contacted by a woman who said she’d been one of them. “She wasn’t happy about it. She’d had abandonment issues her whole life and only when her mother told about how she’d had ‘many mothers as a baby,’ did things start to make sense for her.” Show More...

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