June 26, 2013

Letters to the editor: Pioneering humane Alzheimer's care

My thanks to Morning Sentinel reporter Matt Hongoltz-Hetling for his thoughtful article, "Maine nursing home's drug-free dementia treatment a model" (May 26), in which he highlights the slow but hopeful transition of Alzheimer's treatment from overreliance on drug therapy toward a more humane, milieu therapy.

In the latter, a facility's staff organizes the environment to meet their residents' needs. They surround persons with Alzheimer's with what we all strive for -- a homelike atmosphere, ongoing support and meaningful relationships.

While persons with Alzheimer's may not remember their words, they have a remarkable ability to cling to the emotions they experience. Shaping an environment that remains positive is key to creating positive emotions. Positive emotions contribute to positive interactions, which is what we want for our loved ones with Alzheimer's.

Kudos to Vicki Dyer, administrator at the Lakewood nursing home in Waterville, for her sensitivity and foresight in decreasing drug use at Lakewood.

Too often, medications add to the suffering our loved ones with Alzheimer's endure. Administered improperly, they can induce dementia-like behavior where there is none or exacerbate difficult behaviors that exist.

Would that Ms. Dyer had been available when my mother slogged through her drug-burdened days. Once, when my mother was inadvertently taken off her meds, she asked of the staff, "Do they know what they're doing? Will they be able to help me?"

Her instincts were spot-on: Used judiciously, medication has the potential to enhance a person's functioning, while thoughtless administration makes it impossible to differentiate indicators of physiological decline from drug-induced deterioration.

As consumers of nursing facility support, let us opt for programs such as Ms. Dyer's.

Catherine Gentile
editor, Together With Alzheimer's e-zine, Yarmouth

Tar sands stance slowing action on EPA nominee

President Obama recently endorsed Gina McCarthy as director of the Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy is an environmental bulldog. As head of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, McCarthy has been a well-reasoned voice for our environment since 2009.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party is hesitant (to say the least) in nominating such an influential leader. As the head of the EPA, McCarthy is expected to halt tar sands oil projects, because of a recent EPA-issued environmental impact report that claims these projects need more review.

Now one would think that it is reasonable for someone who represents our environment to request further review of projects like this, considering tar sands' poor track record (Michigan in 2010 and Arkansas in 2013). Yet the Republican Party has refused to work with McCarthy because of her expected high standards for such reckless projects.

From afar, I see McCarthy as being a great voice for Mainers. McCarthy is a New Englander herself and would serve as a defender of our environment.

Growing up in Maine, I have come to realize the seriously fundamental role Maine's environment has played for Mainers. Whether as a serious source of economic support and jobs, or simply as a part of Maine we have all grown up to love, Maine's environment is one that needs serious protection: protection that McCarthy could provide.

Regardless of one's personal feeling toward tar sands projects or any other business practice that puts our environment at risk, every Mainer can agree that we need a voice in the federal government that will make sure that every one of these projects will not damage or sacrifice the Maine we all know and love.

Write Susan Collins, our senator with the ear of the Republican Party, and let her know that Maine wants Gina McCarthy.

Timothy Devlin
Portland

School guidance counselors overlooked student resource

In support of the Another View by retired Cape Elizabeth counselor Edith Davidson ("Guidance counselors already helping with college selection," June 15), allow me to suggest that school counselors can be the best ally the student and parent can have in the navigation of educational transitions.

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