Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive, irreversible, neurological disorder. This disease destroys memory and other important mental functions.
In the fall of 1985, the Administrator and Director of Nursing of this facility met Earl Caldwell at a Tennessee Health Care Association function in Nashville, Tennessee. His wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease at the age of forty-two (42).
Earl Caldwell had been living the 36-hour day for many years. His mission in life was to provide education for the caregivers of this disease.
As we discussed many things about Alzheimer's disease, of which Earl Caldwell was a wealth of knowledge, having a specialized unit for those residents having Alzheimer's Disease became a possibility.
We begin to research what the criteria for the residents admitted to that unit would be. We taught a class for the staff of the facility. Those classes were taught by many health care professionals such as Dr. Hamby at East Tennessee State University.
We felt that the staff had all of the education that they needed at that time. The staff asked when would their final test be given. They were told that test will be given the day the first resident came through those doors.
On March 17, 1986, we opened the first Alzheimer's unit in the State of Tennessee.
We met with the Health-Related Boards in Nashville as well as the Governor and the Commissioner of Health. These meetings were required so that permission could be given to secure the doors. There were no secured units in long term care facilities at that time. We asked that we needed the doors secured (not to lock them) but to be able to give them the freedom to wander throughout the unit. Because of that secured unit, we were able to reduce physical restraints and antipsychotic medications on that unit.
Thirty-three years later the unit continues to provide quality care for those residents who require the secured unit. Staff education is on going, as the knowledge about Alzheimer's Disease continually improves.