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Purdue study: Aquariums may pacify Alzheimer's patients

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Casting about for ways to soothe Alzheimer's patients, Purdue University researchers have found that displaying tanks of brightly colored fish may curtail disruptive behaviors and improve eating habits of people with the disease.

Nursing Professor Nancy Edwards tracked 60 individuals who resided in specialized Alzheimer's units in three Indiana nursing homes. She found that patients who were exposed to the fish tanks appeared to be more relaxed and alert, and they ate up to 21 percent more food than they had before the introduction of the fish tanks. The average increase in food consumption was 17.2 percent.

The study also showed a decrease in the number of instances and the duration of behaviors such as wandering, pacing, yelling and physical aggression. Preliminary findings from the study were presented June 29 in a poster session at the International Conference on Nursing in London.

Edwards says the initial findings suggest that placing fish tanks in nursing homes may help cut health-care costs by reducing the need for nutritional supplements and for medications given to help calm disruptive patients.

"Feeding is often a terrible problem, because the patients are either running up and down the hall, or they're so lethargic that they can't stay awake to eat," says Edwards, who specializes in treating patients with chronic illnesses.

"We thought if we could calm these patients and keep their attention, we could perhaps increase their nutritional intake and decrease the amount of supplements they required. This not only would help reduce the cost of patients' care, but it's also healthier for the patients to get their nutrition from food rather than supplements."

For four weeks before placing the fish tanks in the nursing homes, Edwards collected baseline information on each patient's eating and behavioral patterns. The researchers weighed each patient's food before and after e
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Contact: Susan Gaidos
susan_gaidos@uns.purdue.edu
765-494-2081
Purdue University
15-Jul-1999


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