What are the implications to care and design if Alzheimer’s becomes Type 3 diabetes?
Currently you can find research back as far as 2005 relating to the connection between Alzheimer’s and insulin production in the brain. The neurons become insulin resistant, which causes issues in the ability of the brain to bind—a process that normally allows for memories to be created.
Type 2 diabetes is also insulin resistant and therefore researchers believe that therapies successful in Type 2 could translate to treating Alzheimer’s. Early diagnosis of diabetes and a more proactive look at nutrition for Alzheimer’s patients along with insulin therapy are being heavily looked at in helping to control the disease from onset or progression.
So how will this impact memory care design? The obvious first question: Will the memory care unit of the future have more skilled nursing components required due to the connection of insulin management and nutrition management?
If insulin therapy or management becomes standard, it will be necessary for designers to understand the new needs of the staff and residents. Currently, there is not any information out there as to how the design community should help to support this new link.
I can't imagine having to explain to a resident each time why I have to prick them for testing or giving them insulin injections. It is difficult enough for caregivers to explain the basics of bathing to a resident with severe cognitive loss.
Food management will need to become a larger issue. Although nursing homes manage nutrition in a more “clinical” manner, assisted living and memory care units have been cautious not to take away the joy in what and when a resident desires while balancing low-sodium and low-sugar diets.
For years it has seemed that the memory care units were focused on increasing days for the resident that were filled with activities that engaged them and caused the fewest conflicts with their memory loss.
Designers need to investigate the possibilities of needing an exam room and possibly a mini-lab in the medication room to aid in assessment and management of the potential Type 3 diabetes. We could also look at creating an environment similar to a Snoezelen room where treatments could take place in a calming and redirected manner. As the link between diabetes and Alzheimer's gains more research information it will be possible to tailor our designs to better suit the needs of the memory care population.