It’s a Winner: Treating Dementia with Baseball Memories
SLU, St. Louis VA Hits a Homer with Special Therapy Group
ST. LOUIS -- A Saint Louis University geriatrician and the acting director of a St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center geriatrics organization are convinced that if they build it, fans will come.
|Nina Tumosa, Ph.D., professor of geriatrics, passes Stan Musial's bat to a patient who is part of a special therapy group.|
The two have founded a new support group for veterans who have dementia that uses baseball to trigger happy memories and engage participants in socializing. The idea has the backing of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Alzheimer's Association.
"This project provides social interactions for people with memory problems on a topic they can remember well -- their love of baseball," says Nina Tumosa, Ph.D., acting director of the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center's Geriatrics Research, Education and Clinical Center.
"We're reaching a group of patients -- typically older men -- who have trouble socializing and maintaining friendships. We've gotten feedback from caregivers on how engaged and happy their loved ones have been after these sessions," says Tumosa, who also is a professor of geriatrics at Saint Louis University.
Baseball is a universal language, particularly for St. Louisans, says John Morley, M.D., a SLUCare geriatrician, director of geriatrics at Saint Louis University and a dyed-in-the-wool Cardinals fan. In launching the therapy group, he borrowed the idea of using sports to engage older adults with memory problems from a Scottish nurse who helped develop a similar program reflecting on soccer.
"Many other therapy groups that use happy memories to spark discussions revolve around topics like cooking, movies and old music -- subjects that many men may not be so passionate about. In St. Louis, the Cardinals are such a prominent part of people's lives and most of us have many fond memories about the Cardinals, making baseball an ideal topic for reminiscing."
About 10 veterans from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and nearly as many volunteers gather every other week for meetings that look as much like happy hour at a sports bar (sans beer) as a therapy session. They shoot the breeze about Stan the Man Musial, Sportsman Park and sweet Lou Brock.
"The idea is so simple," Morley says. "When you get people talking about something they care about, their mood and ability to communicate improves. Mental stimulation is a significant part of therapy for dementia."
The group literally took a field trip last Friday to Busch Stadium, where they saw sports memorabilia from the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame collection. An enlarged photo from the 1934 world champion Gashouse Gang, a bat used by Stan Musial early in his career and uniforms worn by the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns when they met for the only time in the 1944 World Series brought back happy memories of a simpler era.The trip was so successful another excursion is planned soon.
Learn about the division of geriatric medicine.
Read Dr. John Morley's bio.
Watch a KSDK-TV Ch. 5 report about the program.
Read a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article.