Loyola University Chicago

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing


New Clinical Partnership Helps Train Niehoff Students in non-Pharmacological Interventions for People with Dementia

Twelve Niehoff students received training in SAIDO Learning®, a non-pharmacological intervention for people with Alzheimer’s, and used it with residents at a retirement community in Batavia, Illinois.  The Kumon Institute of Education Japan developed SAIDO to help decrease the symptoms and slow the progression of dementia without medication.  SAIDO caregivers, called “supporters,” engage the residents with a series of these exercises along with stimulating conversation. Residents with dementia participate in exercises that include simple math, reading, and writing five days a week for 20 to 30 minutes a day.  Since beginning the program in 2015, Covenant Living-Holmstad, the only area facility using SAIDO, reported a dramatic drop in the use of psychotropics by its memory care residents.

As part of the training, Niehoff students had an opportunity to become certified SAIDO “supporters,” learning first-hand how to use this approach with residents.   

“It was amazing to see the impact SAIDO has on residents at The Holmstad,” said student Jenna Dalton. “SAIDO gave residents a sense of community, which improved both their cognitive abilities and their overall wellbeing,” she said. 

In fact, SAIDO has been shown to maintain and improve the functions of the prefrontal cortex, as measured by two cognitive tests given at a resident’s bedside: The Mini-Mental State Examination and the Frontal Assessment Battery.  Holmstad allowed students to administer those Mini-Mental State exams and Lifestyle Connect interviews to help create care plans for residents.

“SAIDO was an eye-opening experience to gaining a better understanding of Alzheimer’s,” said Niehoff student Jenna . “I am grateful for the residents I worked with to allow me to challenge and support them,” she said.   

Training to be a SAIDO supporter helps develop patience and compassion.  Supporters must reorient residents often, engage them consistently through the exercises, and manage the challenges of dementia such as paranoid behavior, irritability, and frustration. Students also gain a deeper understanding of the complex progression of dementia.

“SAIDO was the first time I had the time to work consistently with people who had dementia and I enjoyed it more than I ever thought I would,” said Niehoff student John Jones. “Not only did I enjoy the conversation and time with the SAIDO learners, I found it very satisfying to see the progress they made in the weeks I worked with them.  I would suggest SAIDO for any person with dementia or a disease like it,” said Jones. 

In addition to the SAIDO training, students gave presentations within the Holmstad community on topics such as preventing heart disease, flu vaccines, and senior bullying.  Niehoff faculty and students look forward to continuing its with Covenant Living-Holmstad as a clinical site this fall.