In 2011, Eliza Jennings partnered with Kumon Institute of Education (Kumon) of Osaka, Japan to conduct the first United States research trial of an exciting, non-pharmacological treatment for older adults suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. SAIDO Learning® was developed by Kumon in conjunction with Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, a neuroscientist known for brain imaging research at Tohoku University in Sendai and Mrs. Ritsumi Yamazaki, Director of Eijuen nursing home in Fukuoka, Japan. SAIDO Learning has been practiced for more than 10 years with stunning results for more than 18,000 older adults in more than 1,400 nursing facilities across Japan. The trial at Eliza Jennings was not only the first-ever trial of SAIDO Learning in the U.S., but anywhere outside of Japan.
Many medical conditions can cause dementia symptoms. Virtually all dementias, however, reflect dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. SAIDO Learning has been proven to improve the function of the prefrontal cortex of the brain of older adults afflicted with dementia, as measured by two standard cognitive tests, the Mini-Mental State Examination and the Frontal Assessment Battery at Bedside. The goal of SAIDO Learning is to improve the symptoms of dementia, thus enhancing the quality of life for the older adults we serve and reducing their required amount of care and the overall cost of their care.
In preparation for the trial, Eliza Jennings leadership and selected staff traveled to Japan to observe SAIDO Learning firsthand. Over the course of the trial and implementation of SAIDO Learning in Eliza Jennings communities, Kumon executives made more than 30 visits to Eliza Jennings and participated in numerous internet-supported sales calls to train and ensure the integrity of the method of administration. In conducting the SAIDO Learning research trial, Dr. Kawashima served as the lead investigator, and Dr. Stephanie J. FallCreek, President of Fairhill Partners, served as co-investigator. Trial participants included 23 residents of the skilled nursing community at the Eliza Jennings Health Campus who had been diagnosed with mild to moderate dementia; (24 residents of Eliza Jennings’ Health Center at The Renaissance Retirement Campus in Olmsted Township served as the control group).
The SAIDO Learning method involves a caregiver (called a “Supporter”) trained to work with two older adults (called “Learners”) by engaging them in scientifically determined arithmetic, writing and reading exercises designed to stimulate the prefrontal cortex for 30-minute sessions five times per week. The research trial was completed in mid-November 2011, but even before completion of the trial, dramatic improvements in the Eliza Jennings Learners were observed. The research revealed that the post-trial test scores improved on standard tests of cognitive function. Participants were more engaged in daily activities and meals, more socially involved with caregivers and families, and more optimistic about daily living.
As a result of the very successful outcome of the SAIDO Learning research trial, Eliza Jennings has fully launched SAIDO Learning throughout the entire Eliza Jennings network.