In my office there is a framed print of Nelson Mandela's famous quote "It always seems impossible until IT'S DONE". I believe hospitals have procrastinated long enough in becoming dementia friendly and the urgency to GET IT DONE is now.
The surge of dementia patients entering emergency rooms, combined with hospital-acquired delirium (often higher in intensive care and surgery) is straining healthcare staff in their ability to properly treat patients and costing million of dollars. Many advocates agree that dementia is the next public healthcare crisis.
While "dementia-friendly" may seem an impossible task, patient-centered initiatives aimed at improving communication skills, care procedures and making environmental improvements can create deep culture change in any hospital. In fact, patients, families, staff, volunteers and the community will create transformational change.
Let's look at a few examples of simple dementia friendly initiatives that can be impactful in helping a patient with dementia:
- Reduce noise and overstimulation in a patient's room.
- Use pictures instead of words (ex. shirt and pants on the closet door)
- Teach communication skills to staff and volunteers. Provide training that is impactful for everyone who comes in contact with the patient!
- Have simple communication/care practice guidelines available for families that incorporates communication skills used by hospital staff.
- Design a dementia-specific activity area for patients with cognitive impairment and their families.
- Reevaluate room safety, eliminating or properly disguising hazards.
- Incorporate researched, holistic therapies that can reduce the need for psychotropic medications.
- Designate leaders that have advanced dementia training to help implement and monitor changes, and provide ongoing education to all stakeholders.
- Be willing to take one step at a time, create measurable tracking tools, listen to employee and family suggestions and adjust education and training protocols as needed.
- Lastly, have a plan to share dementia friendly initiatives with a strong community outreach education program. Not only will you be making a difference in helping your community, but it's great PR for your hospital.
MAKE 2017 the year YOUR hospital becomes dementia friendly!