The health care system here in the United States is seriously lacking in the field of training for dementia care. This is particularly true in our hospitals.
If you have ever had the experience of taking a loved one with dementia or actual Alzheimer’s disease to the hospital, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Just bringing them to a simple doctor’s appointment can be difficult enough!
Maintaining a simple daily routine is the best thing you can do for those living with dementia. However in a hospital, there are beeping medical equipment, strange faces and bewildering questions being thrown around like hand grenades! You may as well just throw their crucial routine right out the window, which then causes these patients’ anxiety and confusion levels to shoot right through the roof.
I’ve been parading an idea for the past seven years, which I passionately believe in to hospital administrators. It’s the idea of all hospitals using a specially designed wristband or marker to identify patients with Alzheimer’s or any other type of possible cognitive disability.
Through personal experience, I encountered three terrible hospital stays right alongside of my father, who had Alzheimer’s disease. Even the admission process turned into complete nightmare! My eyes were truly opened to the severity of the problem. I was in absolute shock at how few staff members, if any, knew anything about dementia care. They had literally no clue how to handle someone who was suffering from dementia.
Soon after, I began writing about this in my weekly column “Common Sense Caregiving” and immediately, one horror story after another started pouring in from caregivers all over the globe. These stories left my skin crawling.
After a lot of time and effort, I’m very pleased to announce that Bayfront Brooksville Hospital (formerly Brooksville Regional) in Hernando County, Florida has become the first hospital in the United States to implement the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Hospital Wristband Program.
The program components are as follows:
• Upon admission and with a prior diagnosis of a dementia related disease, a Purple Angel logo is attached to the patient’s wristband. This has become the international symbol for all types of dementia.
• A magnetized Purple Angel is also placed on the doorframe and/or above the room’s number plaque.
• The hospital staff and hopefully most “Community First Responders” will receive dementia care training that we have in place, which covers many of different dementia-related diseases including Lewy body dementia, Frontotemporal degeneration, vascular dementia and traumatic brain injuries.
• A sitter may be utilized to give the families a much needed break from worrying about their loved one.
• Dementia screening was added by administering a mini-cog test to the admission process for all patients, within reason. I’m proud to say that this has put many patients on the right track to being properly diagnosis.
Education is, without a doubt, the most important facet of this program. Being welcomed into that hospital to instruct the staff on the proper ways of caring for a dementia patient, was a huge step in the right direction of making sure dementia patients are safe in our hospitals.
During the training seminars, one of the first things I preached was the importance of verifying the medical history of any patient with dementia. Any and all medical questions answered by the patient at risk for cognitive disabilities must be verified with this patient’s family or advocate. Without this being incorporated, the risk of drastic medical mistakes could possibly be made, some even resulting in death.
It is crucial to realize that one of the symptoms surrounding dementia is poor decision making. Granted these folks are adults, but they are adults that have dementia and are in an environment that has enhanced their confusion.
It is also important to understand that these wristbands only stand for the patient being at risk of cognitive impairment. They do not stand for a diagnosis, which is important to state when it comes to our HIPAA laws. They are similar to the yellow wristbands placed on patients that are at risk for falling. They are meant to alert the staff to take precautionary measures.
Our main goal is to assure that all patients with dementia related diseases, will experience a calm, unperplexed and safe stay (as is possible) during any time spent in a hospital.
Our goal here is to have all hospital become dementia-friendly community in the country!
Articles on the program:
Common Sense Caregiving
Educating Hospitals to be Dementia Friendly .
Print a letter to send to your local hospital administration
Dementia Hospital Wristband Program