How to help your dementia patients have a comfortable hospital experience
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
As a hospital manager, you know how dementia patients in your facility often experience physical and emotional discomfort that seems difficult or impossible to ease. This is distressing to you, your doctors, your nurses, and, of course, to your patients’ families.
To address these concerns, science has uncovered some innovative ways that hospital facilities can bring comfort to inpatients with dementia and make their stays less frightening, safer and more engaging.
Implement the following research-driven advice at your organization to benefit everyone involved:
Try a tablet.
A study from a team including McLean Hospital researcher Ipsit Vahia found that giving dementia patients tablets on which they can do puzzles or look at happy or relaxing images of pets or family members can be a powerful way to ease their agitation. In fact, the study reported a nearly 100% engagement rate for patients who were allowed to access tablets as inpatients.
ID patients with confusion, not simply those diagnosed with dementia.
A study from the University of Stirling found that patients who have any kind of confusion, including but not limited to dementia, tend to have longer hospital stays and worse treatment outcomes.
Identifying patients who may have delirium as they come to your facility can help hone your staff's focus on comfort measures so that these patients receive more targeted treatment and can be discharged faster.
Coordinate transfers closely.
Brown University researchers report that healthcare transitions for dementia patients from nursing care to the hospital often do not sufficiently provide the comfort these patients should be receiving. This is especially the case for patients in their last three months of life.
A badly coordinated move can cause stress and agitation easily, so make sure all transfers are carefully and humanely undertaken. Maintain excellent relationships with your point people at local nursing facilities as well as with your paramedic teams
Schedule social interaction.
A University of Exeter study found that just 10 minutes of social interaction per day can greatly improve quality of life for dementia patients. Family visits, or Skyping with family that live at a distance, are measures your nursing staff can easily facilitate.
Stop in and say hello.
Make it your business to meet and check in with the dementia patients your facility is treating on a daily basis, too. A reassuring smile, touch of the hand, or a joke can do wonders for well-being. Your entire staff can reassure their patients this way on a consistent basis as well. It's always the right thing to do.
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