Have you ever experienced extreme confusion in the midst of a crisis? If so, you’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be a patient with Alzheimer’s or dementia entering the hospital.
Caregivers understand the unique needs of these individuals more than anyone else. In fact, caregivers are often the first to recognize that someone may be experiencing symptoms of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, initial warning signs can include:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems.
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
- Confusion with time or place.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing.
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
- Decreased or poor judgment.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities.
- Changes in mood or personality.
Whether or not that individual has received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related illness, it will be obvious to their caregiver that they have specific needs that must be met on a daily basis to maintain their well-being. Structure, consistency, comfort, distraction, and compassion are imperative. Those needs are magnified when someone experiencing cognitive impairment is taken to the hospital.
Currently, there are safeguards in place for patients that enter the hospital with allergies, are a fall risk, or have specific diagnoses that require additional precautions. However, there has been nothing in place to alert hospital personnel to the needs of those that are cognitively impaired…until now.
Bayshore Home Care, a private-duty home care agency with a large base of professional caregivers, has joined the Tampa Bay Team for the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Hospital Wristband Program and is diligently working to get education and training into hospitals throughout Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties. The ADHWP was founded by Gary LeBlanc, an author, columnist and speaker who devoted himself to this cause after caring for his father, who had Alzheimer’s, for 10 years. Time after time, he witnessed the difficulties his father had during hospital stays and linked it all back to lack of education. “Maintaining a simple routine is the best thing you can do for these vulnerable people,” says LeBlanc, “However, in a hospital, beeping medical equipment, strange faces, and bewildering questions are being thrown like hand grenades one right after the other.” Anxiety levels for patients and their caregivers skyrocket as they scramble to respond to all the unfamiliar stimuli around them during a hospital stay.
Due to LeBlanc’s efforts, Bayfront Brooksville Hospital in Hernando County, Florida (where he resides) became the first hospital in the United States to adopt the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Hospital Wristband Program. The wristband or marker is designed to protect these patients from circumstances that exacerbate their symptoms and cause high levels of distress.
Program components include:
- Standard dementia screening for those patients exhibiting signs of cognitive impairment.
- If dementia symptoms are identified upon admission, either through prior diagnosis or the screening, patients will have a Purple Angel logo attached to their wristband to alert staff of their RISK of cognitive impairment. (The Purple Angel has become the international symbol for all types of dementia.
- Hospital staff and community “first-responders” will receive dementia care training. The Alzheimer’s Association will provide this through CEU classes.
- A professional caregiver/sitter may be utilized to give families a much-needed break from worrying about their loved one in the hospital.
Education is, without a doubt, the most important facet of this program. It is critical to verify the medical history of any patient with cognitive impairment. Any and all medical questions answered by the patient MUST be confirmed by the patient’s family or advocate. Without this, the risk of drastic medical mistakes could result even in death. It is also crucial to raise awareness that one of the symptoms of dementia is poor decision-making. The hospital environment and crisis that brought these patients there only enhances their confusion.
Caregivers understand that the lasting effects of that kind of stress can cause problems for an Alzheimer’s/dementia patient long after they return home. That is why Bayshore Home Care has stepped up to be a strong advocate on the ADHWP Tampa Bay Team. They are working side-by-side with LeBlanc, the Florida Gulf Coast Alzheimer’s Association, Arden Courts, and Sun Towers to bring this program to local hospitals. In the interest of their clients and in support of all family caregivers, Bayshore Home Care is dedicated to raising awareness about this program in the community and enlisting the aid of fellow medical professionals.
Remarkably, LeBlanc is already getting support all over the United States. He has traveled far and wide, giving presentations and conducting group trainings. The ADHWP is receiving international attention as well and promises to grow rapidly in the coming year with more hospitals expressing interest every day. The goal is for Tampa Bay to become the first “hospital dementia-friendly community” in the country. Will you help?
To join in this effort, contact Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org