Jared Landis and Harrison Brown
An estimated 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease alone, and with the retirement of the Baby Boomer population, the number of Americans with dementia is expected to grow rapidly.
You can’t ignore this growing population, so we talked to progressive providers who are finding ways to manage this challenging group of patients.
Both acute and post-acute care (PAC) settings come into play here—and they have to work together. We’ve seen many strategies for managing patients across both organizations, but there are a few development areas we think you should focus on.
Provide comprehensive education to staff, families
Educational interventions are crucial to your care strategy, and can range from a one-on-one conversation to formal training. Providing appropriate educational resources to staff and families can significantly reduce unnecessary hospitalizations by helping the decision-making process.
Track patient outcomes across providers
Tracking outcomes can minimize unnecessary hospital admissions, identify potential problem areas, and gather success data for securing new partners.
An acute care staff member can track dementia patients throughout the organization, identifying opportunities for interventions, while PAC providers can track patient transfers to find problem areas.
Facilitate two-way information sharing
Both hospitals and PAC providers need to work off the same patient information. We’ve seen progressive organizations implement best practices such as sending a caregiver when a patient is admitted to the hospital and sending liaisons to evaluate patients prior to discharge. These strategies can both reduce failed transfers and provide necessary information for reduced length of stay and appropriate PAC unit placement.
As PAC providers develop greater technological capabilities, leaders should connect with hospital electronic health records to ensure a full health profile is received before admitting a new resident. Most importantly, both parties must ensure baseline cognitive status is understood and shared so each facility has the resources or caretaker connections to identify and provide accurate diagnoses from changes in patient behavior.
Maximize staff consistency and experience
Wherever possible, providers should try to keep the same staff for the care of a dementia patient. Since they require routine and stability, staff turnover and ED transfers can exacerbate conditions. Also, make sure the most knowledgeable caretakers are involved in any hospital transfer process so they can convey necessary patient information to the acute care teams.
Structure patient-specific environments
An engaging and fulfilling lifestyle is an important part of a dementia patient’s care plan. In select cases, facility design can correct potentially dangerous behaviors such as wandering. For other patients, caretakers must arrange environments to fit the patient’s needs. A patient-specific care approach can maximize the resident’s quality of life according to his or her mental state, medical needs, and most importantly, personality and lifestyle preferences.
For more information, download the research briefing, Managing Dementia Patients Across the Care Continuum.