Fletcher Allen, a Vermont university hospital and medical center, serves all of
Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
Transforming Elder Care in the Hospital
For the elderly, a stay in the hospital can mean a greater risk of complications like fractures, delirium, and infections. For the elderly, just being immobile is a risk.
Over the years, there’s been a movement towards keeping elderly patients moving to preserve their function and mobility so that they have a greater chance of going home, rather than going to a long-term care facility.
Here in Vermont, Fletcher Allen has been working in a number of innovative ways to meet this goal. A multidisciplinary committee has been looking into the many risk factors for elderly patients and, guided by their work, staff on Baird 4, McClure 5 and Shepardson 4 have implemented a number of improvements and initiatives that are leading the way to the safest, highest quality care for our elderly patients.
Starting with Baird 4, the focus is on the following key areas:
- Mobility – One of the goals for staff is to get the elderly out of bed within 24 hours of their arrival, and to keep them moving as much as possible throughout their stay.
- Nutrition – Poor nutrition can lead to increase mortality in the elderly. Staff are working to increase awareness of this issue, and to identify patients at risk for nutritional problems.
- Medication – Staff are working with each patient to carefully monitor their medications, watching for drug interactions.
- Falls – Across the country, 60-70 percent of all adverse events in the hospital are patient falls, and the majority of these incidents involve the elderly. Thanks to the work of our multidisciplinary Falls Prevention Team, we have introduced a number of initiatives that have significantly reduced our fall rate, including improving systems to ensure that our bed alarms are in place and engaged at all time; and installing a new bed and pressure-sensitive chair pad monitor that reminds patients to sit down.
Baird 4 Nurse Educator Shelly Duquette says that the unit’s focus on caring for the elderly can be summed up by a series of simple rules: Feet on the floor, teeth in, glasses on, hearing aids in, proper lighting, knowing each elderly patient’s foods preferences, and providing the appropriate assistance these are the key things we can do to help our elderly patients get well and go home.
Our goal, says Tammy Berrings, nurse manager, Baird 4, is to ensure that we do everything we can to help our elderly patients go home after they recover. That is no small task, and it involves a multidisciplinary effort to address the many risks the elderly face during hospitalization. I’m confident that we will continue to reduce the risks for our elderly while continuing to provide the highest quality care.
McClure 5 and Shepardson 4 will soon undergo similar changes.