Updated 07/13/2011 12:46 PM
Aging America Part 3: Hospitals adapt to aging population
As the population ages, the fastest growing group is adults over 80 years old. They tend to be on many medications and have complicated conditions that need a team to manage. As our Katie Gibas reports in this segment of "Aging America," with people living longer and baby boomers now turning 65, the complications of treating an older population are starting to set in, and hospitals are having to adapt quickly.
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As the population ages, the fastest growing group is adults 80 years and older. They tend to be on many medications and have complicated conditions that need a team to manage. As our Katie Gibas reports in this segment of "Aging America," with people living longer, and baby boomers now turning 65, the complications of treating an older population are starting to set in, and hospitals are having to adapt quickly.
For older adults, it can be tough to bounce back after a hospitalization. That's why with the rapidly expanding aging population, hospitals are stepping up their efforts to make their halls more patient-friendly.
"Some recent research suggests that one day in bed can mean three days of rehab for an older adult, so your muscles really start to decline after being immobile," said Christy Bond, the Crouse Hospital Aging and Complex Care Director.
Most hospitals have already implemented policies to get adults up and out of bed daily to make sure they don't lose muscle function. Patients will often have nurses or volunteers help walk them around the halls of the hospital. And since older people are at a higher risk of falling, most hospitals are centralizing their efforts around preventing falls, including in new construction.
"The floors are a different surface so they can remain clean, they look pleasant, but they don't have that high glare," said Sharon Brangman, the Upstate Medical University Geriatrics Division Chief.
Marty Pond, the St. Joseph's Hospital Clinical Nurse Specialist in Gerontology added, "If you fall at home, you increase your chances of falling here at the hospital. As well as if you fall once in the hospital, you increase your chance of falling once again."
That's why St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse has implemented a falls prevention bundle, which includes Orange bracelets for people who have either fallen at home or in the hospital and magnets outside the doors of patient's who are susceptible to falls.
"We have then educated any department that comes to the floor, that they know what that magnet means. And they know that they are being charged and that it is part of their responsibility to then stop, look in that room, to see how that patient is," said Pond. "Someone from housekeeping stopped me the other day and said, 'Oh, I think I prevented a fall because I saw your magnet and I stopped and looked in the room.' We can't ask housekeeping to do an interaction with a patient, but we can have another set of eyes, which we have found to be very, very helpful.
Plus new technology is also helping keep patients safer.
"If the nurse really feels that their patient is going to fall, there is a control over on the side of the bed, and they can set an alarm. So if the patient changes their position in the bed, or starts to move over to the side or maybe puts their head up too much or gets their leg over the bed, the alarm system will activate," said Pond.
Many hospitals are also implementing an Acute Care for the Elderly, or ACE, team, which is a multi-disciplinary approach to tackling issues associated with older adults.
"The goal of any ACE process is to preserve function so whether that's physical function or cognitive function. We don't want people to come into the hospital to have one problem addressed just to leave with another set of problems." "It's absolutely critical because the issues older adults are facing are something that needs a lot of different experts to weigh in on," said Bond.
Crouse Hospital in Syracuse has also taken some unprecedented measures to make sure patients are safe once they leave the hospital...by sending nurses home with them to assess their home for safety and monitor their care for 30 days.
"That nurse will visit the patient at home, make sure they understand all of their discharge instructions and then implement them." "They have very complex discharge instructions and have much more to navigate than a younger patient would," said Bond.
Hospital workers say the changes they've implemented specifically for geriatric patients, have improved care for everyone, but there is still a lot of change that needs to happen to bring the quality care up to where it needs to be.
Because of the help at home, implemented at Crouse, patients remain out of the hospital twice as long as before.
Even though the falls prevention program at St. Joseph's was only implemented in March, they've already seen a drastic decrease in patient falls.
The 12 percent of older Americans today account for:
-26 percent of all physician visits
-35 percent of all hospital stays
-38 percent of all emergency medical responses
-34 percent of all prescriptions
-90 percent of all nursing home use