According to Gary LeBlanc, the health care system in the United States lacks in the field of training for dementia care. “Just bringing a loved one to a simple doctor’s appointment can be difficult enough,” he says.
“Maintaining a simple daily routine is the best thing you can do for those living with dementia,” LeBlanc continues. Learn more about his suggestions for using wristbands to assist those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in a hospital setting.
In a hospital, there are beeping medical equipment, strange faces and bewildering questions being thrown around like hand grenades. To someone with dementia, whose crucial routine is disturbed in this setting, their anxiety and confusion shoots through the roof. I’ve been parading an idea for the past five years, which I passionately believe in to assist both those with dementia and hospital administrators.
It’s the idea of all hospitals using a specially designed wristband or marker to identify patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s or any other type of cognitive disability. Through personal experience, I encountered three hospital stays right alongside of my father, who had Alzheimer’s. Just the admission process turned into a complete nightmare. My eyes were truly opened to the severity of the problem. I was in absolute shock at how few staff members, if any, knew anything about dementia care. They literally had no clue how to handle someone who was suffering from dementia.
Soon after, I began writing about this in my weekly column “Common Sense Caregiving” and immediately, one horror story after another started pouring in from caregivers all over the world. These stories left my skin crawling.
Implementing Dementia Care Wristbands
Fortunately, after a lot of time and effort, Bayfront Brooksville Hospital (formerly Brooksville Regional) in Hernando County, Florida has become the first hospital in the U.S. to implement the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Hospital Wristband Program.
The program components are as follows:
- Upon admission and with a prior diagnosis of a dementia related disease, a Purple Angel logo is attached to the patient’s wristband, which is the international symbol for all types of dementia.
- In addition, a magnetized Purple Angel is also placed on the door frame and/or above the room’s number plaque.
- The hospital staff and most “Community First Responders” will also have received dementia care training. At the Brooksville Hospital, the Alzheimer’s Association — Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, partnered in and offered all the RN’s and CNA’s a 2.0 ECU for the class.
- A sitter may also be utilized to give the families a much-needed break from worrying about their loved one.
- Finally, a dementia screening can be added by administering a miniature cognitive test to the admission process for all patients, within reason.
I’m proud to say that this has put many people on the right track to being properly diagnosed. Education is, without a doubt, the most important facet of this program. Being welcomed into a hospital to instruct the staff on the proper ways of caring for a dementia patient, was a huge step in the right direction.
During training seminars, one of the first things I preached was the importance of verifying the medical history of any patient with dementia. Any and all medical questions answered by the patient at risk for cognitive disabilities must be verified with this patient’s family or advocate. Without this being incorporated, the risk of drastic medical mistakes could be made, some possibly resulting in death. It is crucial to realize that one of the symptoms surrounding dementia is poor decision making, especially in an environment that has enhanced their confusion. It is also important to understand that these wristbands only stand for the patient being at risk of cognitive impairment. They do not stand for a diagnosis, which is important to state when it comes to our HIPAA laws. They are similar to the yellow wristbands placed on patients that are at risk for falling. They are meant to alert the staff to take precautionary measures.
Our main goal is to assure that all patients with dementia related diseases, will experience a calm and safe stay (as is possible) during any time spent in a hospital. We have recently put a team of powerful advocates in place here in the Tampa Bay area, which consists of members from the Florida Gulf Coast Alzheimer’s Association, Arden Courts, Bayshore Home Care, Sun Towers and myself. We now have teams being built in the states of Indiana, New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee. Our goal here is to have Tampa Bay become the first “hospital dementia-friendly community” in the country!
About the Author
Gary Joseph LeBlanc, is the author of “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness,” “Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors” and co-author of “While I Still Can.” Also, a weekly columnist of “Common Sense Caregiving” which is published in the Tampa Tribune and Hernando Today and many other health publications. He is also a national speaker on dementia care. He founded the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Hospital Wristband Project and is a co-founder of Dementia Mentors. His writings and speaking events utilize his 3,000 plus days and nights of personal caregiving experience to help other Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers cope with the everyday challenges and emotional struggles of caring for the memory-impaired.