Stoughton Hospital is making environmental changes and training its staff to become a dementia friendly hospital. The hospital’s goal is to provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals affected by dementia. Individuals with dementia can become overwhelmed or agitated by the hospital environment of bright lights, unfamiliar areas, and strangers approaching them.
The hospital is making environmental changes that include making sure signs use simple language, installing effective lighting, escorting customers directly to their destination, providing quiet places to rest and decreasing noise levels. Other physical changes include having simple decorations, displaying artwork that invokes reminiscing and installing flooring without extreme contrast or shine. With the current hospital renovation, making the hospital dementia friendly is a priority in the new areas as well.
The training educates the hospital staff on dementia and how to best work with affected individuals. Staff learn a new mindset, “I am confused, I don’t know what that person is trying to tell me,” rather than, “that person is confused.” Hospital staff are encouraged to find ways to best accommodate that person.
Heather Kleinbrook, RN, Manager of the Stoughton Hospital Inpatient Geriatric Psychiatry Program and her staff believe there are compelling reasons for the hospital to act now. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, there were 115,000 people with dementia living in Wisconsin in 2015. That number is projected to increase by the year 2040 to over 242,000 people. According to Kleinbrook, “we believe that people with dementia have the right to live well and engage in society to the best of their ability,” shares Kleinbrook. “By educating our staff, we can create a safe and supportive environment for those with dementia.”
Kleinbrook and her staff were inspired by the Dementia Capable Wisconsin initiative which acknowledges Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are already straining Wisconsin’s long- term care system, and the number of people affected is expected to increase dramatically as the baby boom generation ages. The Dementia Capable Wisconsin mission is to provide appropriate, safe and cost-effective care throughout the course of the disease. One aspect of the initiative is to build dementia friendly communities and Kleinbrook shares, “hospitals are small communities in themselves similar to any small city or town and can be dementia friendly.”
For more information on the Dementia Capable Wisconsin initiative, please go to www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/dementia.