Mar 28, 2013

Dementia Friendly Hospitals and Patient Treatment, Will It Ever Happen?

Would you describe the offices of your primary doctor as dementia friendly? Is your community Hospital dementia friendly? Is your town dementia friendly?

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Did you ever take you loved one to a new doctor, or lets say the dentist, and have to whisper to the receptionist - my mother has Alzheimer's?

What happened next?

Did the receptionist make any special note on the file? Make any special attempt to alert the doctor or medical assistant that the patient was living with dementia?

Or, did the receptionist just let the information go in one ear and out the other? That is what usually happened to me when I was caring for Dotty.

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Dawn Parkes, project leader, and Danielle Woods, dementia project manager, 
with the memories tree at the Bradford Teaching Hospital

Did you ever get a good look at the medical files for your loved one at your primary care doctor's office? I did. Did you notice any special kind of designation on the file that indicated the patient (in my case Dotty) was living with dementia?

Back in 2005, I suggested to our primary care doctor that they put a purple dot on the file of a person living with dementia. He thought it was a great idea. It never happened.

Eventually our primary care doctor moved to a paperless environment. This means all the records are on a computer. The medical assistant would ask my mother questions and type the answers right into her records on the computer. It didn't seem to matter to the medical assistant that most of the answers were, oh lets say, fiction. She believed every word that came out of my mother's mouth. Why wouldn't she? There was no way she could tell that my mother was living with dementia.

Now if there had been a purple dot or something at the top, then of course she would have been alerted this patient needs some special - handling.

Oddly, on those same digital records my mother's face was up to date every year. At the beginning of every year, when my mother was checking in for the first time that year, they would take a new picture of her for the medical records. How hard was this to do? Well, while standing at the counter with our new medical card for the year, they would say to my mom, look here, and snap the new picture. No special room to go to. Took an extra ten seconds.

When this happened I thought. Why don't they put a purple frame around her picture?

Just so you know, at Bradford Teaching Hospitals in the UK, they put a forget-me-knot flower sticker in the patients case notes, and above their beds so they can be easily identified as living with dementia. Now that for certain is a dementia friendly hospital.

In the United States we have not yet recognized that Alzheimer's disease is a societal problem. Quite frankly little is being done to sensitize the public to the fragility and needs of persons living with dementia.

Oh yes, it is that time of the year again and awareness is being raised by continually using the same scare tactics that have have failed for the last thirty years, and continues to fail - "Alzheimer's is a tragic epidemic that has no survivors".

I always wonder why there is no campaign addressing the issue of how to love and care for a person living with dementia. Hug a person living with dementia today?

What about all the people that are alive and living with dementia - what is the message? Right now - you are going to die.

Yes, if you have Alzheimer's you will die - no doubt.

But what about the persons that are actually alive right now and living with dementia?

When your loved one was in the Hospital did they put anything on the wall behind the bed, or in the case notes that indicated clearly that the person was living with dementia?

Do the doctors you use have an special way of identifying that a person is living with dementia and needs special handling?

Would you describe the offices of your primary doctor as dementia friendly?

Is your community Hospital dementia friendly?

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Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized Influencer, speaker, and expert in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community Worldwide. The Alzheimer's Reading Knowledge Base contains more than 4,000 articles, and the ARR has more than 343,000 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
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