Sharp hospital designated an ‘Age-Friendly Health System’

By The Health News Team | September 13, 2022
Nurse talking to patient in wheelchair

According to U.S. Census data, the number of people age 65 and older is expected to nearly double over the next 30 years, from 40 million in 2010 to an estimated 83 million in 2050. Along with this increased life expectancy, the population of older adults with multiple chronic conditions is projected to rise. This poses unique challenges for the nation’s health care systems at a time when there is a shortage of doctors trained to care for people over age 65.

However, Sharp Memorial Hospital is prepared to meet those challenges. The hospital has demonstrated itself as a leader in the care of older adults and has recently been designated an “Age-Friendly Health System” by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). This designation recognizes Sharp Memorial is committed to providing age-friendly care for older patients in all clinical settings during their stay in the hospital.

“We are committed to providing the highest level of care for our aging population,” says Eileen Carroll, senior nursing specialist and Healthy Aging Team (HAT) coordinator at Sharp Memorial.

A healing environment for older adults
Carroll leads the multidisciplinary age-friendly effort at Sharp Memorial, engaging providers and departments from throughout the organization. This includes nurses and doctors; physical, occupational and speech therapists; recreational therapists; and representatives from spiritual care, pharmacy, care management and food and nutrition services.

Each member of the team played a key role in implementing the age-friendly framework based on what IHI calls the “4Ms” of healthy aging:

  • What Matters — The team empowers patients by aligning care to their personal health goals and preferences. Providers ask them to identity what matters most in their life and health, and what they want from their health care.

  • Medication — All medications are reviewed to ensure they are safe, appropriate and don’t interfere with a patient’s goals and care preferences.

  • Mentation (mental activity) — Care providers promote sleep by providing comfortable options and relaxation techniques.

  • Mobility — Patients are helped to maintain function by ensuring they move carefully and can safely perform their activities of daily living.

Achieving the Age-Friendly Health System designation was a monthslong process. It involved assessing patients age 65 and older who received care featuring the evidence-based practice of the 4Ms. The resulting data, along with action plans for care, were then provided to IHI for review.

4Ms in practice
At Sharp Memorial, age-friendly care means hospital patients over age 65 are assigned a dedicated nurse who conducts a thorough review of their medical needs and determines what’s important to them, including family and social life, hobbies and treatment goals. The nurse works closely with all caregivers to create a comprehensive treatment plan that ensures patients and their loved ones receive guidance for a successful return home.

This personalized, evidence-based care includes:

  • Daily review of patients’ progress to ensure they are meeting treatment goals

  • Evaluation of medical equipment needs, such as canes and walkers

  • Outpatient resources to address patients’ needs and get them back to what matters most in their lives

There are a number of patient stories that exhibit the benefits of such specialized care:

  • One patient, age 98, played ukulele and said he’d be lost without his music. The team brought in a local ukulele player from the community and the two played and sang together.

  • Another patient, a retired judge, age 81, had surgery for a small bowel obstruction. He said it was important to him to remain active. Before being discharged, the team made sure he was able to walk a mile and easily climb the nine flights of stairs to his condo.

  • And a woman, age 82, was hospitalized for minor injuries. She shared she wanted to continue to grow beautiful plants and flowers once recovered. After receiving Sharp Memorial’s age-friendly care, she returned home after discharge and was able to resume gardening the next day.

“Hospital stays can be particularly stressful for older patients and their families,” says Carroll. “Our age-friendly designation affirms that patients can count on us to meet the needs of older individuals, taking into account their priorities and personal definitions of quality of life.”

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Eileen Carroll

Contributor

Eileen Carroll is asenior nursing specialist and Healthy Aging Team (HAT) coordinator at Sharp Memorial.


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