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Sharp’s Healthy Aging Team helps older adults regain health

By The Health News Team | January 31, 2023
Robert O'Neill Sharp Memorial Hospital

“My treatment was handled beautifully,” says O’Neill. “I appreciate that my Sharp care team was attentive and kind.”

In late 2021, Robert O’Neill suddenly had severe abdominal pain. He wondered if he might have appendicitis but ruled it out since he’d already had a bout. He also considered food poisoning or bodily stress from having recently traveled. However, it was later determined to be a bit more serious.

The pain became so acute that Robert rushed to his local urgent care facility. The clinic referred him to the emergency room at Sharp Memorial Hospital, where he ended up staying for 12 days.

“I’m not someone who readily runs to the doctor,” says Robert, 82, a retired Superior Court of California judge for San Diego County. “I usually don’t complain when I have pain, but this was something that I had never experienced before.”

Robert’s Sharp care team diagnosed him with bowel obstruction and monitored the issue to see if it would resolve naturally. In the meantime, Robert collaborated with the hospital’s Healthy Aging Team (HAT), which, through personalized, evidence-based care, focuses on providing wellness and strength for older patients. HAT assists with maintaining patients’ prehospital admission level of independence and can help decrease the length of hospital stay, enabling patients to be discharged sooner.

“I met with Mr. O’Neill from day 1 and explained that with HAT, we help our senior patients review their treatment plan and medication recommendations to reach optimal sleep and mobility,” says Eileen Carroll, senior nursing specialist and HAT coordinator at Sharp Memorial.

Sharp Memorial, an Age-Friendly Health System

In 2022, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) recognized Sharp Memorial as an Age-Friendly Health System for providing age-friendly care for older patients in all clinical settings during their hospital stay. The multidisciplinary age-friendly effort includes collaboration from various team members at Sharp Memorial, including nurses; doctors; physical, occupational and speech therapists; recreational therapists; and representatives from spiritual care, pharmacy, care management, and food and nutrition services.

“My treatment was handled beautifully,” says Robert. “I appreciate that my Sharp care team was attentive and kind.”

Working with Carroll, Robert understood the importance of light exercise during his hospital stay. Every day he walked down the halls of his unit, which reminded him of going on walks at home – one of his favorite pastimes.

During his hospital stay, Robert learned that an internal ulcer was causing his bowel obstruction. Dr. Shawn Bench, a Sharp Community Medical Group board-certified general surgeon affiliated with Sharp Memorial, removed the ulcer, enabling Robert to recover.

“I enjoyed working with Mr. O’Neill as my patient as I learned about his former career as a judge, his children and his hobbies,” says Carroll. “Through HAT, I wanted to help him, as well as our other senior patients, to maintain functional status and return home as soon as possible.”

Staying active in the hospital helped Robert stay active once home

Upon discharge, Robert discovered that the elevator in his condo’s building would be out of service for six weeks. “I lived on the ninth floor at the time, and initially, I was afraid I would not be able to get up the stairs and sleep in my own bed,” he says.

However, after discharge, Robert spent several days gathering his strength at a local hotel — walking several times a day. He then used the situation as a challenge. Slowly, and resting at each landing, he was able to reach his unit. Gradually, he progressed to climbing all the way up without needing to pause.

“The encouragement to stay active while in the hospital, though uncomfortable at the time, helped me to maintain my strength and mobility and accelerated my recovery,” says Robert. “The encouragement from Eileen sped my recovery and return to my normal life.”

Today, Robert remains healthy, enjoying 2- to 3-mile walks on the beach and planning a vacation abroad with his daughter.

“I am thankful for my good health and for my wonderfully professional and kind Sharp care team,” he says.

Learn more about Sharp Memorial Hospital’s services at

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