Evidenced-based toolkit aims to ease ER transfers for people with dementia

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New checklists are the result of collaboration between Alzheimer Society and University of Alberta

Transferring to a hospital emergency room can be traumatic for a person with dementia. The Alzheimer Society of Canada has recently created a toolkit to try to make this process less stressful.

The toolkit, which includes checklists and forms, is the result of collaboration between the Alzheimer Society and University of Alberta nursing professors Belinda Parke and Kathleen Hunter. The checklists and forms were developed using feedback from people living with dementia who have had a recent emergency-room experience and emergency-room staff.

The researchers who created the toolkit wanted to understand what the experience was like, what obstacles were present and what would have helped ease the situation. The researchers’ findings are the toolkit’s foundation.

The checklists cover three areas: going to hospital, being in hospital and going home from hospital. Information about the person as well as their contacts, medications, wishes, personal belongings and going-home plan are included.

The toolkit can be used by staff members in long-term care homes as well as by people caring for a person with dementia at home.

“Going to the emergency room is difficult for anyone, (but) when a person has dementia, that difficulty is magnified because of their inability to understand what is going on in their environment,” Mary Schulz, the Alzheimer Society’s education director, tells The OMNIway.

“They are in a strange, noisy place, surrounded by people they don’t know, and their routine is thrown off, so it’s a place where people with dementia are most likely not going to do very well.”

Having these checklists readily available is important for caregivers of people with dementia because a hospital visit can be unexpected. The best way to ease the transition to an emergency department for a person with dementia is to be prepared, Schulz says.

“(If people are not prepared) the treatment may be inappropriate, it may be, at best, uncomfortable, and may be so disorienting that the person with dementia loses some of the abilities that they have,” she adds.

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