The fact is the majority of hospital workers are not trained in the unique needs of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. To further complicate matters, they are understaffed which means every moment is precious.
Simply put, dementia patients often do not receive the special care they require and the results can be disastrous. Gary LeBlanc is doing something about this. LeBlanc is founder of the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Hospital Wristband Project, currently being piloted at Brooksville Regional Hospital in Hernando County, Florida. Having had nightmarish experiences of his own as his father’s primary caregiver, he saw a need and jumped into action.
The premise is simple, but getting there is going to take a lot of hard work. The wristband project does several things:
- Upon admission, patients with a prior diagnosis have a Purple Angel affixed to their standard issue hospital wristband for identification purposes.
- A Purple Angel is placed on their door so that anyone entering knows they should approach with the patient’s special needs in mind.
- Hospital staff, volunteers, and first responders receive training developed by LeBlanc in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association-Florida Gulf Coast Chapter.
- Use of “sitters” will become standard practice, allowing families to take much needed breaks without worrying that their loved one will be left alone.
- A dementia screening will be added to the admission process in hopes of identifying cognitive impairment even if there is no prior diagnosis.
The Purple Angel logo is quickly becoming an internationally accepted symbol for Dementia Awareness for all dementia related diseases. A big key to the success of this project, LeBlanc emphasizes, is that one standard symbol is used across all healthcare systems making it instantly recognizable.
LeBlanc also stresses the importance
of the education component, noting
that knowledge, understanding, and
compassion will lead to improved
care. By ensuring staff members are
aware of the underlying dementia
diagnosis, opportunities for
misunderstandings will be reduced,
and special precautions can be taken
to minimize falls and wandering and
address signs of confusion,
sundowning, and aggression before the issue escalates.
The Alzheimer’s/Dementia Hospital
Wristband Program is receiving
wholehearted support from the
Alzheimer’s Association, as well as
many other organizations and dementia care experts.
Le Blanc is
liberal with his praise of Patrick
Maloney, CEO, and other members of
the HMA/Hernando Healthcare leadership team for their willing and enthusiastic involvement in the pilot.
With 71 hospitals in 15 states, HMA, the parent of Brooksville Regional Hospital, provides a great avenue for expansion of the program.