At MedStar Montgomery Medical Center, we understand that older adults have specialized needs. We tailor the patient experience in our hospitals and outpatient clinics so older adults will have everything that’s needed.
MedStar Montgomery has earned the Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE) designation. NICHE is a national program of the Hartford Institute at the New York University College of Nursing and is backed by 20 years of research into aging. It’s the only national geriatric nursing program that addresses the needs of older adults.
While we are proud to be a NICHE institution, we realized that all of our staff – not only nurses – must recognize the needs of older adults. At MedStar Montgomery, we all improve the older adult experience.
Hospital-Wide Changes Build Compassionate Care
We’ve implemented changes across our hospitals, from bedside care on our inpatient units to outpatient departments such as physical therapy and radiology.
To provide compassionate, top-notch care for all older adults, we’ve made changes including:
- Making sure patients and families understand the care plan for each day. We provide patient-centered care that puts older adults and their families at the center of all decision-making.
- Helping patients stay active. Research shows that patients do better and go home faster if they spend more time out of bed.
- Using positive language to communicate with older adults and families. For example, in the past we might have told a patient, “Don’t get out of bed without calling for us.” By listening to patient feedback we learned that some thought we didn’t want them to get out of bed. So now we say, “Let us know when you would like to get out of bed so we can help.”
- Providing an 8 ½ x 11” Patient Handbook with large fonts for easy reading.
- Modifying patient rooms to make them friendlier for older adults. All clocks are analog with hands and a contrasting background. Rooms have bed and chair alarms so we can help when patients want to move around. We’ve raised toilet seats so they’re more comfortable.
- Offering meal trays with colored paper under bowls and plates, and colored straws that are easy to see against white cups. Also, we provide small cups that are easier to hold.
- Making follow-up calls to patients after they go home to answer any questions they and their families have about home care or medications.
Staff Training Programs Show Us What Older Adults Experience
Our goal is to see older adults as people – not just patients. At MedStar, we create a safer environment and help staff members understand how normal physical changes that occur with aging can affect a patient’s experience.
We provide training that helps staff members understand what it’s like to be an older adult. During these programs, staff may be asked to open pill bottles while wearing gardening gloves, which simulates the decreased coordination common in older adults. We ask employees to put cotton in their ears to mimic hearing loss, and then try to pass a hearing exam. Or walk with popcorn in their socks to feel what it’s like to have bunions on their feet.
All staff members are required to go through this training, so we can provide more compassionate care for older adults.
Reaching Out to Older Adults in Our Community
Our work in improving the lives of older adults goes beyond helping patients in our hospitals and clinics. Each year we offer a Thriving as You Age health fair, where professionals provide advice on topics such as:
- Medication management
- Maintaining your health through diet and exercise
- Planning for a healthy future
- How to get a good night’s sleep
- Preventing injuries in your home
- Protecting yourself from fraud
We also offer presentations for social groups on how we improve care for older adults, and participate in health fairs. If you would like to book a presentation, or are planning a health fair and would like to involve MedStar staff, contact our community outreach coordinator at 301-774-8761.