“We Ignite Something in Each Other”: Southern Ohio Medical Center Hospice Launches Dementia InitiativePosted on 06/28/2019

Sometimes casual conversations transform into plans that create a huge impact. This is exactly what happened one day for a couple of SOMC Hospice employees. SOMC Hospice Social Workers Susan Coriell and Loren Hardin were catching up when Susan began sharing how her mother had been increasingly displaying signs of dementia, but Susan was at a loss for her next step of care.

Susan told Loren that her mother would eventually qualify for enrollment into hospice care, but she didn’t know when she would be considered eligible.

Susan’s question caused Loren to realize that even in his position, he is sometimes at a loss about how to best serve patients with dementia and their caregivers. At that moment, they both had an epiphany. Their conversation ignited a determination in them to learn more about dementia and the needs of the patients and caregivers, not only for Susan’s mother, but all the hospice patients they serve.

Susan began researching the prevalence of dementia in hospice patients and explained “twenty-five percent of [SOMC Hospice] had a primary hospice diagnosis of dementia, which does not take into account the patients with a secondary diagnosis of dementia.” Loren explained that this revelation ignited the decision to launch what they have termed their “dementia initiative.”

From there, they created an action plan, established their goals and the vision of their mission to better serve patients with dementia and their families. Susan and Loren attended the local Alzheimer’s Support Group to gain a better understanding of the issues and needs of patients and caregivers. They shared their initiative with the group and provided information about hospice services. After attending these groups, Susan and Loren outlined the hospice enrollment criteria for dementia patients and created a brochure with input from the hospice admission team. Upon creation of the brochure, Susan realized her mother qualified for hospice care.

Loren and Susan didn’t stop there. They began reaching out to others to further their initiative. They met with Melissa Dever, Alzheimer’s Association Regional Director. The brainstorming and exchange of ideas ignited their decision to commit to an ongoing strategic partnership.

“My office is in Cincinnati, and those folks don’t have these types of initiatives going on,” Dever said. “It’s a pretty innovative and neat thing.”

After the successful meeting with Melissa, Loren and Susan met with SOMC Director of Hospice Teresa Ruby, who recommended and established an interdisciplinary committee. The team was tasked with determining better ways to serve the patients of the inpatient hospice center first with hopes to eventually expand the initiative to patients and families at home. To effectively accomplish this, they requested Melissa Dever complete a facility evaluation to compose the action plan. With Teresa Ruby and SOMC’s Administration’s enthusiastic support, the following goals were accomplished.

Two contingent hospice aides have been hired to provide one-on-one care to dementia patients at the inpatient center.

Activity supplies including fidget quilts, star gazers, iPads, memory books, weighted blankets, activity boards and robotic cats have been purchased for sensory stimulation.

A security system has been installed at the inpatient center for the safety of patients who wander.

A three-part mandatory dementia education program has been presented to the entire hospice staff by Melissa Dever.

Melissa provided the yearly hospice volunteer education on dementia focusing on the management of behaviors.

An additional classroom has been secured for the local Alzheimer’s Support Group to use in the SOMC’s Gibson Building.

In just a little over a year of establishing their initiative, the team has already advanced dementia care in so many ways, but are still determined to do even more.

“I think that when we look back and look at the outcomes, that people will see that everything doesn’t always have to be negative when talking about dementia,” Dever said.

The new resources and methods to treat dementia patients have advanced the care they receive, and in many cases, had an impact on their families.

“[This initiative and new resources] individualizes the patient and family care,” Susan said.

The team is currently establishing more strategic partnerships, working on expanding their initiative to outpatient hospice services, and eventually, taking their new findings out into the community.

Recently, a strategic partnership was also established with the Shawnee State Occupational Therapy program, which will be highlighted in an upcoming article.

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