Making Hospitals More Dementia Friendly: Case Studies

The following is an excerpt from the “Planning for your hospital” section of the Dementia Friendly Hospital Toolkit developed by CARE and clinical and research faculty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing.

As we developed CARE’s Dementia Friendly Hospital Toolkit, we learned from two Wisconsin hospitals with their own dementia friendly initiatives: the W.S. Middleton Memorial VA Hospital in Madison and Stoughton Hospital in Stoughton. One of the hospitals that piloted our training materials, Fort HealthCare in Fort Atkinson, shared how they were launching their dementia friendly initiative using our toolkit.

Getting input from others  

Lisa Rudolph

“We need to involve more than just nursing,” realized Lisa Rudolph, MSN, RN, the Education Services Manager at Fort HealthCare, when she was asked to lead dementia friendly planning. “If you don’t get staff involved, then that buy-in is not there. I wanted to make a task force and make it interdisciplinary.”

Fort HealthCare’s interdisciplinary task force includes a wide range of staff, from a nurse practitioner to volunteer services to radiology. They began by educating themselves on dementia and will help develop the hospital’s training plan. Rudolph recruited task force members by “reaching out to leadership and saying, ‘I would like some people from your department.’ I also reached out more broadly and said, ‘If you have a loved one, or some interest, or a personal connection with dementia, then I want you to be part of this, too.’”

Don’t forget key stakeholders outside of hospital staff and leadership. “It’s really important to get patient and family perspectives,” said Mary Wyman, PhD, a clinical psychologist and research investigator at W.S. Middleton Memorial VA Hospital. “We need to hear those voices, though it can be hard.”

Connecting with community organizations  

Fort HealthCare’s community connections have provided dementia education to staff. “I reached out to our ADRC [Aging and Disability Resource Center] dementia care specialist,” said Lisa Rudolph. “She did a training with our task force members. It was interactive and an eye-opening experience for us.”

Heather Kleinbrook

Stoughton Hospital is part of Stoughton’s dementia friendly community coalition. Heather Kleinbrook, BSN, RN, PMH-C, CDP, the Department of Nursing’s Inpatient Services Manager, also chairs the community coalition.

“A lot of what we do is education, getting businesses engaged and trained in how to be dementia friendly,” Kleinbrook said. “We provide education at the hospital. We started a memory café which we hold at the hospital monthly. We’re doing music and memory with the library.” The hospital’s community involvement increases awareness of their dementia friendly commitment and offers meaningful volunteer opportunities to staff.

The Madison VA participates in a regional coalition of dementia friendly groups, organized by the county dementia care specialist. “It’s a good way to stay plugged into what’s happening,” said Mary Wyman. “It’s inspiring. So many creative ideas come from these groups getting together. It helps us be more effective.”

Advice for people launching dementia friendly hospital initiatives  

“It’s important to have support from administration from the get-go,” said Lisa Rudolph at Fort HealthCare. “Also think about setting some dollars aside for equipment or training. This isn’t a one and done. Think about onboarding new employees and having staff practice some of these skills every month or so.”

Mary Wyman

“There are so many places to improve the experience and quality of care for people living with dementia,” said Mary Wyman with the Madison VA. “Start with one bite-sized project. Also think about how dementia friendly improvements can align with other goals of the organization. For example, we made big wayfinding changes early on. There were other things we could have done, but people had for years been raising concerns about how confusing it was to get around our facility. So we were able to partner with a larger group and build momentum because we had a shared goal of improving wayfinding.”

Stoughton Hospital’s Heather Kleinbrook stressed the importance of finding staff “who are passionate and have a story to tell. They will help get others on your side. All of my administrative team had stories. They had a mother or father or grandparents who were living with dementia. When people have a passion, it’s amazing what you can do.”