Making Hospitals More Dementia Friendly: An Inclusive, User-Centered Approach

Sarah E. Endicott (1), DNP, PMHNP-BC, GNP-BC; Diane L. Farsetta (1), PhD; Paula Woywod (1,2), DNP, MSN, RN, CHSE; Lisa Bratzke (1), PhD, RN, ANP-BC, FAHA
(1) University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing; (2) UW Hospital and Clinics

People living with dementia and their care partners identify interactions with the healthcare system among their biggest challenges. Many hospital staff do not feel prepared to care for people living with dementia. An academic team with expertise in education, geriatrics, simulation, and community outreach, who previously developed dementia friendly training materials for classroom and community use, designed a dementia friendly hospital toolkit. Using principles of user-centered design, the team consulted with care partners of people living with dementia, hospital staff, hospital leadership, and advocates from communities disproportionately impacted to identify priority needs and design training materials for hospital staff across roles. The toolkit also includes an organizational guide to facilitate uptake by a wide range of hospitals, from large academic centers to rural critical access hospitals.

In 2023, the team conducted an implementation pilot with five hospitals of varying sizes throughout Wisconsin. Each pilot partner:

  • Used the toolkit to create a training plan;
  • Met with the team to review their training plan and discuss the planning process;
  • Carried out two training activities with staff based on their plan, using toolkit materials and collecting participant feedback; and
  • Met with the team to share participant feedback and discuss the training activities.

From discussions with hospital pilot partners, the team learned:

  • Hospital planning committees ranged in size, from two people (at three hospitals) to five people (one) to 16 people (one).
  • Four of the five hospitals used the toolkit to develop their plan. The one that didn’t was building on an internally-developed dementia friendly initiative.
  • Three hospitals used staff surveys, needs assessments, or statewide data to inform their planning.
  • Hospitals engaged a wide variety of staff in training activities, including volunteers, social workers, discharge planners, nursing staff, food services, environmental services, and students.
  • Hospitals had all materials needed to prepare for and carry out training activities.
  • All five hospitals reported that participants responded positively to training activities and met learning objectives.
  • Hospitals valued the toolkit’s flexibility, different formats for training materials, ease of use, comprehensiveness, and organization.
  • All five hospitals intend to continue using the toolkit.

Dementia Friendly Hospital Toolkit table of contents

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.


  • Hospital patients living with dementia  
  • What is dementia friendly?  
  • Why dementia friendly?  
  • Who needs dementia friendly training?  
  • How this toolkit was developed  
  • How do I use this toolkit?  

Planning for your hospital

  • Building leadership support  
  • Getting input from others  
  • Identifying needs and setting goals  
  • Finding opportunities in your hospital  
  • Building a dementia friendly champions program  
  • Designing your training program  
  • Measuring progress  
  • Communicating with internal and external audiences  
  • Sustaining efforts over time  
  • Connecting with community organizations  
  • Hospital case studies  

Role play scenarios

  • Education tools 
  • Role play scenarios 
  • Options for role play sessions  
  • Equipment 
  • Facilitator tips  
  • Scenario scripts and information  
    • Teaching strategies  
    • Responding to behaviors  
    • Addressing room distractions  
    • Improving care transitions  
    • Discharge planning  
    • Dementia friendly interactions throughout the hospital  
    • Providing support during tests or procedures  
    • Meeting mealtime needs  

Training videos

  • Video learning objectives and information  
    • Dementia basics for dementia friendly hospitals  
    • Communication tips for dementia friendly hospitals  
    • Addressing behaviors within dementia friendly hospitals  
    • Care transitions for dementia friendly hospitals  
    • Supporting family caregivers in dementia friendly hospitals  

Training handouts

  • Handouts for each role play scenario and training video 
  • Dementia overview: The basics 
  • Dementia overview: Types of dementia 
  • Educating hospital staff on working with people living with dementia 
  • Behavioral de-escalation tactics 
  • Communicating in hospital settings 
  • How to use a medical interpreter 
  • Person-centered care 
  • Creating an accessible environment 
  • Community resources for people living with dementia 
  • Using plain language 
  • Patient- and family-centered approaches to care transitions 

Additional resources

  • Training resources 
  • Surveys 
  • Communication tool 
  • Family caregiver resources 
  • Elder abuse resources 
  • Age-Friendly Health Systems