Older Adult Specialty Unit
Seniors hospitalized for medical care do better when the inpatient environment, staffing and treatment plan are designed to meet their complex health concerns.
This aging-sensitive approach helped us create the Older Adult Specialty Unit at Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health. The recently-opened unit provides the highest quality holistic care and personalized attention to each patient.
In this special unit, we focus on promoting wellness in the midst of illness and strengthening physical and cognitive functioning during a hospital stay.
This prepares seniors with skills to avoid multiple needs after inpatient care. It also may result in shorter hospital stays and more time between inpatient admissions.
Senior-Friendly Physical Design
The Older Adult Specialty Unit features 21 private rooms, an activity center and design highlights shown by research to be beneficial for seniors, including:
- Signs with large letters
- Non-shiny floors
- Safety bars in bathroom
- Art work to evoke memories
- Color schemes with contrast to help vision
- Large clock faces
- Security system to prevent wandering
- Food trays with contrasting placemats
- Soup mugs for easier handling
- Large print menu
Care Centered on Older Adults
The unit’s exceptional medical care not only treats diseases, but addresses geriatric syndromes, such as sleep problems, eating difficulties, pain, incontinence, confusion, fall risk, skin breakdown and loss of functionality. Assessment of each patient and individualized care planning are based on geriatric research results.
Nursing care is provided by geriatrics-certified nurses and others with specialized education and training in caring for seniors.
Patients eat meals out of bed, in a communal dining area. Good sleep is encouraged by incorporating personal sleep rituals and providing hand or back massages before bedtime. Complementary therapies such as aromatherapy and Reiki are administered by registered nurses (RNs) certified in these supportive practices. Aromatherapy helps calm patients and promotes sleep. Reiki is also calming and may help ease pain.
To avoid physical or cognitive decline while in the hospital, seniors participate in the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) in the activity center and throughout the unit. The Therapeutic Walker Program helps older patients get out of bed and keep moving while accompanied by a trained staff member. These two beneficial programs are also available to seniors who are inpatients in other units of Abington Hospital.
Care includes supportive preparation of patients and caregivers for the post-hospital period, to strengthen recovery and avoid readmission.
Geriatric Specialty Team
The unit is staffed by a team of professionals with expertise in older adult care. This team includes geriatricians, geriatrics-certified nurses and a geriatric clinical nurse specialist. They work together with professionals in physical and occupational therapy, nutrition, geropsychiatry, social work, palliative care, pharmacy and more to respond to all needs.
Research shows that senior inpatients do better in hospitals with nurses who are certified in gerontology. The Older Adult Specialty Unit has the largest proportion of geriatrics-certified nurses in our hospital. There are also nurses with geriatrics certification in units throughout the organization who serve as geriatric resource nurses for senior patients.
Abington Hospital has been named a NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Health System Elders) hospital for our high level of excellence in geriatric nursing care throughout the institution. U.S. News and World Reports awarded us a commendation in geriatrics. The national Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) honored us as a HELP Center of Excellence.
Seniors may be eligible for admission to the Older Adult Specialty Unit if they are age 70 or older, have a diagnosis that is appropriate for a medical care unit, are able to get out of bed and can follow directions.
Patients may come from home, from long term care facilities or be transferred from other healthcare institutions (if discharge is not anticipated within 24 hours). Observation patients, those who are unable to participate in any aspect of care and the actively dying are not eligible for the unit. Nurses in other units throughout Abington Hospital have geriatrics certification and are experienced in caring for older adults.