The telephone of Gary Leblanc has been ringing off the hook. He's been hearing from the Alzheimer's Society (Canada) and dementia-related organizations in New Zealand, Australia and across the United States.
Leblanc reads this column in the Hernando Today newspaper, and writes a weekly newspaper column about dementia. Until his father's death from Alzheimer's disease four years ago, he was the primary caregiver.
Here's why the telephone rings: Over the last year, Leblanc, the Alzheimer's Association Florida Gulf Coast Chapter and Brooksville Regional Hospital have developed a first-in-the-nation pilot program to help hospital personnel become better educated about and provide necessary safeguards in hospitals for patients with dementia.
Said Leblanc: "The program came about because of family complaints. I have been contacted by thousands of people who've told horror stories about the care their family members (with dementia) have received in (medical facilities)."
Their program, the Alzheimer's/Dementia Hospital Wristband Project, has three main parts: training hospital staff, first responders and hospital volunteers on how to assess, approach, manage and interact toward patients with dementia; tagging the wrist of dementia patients with a special "purple angel" wristband to help hospital workers better identify them; and providing trained "sitters" to help give family members of patients with dementia an occasional in-hospital respite. Leblanc said procedures like this should have been implemented years ago.
He gave one example of many why this new program was needed nationwide: "Many hospital staff (untrained about dementia) will ask a patient with dementia what medication they are taking and the staff person takes the patient's word for it. But in our training, we teach the staff they have to first verify with a relative, spouse or advocate what medication the patient's taking. The patients worrying me most are the ones coming alone from nursing facilities to hospitals (for nondementia health issues.) They have nobody who can explain for them that they have dementia."
He said the "purple angel" wristband was crucial to helping staff quickly identify patients with dementia wandering the hospital. It also helps prevent patients from prematurely signing themselves out of the hospital without the family being notified and from deciding on important medical decisions such as whether to have surgery or take pain medications.
If I were a hospital administrator, I would be calling Leblanc to learn more.
For more stories of courage in disability, visit www.danieljvance .com or find them on Facebook at "Disabilities By Daniel J. Vance." LittleGiantFudge.com and Palmer Bus Service made this column possible.