Rural Northwest Health Caring for Cognitive Impairment in an acute setting
Rural Northwest Health comprises two health campuses and a smaller health clinic in the Yarriambiack Shire in the Grampians region, Victoria. Rural Northwest Health shares its experiences in promoting cognitive care awareness in the acute setting through supporting and upskilling acute unit staff.
Strategies that made a difference
Rural Northwest Health formed a small working group with acute managers from its campuses in Warracknabeal and Hopetoun and the cognitive rehabilitation therapist for Wattle (Memory Support Unit) and community.
To improve awareness of cognitive care across the campuses a range of strategies were implemented, including:
- A staff member from an acute area at each campus was nominated as the ‘Acute Cognitive Impairment Champion.’
- ‘Champions’ spent time training in the Memory Support Unit and worked alongside the cognitive rehabilitation therapist attending appointments in the community. This exposed the ‘Champions’ to people with memory and cognitive issues both in the community and the acute health setting.
- Implementation of cognitive resource boxes – one for each campus – to keep in acute areas.
- The boxes contained memory cue cards, prompt cards, a white board and a range of other tools that staff could use in a person’s room, including toilet signs, signs for the door and a calendar clock which specified the day, date, month and time.
- Across all campuses, awareness of cognitive impairment has increased. Through nominating ‘champions,’ staff had someone to seek advice from, and discuss their situation or concerns with. This not only increased awareness of cognitive care, but also staff confidence in identifying cognitive impairment proactively.
- Team members in acute settings can proactively access and use the cognitive resource boxes when a person with memory issues or cognitive impairment presents to an acute unit.
Through the use of the cognitive resource boxes, there has been a reduction in wandering and/or confusion in people with memory or cognitive impairment issues.
- Staff are more aware of how to work with a person who has memory or cognitive impairment issues, they are now aware of where to seek help, either from their trained cognitive awareness team members or the cognitive ‘champion.’
Issues and problems faced?
- Backfilling trained cognitive awareness staff members in the acute settings for leave coverage.
- Keeping new staff informed of what is going on in their area regarding awareness of cognitive issues and strategies.
Where to from here?
- Staff will continue to work together and support team members working in the acute settings to gain awareness and confidence in cognitive care.
- Plans to train more staff in cognitive care, to allow backfill when staff are away on leave.
- Regular communications and updates in staff meeting agendas on cognitive care initiatives.
- Further training with acute staff is planned in 2017.
The cognitive resource box has proved to be a tremendous asset for Rural Northwest Health. It’s something that Rural Northwest Health highly recommends to all health services in caring for cognitive impairment.