At-Risk Seniors Benefit from Expanded Geriatric Assessment Program
by Maryanne Matthews
Senior patients at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre are receiving the right care, at the right time, and by the right provider thanks to expanded coverage for the Geriatric Assessment program.
Beginning in the Emergency Department, the program streamlines the assessment process of at-risk seniors (aged 65 years and older) through consultation with internal geriatricians and the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP). Collaboration with external partners such as St. Joseph’s Care Group (SJCG), Alzheimer’s Society, Superior North Emergency Medical Service, and the North West Local Health Integration Network’s (LHIN) Home and Community Care, is also crucial to the program’s success.
“Senior patients often require more specialized attention within our health care system. In addition to requiring health care more often, their needs are different from the general population,” said Susan Veltri, Geriatric Care Coordinator. “The Geriatric Assessment program is a great fit for their needs. After a successful trial of the program, we saw a need to not only make it a permanent service, but to expand coverage to seven days a week so that even more patients can be screened and assessed.”
The assessment process looks for signs of geriatric syndromes, including mobility issues, weakness, frailty, functional decline, pain, cognitive impairment, dementia, delirium, and other risk factors often associated with seniors. “Early assessment allow for early interventions, which is especially crucial for at-risk seniors,” said Veltri.
The program also supports discharges for patients who do not require acute care in a hospital setting and works with community partners to provide a smooth transition to home or other programs and services that would best address their needs, such as SJCG’s geriatric programs.
By identifying their needs sooner, the average length of stay for seniors of the program has decreased by half – meaning that vulnerable senior patients are not spending more time in the hospital than needed. Additionally, over 150 unnecessary hospital admissions have been avoided this year.
“By providing senior-friendly care early, we reduce the number of unnecessary admissions or days spent in the hospital and achieve improved continuity of care, enhanced patient experiences and better outcomes,” said Veltri. “Most importantly, our senior patients and their families and caregivers have been very happy with the care received and the ongoing support provided after discharge.”
To learn more about our Hospital’s commitment to seniors’ health, visit www.tbrhsc.net.