Senior Friendly Hospital Strategy - Providing Services and Support to Meet Seniors' Needs

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 11:15am
The unique and individual health care needs of seniors are a focus for hospitals and health care providers alike and there is growing recognition that we must all be attentive to the needs of this growing population and tailor our services and supports to meet these needs.  St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) is working to ensure a seamless continuum of care for patients from community, to hospital, back to community by applying a senior friendly hospital lens for the benefit of seniors and the community at large.
Seniors make up approximately one fifth of our population in the South West Local Health Integration Network and by 2036 it is expected that seniors will make up one fourth of our population.  Hospitals in our region are currently implementing the Senior Friendly Hospital Strategy which is aimed at helping seniors stay healthy while they are hospitalized, so they can safely return home.  The Strategy plans to prevent unnecessary physical, emotional and medical decline in hospital, prevent future hospital stays and supports seniors to remain independent in their homes longer.   The Senior Friendly Hospital Strategy encourages hospitals to view everything through a senior friendly lens such as:
  • how they develop strategic plans
  • track and measure continuous quality improvements
  • provide quality care to seniors
  • develop care plans
  • communicate with patients and families
  • renovate buildings
  • purchase equipment and furniture
  • design wayfinding signage throughout the hospital
These are both challenges and opportunities, but by applying the senior friendly lens, specific attention is given to how the needs of seniors may impact how services are provided.  
STEGH is currently engaged in implementing the Senior Friendly Hospital Strategy, including reviewing its approach to screening, preventing and managing delirium, preventing functional decline, preventing falls, managing wound care and nutrition, and mobilizing patients throughout their hospital stay.  Each of these play a key role in reducing long hospital stays, reducing the number of visits to the emergency department and preventing unnecessary admissions to long-term care, with a goal of seniors remaining independent in their own homes.  
David Simpson, Manager of Acute Medicine and Senior Friendly Hospital Co-Lead at STEGH says that “the goal of the Senior Friendly Hospital Strategy is to optimize the health and well-being of seniors when they are hospitalized so they care transition successfully home or to the next appropriate level of care.”  
“The Strategy will improve the quality of care and life of seniors in our community, increase patient satisfaction and patient experience when hospitalized, involve hospital and community care providers in planning discharges and provide an opportunity for staff education and training on delirium and functional decline, two key indicators in the Strategy,” adds Simpson.
In a Senior Friendly Hospital, care and service are provided in a way that is free of ageism, respects the unique needs of patients and their caregivers and ensures that our hospital environment is caring, understanding, accepting, responsive and inclusive of the needs of all our patients, including seniors. The Strategy is consistent with STEGH values (Compassion, Accountability, Respect, Excellence and Safety), its mission and vision and goal to provide an excellent patient care experience in a safe and supportive environment.  Although each June we recognize and celebrate seniors and the contribution they make to our communities, our commitment to seniors and creating a senior friendly hospital is on-going and timeless.  Additional information about the Senior Friendly Hospital Framework can be obtained at
Background Information:
Delirium is a sudden change in mental abilities that causes confusion and other changes in thinking and behaviour.  It is not a normal part of aging.  Approximately 15-22% of seniors will develop delirium due to hospitalization.  It can be caused by:  a sudden medical illness such as flu or bladder infection, a stroke, a reaction to a medication or withdrawal from alcohol, medications and/or nicotine.
Functional Decline is a NEW loss of independence in walking, moving, dressing, toileting and/or bathing.  Seniors who are hospitalized can experience a decline in their abilities because of long periods of bed rest and decreased activity.