Background: Approximately 3.2 million hospital stays annually involve a person with dementia, leading to higher costs, longer lengths of stay, and poorer outcomes. Older adults with dementia are vulnerable when hospitals are unable to meet their special needs.
Methods: We developed, implemented, and evaluated a training program for 540 individuals at 4 community hospitals. Pretest, posttest, and a 120-day delayed posttest were performed to assess knowledge, confidence, and practice parameters.
Results: The mean age of the sample was 46 years; 83% were White, 90% were female, and 60% were nurses. Upon completion, there were significant gains (P's <0.001) in knowledge and confidence in recognizing, assessing, and managing dementia. Attendees reported gains in communication skills and strategies to improve the hospital environment, patient safety, and behavioral management. At 120 days, 3 of 4 hospitals demonstrated maintenance of confidence. In the hospital that demonstrated lower knowledge and confidence scores, the sample was older and had more nurses and more years in practice.
Conclusions: We demonstrate the feasibility of training hospital staff about dementia and its impact on patient outcomes. At baseline, there was low knowledge and confidence in the ability to care for dementia patients. Training had an immediate impact on knowledge, confidence, and attitudes with lasting impact in 3 of 4 hospitals. We identified targets for intervention and the need for ongoing training and administrative reinforcement to sustain behavioral change. Community resources, such as local chapters of the Alzheimer Association, may be key community partners in improving care outcomes for hospitalized persons with dementia.