Introducing Acute Care for Elders (ACE)- a Program to Meet the Evolving Needs of the Community

Specialized Program Changes to Meet Evolving Needs: Acute Care for Elders (ACE)

Geriatrician Anirudh Sridharan, M.D. with geriatrc nurse practitioner Francie Black, CRNP.

Geriatrician Anirudh Sridharan, M.D. with geriatrc nurse practitioner Francie Black, CRNP.

Caring for the ever-growing elderly population is a challenge faced by health care systems across the country. Responding to the need for improved hospital-based geriatric care, Howard County General Hospital launched the Acute Care for Elders (ACE) Program in November 2011, providing the community’s aging population with the specialized care needed to help minimize complications from hospitalization.

A national effort, the ACE model is designed to help elderly patients avoid inactivity that can lead to physical and cognitive decline during a long-term hospital stay. Patients admitted to HCGH’s ACE Program, must be at least 70 years of age, admitted through the Emergency Department from home and be considered at risk for functional decline.

Anirudh Sridharan, M.D., a geriatrician who specializes in hospital-based care and medical director of the ACE Program, explains that the program has benefited elderly patients by giving them the attention necessary to make their hospitalizations safer. “Howard County, like the rest of the country, is facing a shift in demographics. The fastest growing part of our population is people over the age of 65,” says Dr. Sridharan. “Treating an elderly patient is different than treating a younger patient; they are more likely to get confused in the hospital and more likely to suffer side effects from medications. It is vital that these vulnerable patients be given specialized attention that addresses these challenges.”

Since the program was launched, Francie Black, CRNP, a nurse practitioner with HCGH’s ACE Program, says the nursing staff is more keenly aware of the need to prevent deconditioning of elders in the hospital with a focus on getting patients up and out of bed. “Elders are mobilized as soon as day one, but definitely by day two of their admission to the hospital,” explains Francie. “The nurses and care technicians automatically add getting out of bed as a daily goal. There is a greater incentive for patients to walk in the hallways, and the solariums on the unit give our patients a destination as well as more daylight. We want our patients to function here as they do at home.”

Francie Black helps a patient stay mobile during a hospital stay, one of the goals of the ACE Program.

Francie Black helps a patient stay mobile during a hospital stay, one of the goals of the ACE Program.

Coordination of care between the patient and their primary care physician, hospital doctors, nurses, nutritionists, case managers, pharmacists

and the patient’s family is an integral component of the ACE Program. Through a multidisciplinary approach to care, HCGH’s ACE team ensures that admitted patients remain mobile, well-nourished and have ample opportunities to exercise their bodies and minds.

“The ACE Program has heightened awareness of the need to collaborate with caregivers in the hospital, with the family, and the community to safely discharge an elder from the hospital, keep them from coming back to the hospital, and to improve their quality of life,” adds Francie.

 

Via Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Matters