Your patient is ready to be discharged from the hospital and her family members are relieved to finally be getting their loved one back home to a familiar setting, since she has dementia and the hospital stay has been confusing for her. You’ve got the list of medications and follow-up appointments to review with them, but are you missing something?
Your unit has been working on integrating Function Focused Care (FFC) with patients who have dementia, and the nursing staff has done a great job getting this patient walking and encouraging her to participate in her own care, like washing her face, brushing her teeth and even getting dressed. While family members may be focused on other issues like new medications during a discharge meeting, remember that including the need for physical activity and providing function focused care through role modeling and cuing is just as important for the wellbeing of their loved one. If you, as the trusted healthcare provider, take the time to discuss the importance of physical activity and function focused care during your discharge teaching, then caregivers may better perceive this to be a priority and follow through with it. Be specific and use examples in your teaching, and ask family members what activities they feel they can do with their loved one at home.
We’ve attached a simple template for a FFC Care Plan after a hospital stay that you can use during discharge teaching and help family members develop a daily schedule. It includes an example of a daily schedule with activity ideas. Review this with family members during the discharge meeting, and encourage them to add their own thoughts and ideas to the plan with you, addressing concerns they may raise as you go.
There are many other resources you can share with caregivers to help them integrate physical activity and FFC into daily life with their loved one. For example, the National Institute on Aging has just released a new booklet on exercise: “Get Fit for Life: Exercise & Physical Activity for Healthy Aging.” This resource is easy to read and full of information about why exercise is important, what kinds of exercises improve health, overcoming barriers to exercise and tips for getting started after an illness or other break. The booklet is free and you can order up to 25 printed copies or download it as a pdf file, which includes links to many other resources and videos too. Below is a page from the booklet that includes simple tips for helping a person with dementia stay active, which can help them maintain function, a regular sleep and toileting pattern, and improve mood. Remind caregivers that exercise has many benefits for them too, including helping to reduce stress!
Another great resource are the free, short videos on the Function Focused Care website. While these were developed to help show staff at long term care communities how to incorporate FFC into daily care and deal with challenges, the tips and strategies can be used by caregivers at home too.
So, think about your discharge teaching and how you can consistently add physical activity and function focused care to your normal list of items to discuss and review, especially for patients with dementia, as caregivers may not realize the critical role these play in the health and wellbeing of their loved one.