Caring for Memory Impaired Patients 

Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center has taken a leadership role in a multi-agency collaboration to establish a Memory Identification Program that integrates community and hospital resources to facilitate appropriate and timely care of patients affected with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia and cognitive related diseases.

All patients at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center who are identified as having Alzheimer’s or other types of memory impairment are now fitted with a special bracelet so that their unique therapeutic needs are addressed while in the hospital. The program was originally developed by Teri Weitkum, RN, a case manager at Sierra Vista.

The agencies in San Luis Obispo working along with Sierra Vista to change how caregivers both identify and treat patients with memory impairment are San Luis Ambulance, the San Luis Obispo County Long Term Care Ombudsman, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Area Agency on Aging, and RSVP.

“As the County’s neurosciences center we feel it is important for Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center to take a leadership role in this important initiative,” said Remonia Ashmore, RN, director of the hospital’s Medical/Surgical Unit who also holds a degree in geriatric nursing. “We would be unable to address the needs of our County’s memory impaired if not for this collaborative effort.”

In addition to in-hospital care, another aspect of the program is identifying community members with memory impairment through the use of the Vial of Life.  The Vial of Life contains medical information, including health care identification for the memory impaired. The Vial of Life is provided by Area Agency on Aging at multiple sites throughout the community, including Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center. When a person is to be hospitalized at any level (Emergency Room, inpatient or outpatient) the Vial of Life helps healthcare personnel to quickly have needed healthcare information. When there is a need to call 911 paramedics are trained to look for the Vial of Life in a person’s home as this information saves valuable time and allows them to communicate that information prior to transport to the hospital.

Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center has embraced this program by developing a new hospital-wide policy that addresses the care and treatment of the memory impaired and includes comprehensive training to its nursing and nursing aide staff in the treatment of this unique patient population.