Cart full of fun helps seniors ACE their hospital stay

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By James Wysotski

For patients on St. Michael’s Acute Care of the Elderly Unit, the new activity cart helps pass time more enjoyably.

For their caregivers, it contributes to getting the seniors home sooner.

Full of newspapers and magazines, colouring books, radios, large-print novels and games like bingo, cards and dominos, the cart features activities to stimulate the mind and keep patients engaged, said Joanna Stanley, a physiotherapist from the Regional Geriatric Program who works on the unit. In keeping with the unit’s philosophy of designing care around seniors’ needs, the cart also offers specific activities tailored to each patient, such as embroidery or knitting, if they’ve been requested.

“Some of the activities on the cart help keep the patients oriented, and that’s important because it can help prevent delirium,” says Stanley.

Along with RGP occupational therapist Lisa Vandewater and PT/OT assistant Edma Apostol, Stanley helped create the cart in November 2016, a month after the ACE Unit opened on 8 Cardinal Carter South. Created for the Volunteers Involving Seniors in Activities – or VISA – Program, which has been running at St. Michael’s for several years, the cart allows volunteers to engage patients in activities and conversation during friendly visits.

Each day, the trio sets up the cart for the volunteers and provides a list of patients for them to visit. Equipped with fresh newspapers and sometimes an iPad, the volunteers discuss current events or search for images such as places where the patients grew up. Since many of the patients have short-term memory impairments, these activities help to provide mental stimulation through reminiscence.

“It’s a good launching point for further conversations,” says Stanley. While the VISA visits help with orientation, they also improve the patients’ hospital experience.

Passing time more enjoyably is another benefit.

“Interactions with the volunteers help reduce the stress and anxiety related to being in the hospital environment,” says Vandewater.

There’s also the added benefit of more time spent sitting up or out of bed, both of which further therapy goals, says Stanley.

While many of the items on the cart were on the unit before its inception, Stanley said Volunteer Services has also been a huge support by offering funds to make rooms more senior-friendly, as well as providing new cart items to improve the patient experience.

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