The Increasing Standards of Geriatric Care

When selecting a healthcare facility such as a hospital or long-term care residence, patients have traditionally concerned themselves primarily with quality of care. The last ten years, however, have seen a trend in which patients move beyond the healthcare facility’s performance rankings to issues such as privacy, food quality, ambience and the comfort of guests and loved ones.

Today's facility needs to provide increased levels of both comfort and care. Below are six key criteria geriatric patients are using to measure hospitals and long term care residences:

1. "Quality of Care."

This will never change. Geriatric patients demand and expect top-notch care when they are in the hospital. As the Boomers age and become part of the geriatric demographic, there will be a greater demand for quality of care. They’ll have done research on their condition and will ask questions to ensure that they are receiving the best possible care from highly qualified personnel.

2. "Privacy. I want a door!"

Privacy has become paramount - not only for patients but for the facilities themselves. HIPAA laws have led to a construction boom as hospital administrators strive to make waiting rooms, treatment bays, exam rooms and other areas HIPAA compliant. Set the laws aside for a moment though...patients just don't like to share rooms. After all, who wants their medical history shared with anyone who happens to be in the same room?

3. "Room Comfort. Take care of me...and my visitors."

In many ways, hospitals are starting to act more like hotels. With geriatric patients come their family and guests...and the need for more space in rooms. Some facilities have opted to create family suites, and provide additional luxuries - Hospital VIP Suites.  At the very least, residences need to provide basic comforts for loved ones, including: unrestricted visiting hours, adequate space in the rooms for family and friends to sit and stay out of the way, as well as onsite facilities for eating and keeping the kids occupied.

For the patient, facilities need to provide attractive and comfortable furniture that can be adapted as the patient’s needs change. Since patients spend most of their time in hospital beds, how adjustable is the bed? Can they sit up and lay down easily? How difficult is it to get in and out of the bed? Does it offer options that can play a therapeutic role? The furniture should work as hard as your staff to keep patients focused on healing.

4. "Food Quality. A healthy and tasty diet, please."
Emotional health is connected to physical health, and physical health is conclusively linked to diet. The geriatric population can be finicky eaters. Each facility will need to rethink the institutional food it currently offers. Your patients aren't selecting your facility because they think a starvation diet would benefit them. Serving them food that tastes good will make them happier customers and healthier patients, period.

5. "Personnel with professional and caring personalities."
Patients rely heavily on facility’s employees. When they are not well and perhaps frightened, patients need to feel confident that they can depend on your staff to treat them correctly, and with respect. Think about any hospital experience you've ever had. When your stay was over, how you viewed your stay nearly always came down to your impressions of the staff with whom you interacted. Patients demand knowledgeable, efficient, comforting, and - above all - pleasant staff.

6. "A calm and clean environment.”
Every administrator knows that the better patients feel emotionally, the faster they will heal physically. While this has been shown to be the case, most patients are actually unaware of this fact. They do, however, seem to understand it intrinsically, since the atmosphere of the facility is one of the key things patients look for when deciding on a healthcare facility. Patients - especially geriatric patients - want tranquil environments that are tastefully decorated, cheerful and clean.

While these are not the only standards used to select healthcare facilities, they are some of the most important considerations. The levels of geriatric care have improved immeasurably over the last decade and the expectations of seniors admitted to facilities have risen, as well. Facilities need to provide for their patients in innovative ways, beyond their clinical needs, never forgetting that the quality of care and medical services is the primary concern.

All residences need to address some of the new demands of its geriatric clientele.