The AgeWell Center in Jacksonville
AgeWell Center is a place that should be considered as a model for the way that care should be delivered to seniors. It is convenient, compassionate and all of the staff, doctors, and other professionals are steeped in knowledge about the process of aging and how it affects health and lifestyle decisions.
A good care facility does many things: it provides for the medical, emotional, and physical needs of its residents, maintains a clean and safe environment, promotes as much independent and dignified living as possible, and constantly self-examines for ways to improve its care. Integral to these priorities are familiarity with residents, best medical practices, well-trained staff, and leaders whose focus is on the residents above all else.
Legal requirements depend upon the facility and upon its location. Each state has its own regulations and laws governing nursing homes, adult day cares, senior care facilities, and assisted living facilities, and each has a different reporting body that maintains licensures and ensures quality patient care. This can make finding a good home or treatment center somewhat daunting, since the requirements may be difficult to understand or access.
Yet most people do not want just the legally required level of care for their loved ones. Even in states with exemplary patient care regulations, those who are entrusting the constant care of elderly loved ones to strangers want to know that the facility is interested in providing superior care, as opposed to the bare minimum. Finding that kind of care is the ultimate goal.
Why Jacksonville Baptist’s AgeWell Center Provides Superior Care
Jacksonville, Florida’s Baptist Health’s AgeWell Center for Senior Health has a way to provide exemplary care for the elderly: teamwork. By having all of those involved in care work together, including medical personnel like doctors, therapists, pharmacists and nurses plus social workers, they catch mistakes others might miss and can make cohesive, “vertical” plans developed across types of medicine and care. That means fewer symptoms and issues fall through the cracks due to a lack of communication, and it results in better patient care.
The AgeWell Center was created in 2011 and focuses its efforts on patients 65 and older. It is located just off the St. John’s River in Jacksonville, Florida, as a part of the Baptist Health network of hospitals (five in total). It is mere miles from St. Augustine and the Atlantic Ocean, and just south of the Georgia-Florida border. This area is high in numbers of seniors, retirees, and the elderly, and it is home to many options for elder care. The outstanding goal of the AgeWell Center, in addition to the above-mentioned teamwork among caregivers, is its desire to promote independence and functionality for it patients.
…streamlining medication routines…can prevent unwanted side effects, interactions, or overlapping of medications.
An article written by local Jacksonville writer Charlie Patton (“Baptist’s AgeWell Center Takes Team Approach to Treating Older Adults”) cites the testimony of Shirley Fedd, a resident of the AgeWell Center, who says that becoming a resident there changed her life and health for the better. Her Care Coordinator and care team simplified her medication routine, which is often complicated for seniors who are taking multiple medications. By streamlining medication routines through meetings with all caregivers, the staff at AgeWell can prevent unwanted side effects, interactions, or overlapping of medications. As seniors age they become more likely to experience memory loss or dementia, which could cause them to confuse their medications or take them improperly; therefore, simplifying medications and their management is a vital task for healthcare.
The AgeWell Center is a primarily an outpatient facility that does not seek to replace primary care doctors, but wants to advocate for patients and give them more cohesive care. Seniors who go there can expect to receive a “healthcare passport” and an advocate should they need to be hospitalized. Both of these are tools that seniors can use to better understand their care and to receive more effective care in other facilities.
Other important models for good health care for seniors, from the AgeWell Center:
- Patients can expect a first visit that lasts more than two hours. This visit focuses on getting to know the patient, their medical needs, and their caregivers and family members. AgeWell wants to know the goals of a patient at this visit as well, which helps them come up with a plan for how to achieve those goals.
- By the second visit, a plan is developed by a team consisting of both mental and physical health physicians, Care Coordinators, dieticians, therapists, and pharmacists in order to support the patients’ needs and goals. This means that, from Visit Two, the patient’s goals are prioritized and the collaboration has already begun in the hopes of meeting those goals. This team is always available to adjust medications, review care policies, and provide helpful medical advice, all filtered through the Care Coordinator, who works directly with other staff members at the facility in order to ensure that the plan is being followed and is the most effective means of giving care.
- Available at the facility are therapists and psychiatrists (who attend to the many psychological and emotional needs of seniors, who will sometimes neglect these difficult areas in the process of aging), rehabilitation services and professionals, and even nutritionists. They also offer advocates who will go to the hospital should a patient need emergency treatment, and will help them transition from a hospital stay to home or another care facility.
- For patients who have a hard time coming to the Center due to a lack of transportation or mobility, AgeWell even offers home visits. This means that even those who do not want to or cannot leave their homes can still get the benefits of house calls and routine primary care from a geriatric doctor and the AgeWell Center.
All of this falls well into the categories first mentioned in this article: providing for patient needs, maintaining a safe environment, and promoting independent and dignified living. Yet what of the last requirement—the one that many facilities struggle most with—constant examination of their care policies and procedures and improving upon the status quo in their own building? Fortunately for their residents, AgeWell does not rely solely on what they have been doing since 2011. There are many examples of how they have worked to improve their programs over ensuing years, and here are a few:
- They became a part of NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders), a nurse-driven program that focuses on providing even more exemplary care and training. NICHE is an NYU College of Nursing-based program. Since June of 2014, AgeWell’s gerontology educator, Robert Trenholm, says that they are focusing on training their staff in sensitivity to geriatric healthcare obstacles, meaning that they are more focused on providing sensitive, targeted care for their patients, especially in the case of delirium sufferers. NICHE offers a leadership training program, which trained them to create a task force and allowed them to create protocols to benefit patients; they also offer e-training for staff members, which means that all staff members in this area receive competency validations for their superior training.
- Their Delirium Management Initiative was created because AgeWell listened to the needs seen by employees (in this case, doctors) and sought to fill that need. Recognizing the far-reaching consequences of delirium and multiple delirious episodes (which could permanently affect the cognitive function of patients, according to AgeWell), the Center created the initiative to prevent delirium, catch it early, and get care for delirium as soon as possible from nurses and doctors. By training staff members in how to recognize delirium in patients, AgeWell hopes to catch delirium before it can cause permanent harm to patients. Connecting this with electronic records management so that any nursing staff can identify the cause of delirium (a new infection, a medication, some other underlying condition, etc.), the Center sees this as a way to improve patient care.
- The AgeWell Speaker’s Bureau offers speaking seminars to interested outside groups, such as community and religious organizations. These can focus on how to involve community members in making a more senior-friendly event, how to assist seniors with dignified at-home care, or any other topic relevant to aging.
All of the above point to a place that cares about the needs of patients and wants to actively participate in preventative and improved care, including the larger Jacksonville community.
How to Find Superior Care Centers Near You
Finding great care centers (since we cannot all live near Jacksonville, Florida and utilize the AgeWell Center), means keeping in mind the priorities exemplified by the AgeWell Center. Beginning this search is daunting for many reasons: it often takes time and energy many of us do not have, given children, work schedules, our own health concerns, or an emergency in the health of our loved one. If possible, start this search early and allow ample time to decide what is best based on all the evidence.
The best place to start finding out what is right for your loved one is with an informed visit to a care center. Look up everything in the desired area using resources like these:
- Your loved one’s primary care doctor, especially if they specialize in geriatric medicine.
- Local health services department, or even a social worker.
- Other seniors you know who have needed or are currently receiving care from a facility.
Baptist Health. Baptist AgeWell. Available at http://www.baptistjax.com/doctors/baptist-agewell-institute. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
Baptist Health. AgeWell Center for Senior Health. Available at http://www.baptistjax.com/locations/agewell-center-for-senior-health. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
Baptist Health AgeWell Center for Senior Health, 2015 Annual NICHE Conference. Available at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfDGJqiKMug. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
Baptist Health AgeWell Institute. Delirium Health management Initiative: Guarding the Minds of our Patients. Available at http://cdn.baptistjax.com/images/pdf/baptist-health-delirium-management.pdf. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
Baptist Health. Most Preferred Healthcare in Jacksonville. Available at http://www.baptistjax.com/. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
Patton, Charles. (December 2, 2013). Baptist’s AgeWell Center takes team approach to treating older adults. The Florida Times-Union jsacksonville.com. Available at http://jacksonville.com/news/health-and-fitness/2013-12-02/story/baptists-agewell-center-takes-team-approach-treating-older. Retrieved February 12, 2016.