Meeting the Needs of the Older Adult Patient


Irene Peters, MN, RN, geriatric clinical nurse specialist.

Susan Dailey’s father, Ed, suffered an injury common to older adults — a fractured hip after a fall. Prior to surgery at Overlake, Susan was told the anesthetic in combination with her father’s dementia could cause hallucinations. “The medical team was very clear with us from the onset and explained what was likely to happen,” recounts Susan. “His care was exceptional.”

Overlake nurses recognize that families are key members of the healthcare team, especially for older adults who may be managing multiple health conditions. A significant way to ensure that older patients’ needs are met during their hospital stay is to educate nurses in effective and compassionate geriatric care. Through Overlake’s participation in the Nurses Improving Care for Health System Elders (NICHE) program, we have access to evidence-based, interdisciplinary approaches that promote positive hospital experiences for older adults. This includes practices that help patients regain optimum health and prevent or manage conditions specific to older adults, such as incontinence, bed sores, delirium, falls and sleep disorders.

Overlake has been a NICHE hospital for five years and is one of only three hospitals in Washington and one of 300 nationwide with this designation. Our NICHE program facilitator, Irene Peters, MN, RN, geriatric clinical nurse specialist, incorporates NICHE resources in Overlake’s policies and protocols so nurses and other hospital staff have the means to provide the best care possible to older patients.

In addition, Irene leads an annual two-day, NICHE-based seminar, which allows nurses an opportunity to earn the designation of geriatric resource nurse by acquiring skills and enhancing their knowledge about geriatric care. Having nurses with this specialized training has allowed Overlake’s orthopedic unit to adopt a NICHE-developed plan of care to identify, prevent and treat delirium in hip fracture patients. Since implementation, delirium has been reduced and care has improved for these particular patients.

In fact, Susan’s father was one of these patients. “Irene recognized his delirium right away and helped my sister and I understand what was going on with him,” says Susan. “She was instrumental in supporting the nurses who took great care of my dad.”

NICHE was developed at Overlake through a partnership with Overlake’s Senior Care program and its Senior Health Centers, spearheaded by Irene and supported by the medical director of the Senior Health Center, Henry Williams, MD, and Joan Luster, MSW, manager of the Senior Care program.

“NICHE is an incredible resource,” confirms Irene. “And its goal of improving care for older adults reflects Overlake’s commitment to elder care excellence.”

For more information on NICHE, visit NICHE Program web site.

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