IU Health Saxony Hospital Named First Dementia Friends Indiana Hospital

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Indiana University Health Saxony Hospital has been named the first hospital in the state to be recognized as a Dementia Friends Indiana Hospital.

To accomplish this, IU Health Saxony partnered with CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions, state administrator of Dementia Friends Indiana, to create a first-of-its-kind program that increases awareness, comfort level and competency for hospital team members taking care of patients with dementia.

“We care for a high population of elderly patients,” said Diane Hesson, chief nursing officer at IU Health Saxony Hospital. “We recognized the need for formal training and education to help our teams provide the best care for patients who show signs of dementia or memory loss. The partnership with CICOA and Dementia Friends Indiana will ensure we are more purposeful, intentional and use a multidisciplinary approach to address the specific needs for all patients presenting with signs and symptoms of dementia.”

When you bring your loved one with dementia into the hospital setting, you know that no matter who you encounter, there’s this attitude of acceptance, wellness, and education.

All hospital team members, including physicians and team members who are not in direct patient care roles, participated in workshops to become a “Dementia Friend.” A Dementia Friend, defined by Dementia Friends Indiana, is someone who wants to make a positive difference in the lives of people living with dementia through increased awareness and support.

Dementia Friends Indiana seeks to advance education and awareness of dementia, reduce the stigma associated with the disease, and create community environments that are welcoming and conducive for those living with dementia.

In 2018, the city of Fishers joined the network of AARP Network of Age Friendly Communities. With IU Health Saxony Hospital becoming a Dementia Friends partner, Fishers is one step closer to becoming a more age friendly community.

“The partnership with IU Health Saxony is one of our biggest priorities, not only because it brings attention and helps spread awareness of the Dementia Friends movement, but also because hospital staff can now better engage, care for, and create the best experience possible for dementia patients and their caregivers.”

– Dustin Ziegler, CICOA’s vice president of community programs

The program at IU Health Saxony Hospital has been carefully crafted by team members from around the hospital, including social work, inpatient units and other departments that care for a high volume of patients with memory issues or dementia.

“When you bring your loved one with dementia into the hospital setting, you know that no matter who you encounter, there’s this attitude of acceptance, wellness, and education,” said Ziegler. “Dementia is among the top 10 causes of death globally. It is the most complex and the most expensive, and it is only going to get bigger. IU Health Saxony is becoming the first to take action because they know what the future holds, and they want to be a trailblazer.”

In addition to Dementia Friend workshops for all team members, further training has taken place on hospital units that have a high population of patients with memory issues or dementia. Comfort care kits that contain activity items designed to stimulate the minds of patients with dementia are available as well.

IU Health Saxony is monitoring the impact of the intervention through pre- and post-workshop surveys of clinical staff to see whether they feel better equipped to approach an individual with dementia, communicate with them, and provide needed care.

“The complexity to implement the Dementia Friends training is on the lower end,” said Ziegler, “but we’re hoping to demonstrate that it offers high results. If so, this model can be replicated across other hospital systems for maximum impact.”

Pictured above: IU Health Saxony social worker Claire Shawver and nurse Tai Oliver advocate for dementia friendly care.

Related: Read more at IU Health News Hub: Two team members – One passion project – First hospital in Indiana


Dementia Friends Indiana is a program of CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions. The movement seeks to advance education and awareness of dementia, reduce the stigma associated with the disease, and create community environments that are welcoming and conducive for those living with dementia. Learn more at www.dementiafriendsindiana.org.


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