With SMH Manager of Clinical Specialty Programs Katie Williams, MSN, RN-BC, AHN-BC
Being in the hospital can be a strange and scary experience sometimes. This is especially true for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, or who are otherwise predisposed to disorientation. And sometimes what helps the most is not another round of medication, but simply having a friend who can stop by, check in and spend some time with them.
“A lot of the time, the intervention that we’re looking for is not pharmacological,” says SMH Manager of Clinical Specialty Programs Katie Williams, MSN, who was excited to help create a solution that emphasized the human element of healthcare. “What really helps our older patients stay oriented and comfortable while they’re in the hospital is not necessarily more medication,” she says. “It’s engagement.”
So this past December, Williams and the Geriatric Steering Committee at SMH and the Volunteer Services Department created a new volunteer program devoted to providing those patients with the attention and engagement that they need.
We call these volunteers our Senior Care Ambassadors.
What Is A Senior Care Ambassador?
Part of our Age Friendly Initiative, these specially trained volunteers travel from unit to unit in the hospital, checking in on and visiting with patients who staff have identified as either being at high risk for becoming disoriented during their hospital stay or otherwise in need of an ambassador.
Ambassador training includes not only conversational skills and techniques to reorient, calm and comfort patients in need, but also how to use non-pharmacological remedies such as aromatherapy to provide a healing atmosphere.
But perhaps most importantly, this is no five-minute pit stop. While nurses may be pulled in a hundred directions at once and won’t always have time to stay and chat, ambassadors are ready to spend 30-45 minutes with each patient—talking, playing chess and dealing cards, writing letters, making phone calls and video calls to family.
You can also contact Sarasota Memorial Volunteer Services at the following numbers:
“And families have really enjoyed seeing these ambassadors spend time with their loved ones,” says Williams. “They’ve definitely appreciated those extra phone calls.”
The goal is to both engage and entertain, to heal and to be human.
“And the outcome has been fantastic,” says Williams.
Can I Become A Senior Care Ambassador?
The project is currently expanding and all volunteers who are interested in spending more time one-on-one with patients are welcome to apply. Simply fill out the online volunteer application form here, be sure to mention the Senior Care Ambassador Program when you do.
For more information on volunteering at Sarasota Memorial, click here.
Written by Sarasota Memorial copywriter Philip Lederer, MA, who crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. SMH’s in-house wordsmith, Lederer earned his Master’s degree in Public Administration and Political Philosophy from Morehead State University, Ky, and learned the hard way not to drink the lava lamp.