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A new approach to caring for seniors is spreading across Canada and internationally

Introduced at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital in 2010, the Acute Care for Elders (ACE) strategy has made real improvements for patients over the age of 65, including shorter hospital stays, fewer readmissions to hospital, and greater chance of returning home rather than to an institution such as a long term care home. Now this innovative approach is being adopted by 17 health care facilities and organizations in Canada and one in Iceland through the support of the Canadian Frailty Network and the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement. 

Under ACE, teams of physicians, nurses including advanced practice nurses, social workers, therapists, pharmacists, dieticians and volunteers work together to provide better, more coordinated care for patients. The elements of ACE include: tools and specially trained staff in the emergency department to identify and care for frail older patients; ACE wards customized to the needs of older patients (including lowered beds, communal meals, increased physical movement and nighttime environments more conducive to sleep); follow-up phone calls after discharge to help patients follow prescriptions and instructions; home visits; and much more.

Institutions using ACE, like Ottawa’s Queensway Carleton Hospital and the Whitehorse General Hospital, report that patients are sleeping better, falling less and experiencing fewer medication errors. At Mount Sinai, savings attributed to ACE amounted to $6.7 million in 2014, and patients over 65 have been discharged more quickly, cutting the cost of care per patient by 23 per cent.

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