Office of Rural Health and Primary Care - aging services models

Successful Model for Rural and Underserved Communities

Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center Dementia Project

Project: Enhancing quality of care, life and services for seniors with dementia and their care providers

Target Population: Caregivers for patients and residents with dementia or signs of dementia, including professionals, providers, staff, family members, lay caregivers and the general public

Geographic Area: Communities of Wabasha, Kellogg, Reads Landing and Plainview, Minnesota and Alma, Nelson and Pepin, Wisconsin.

Description: Saint Elizabeth’s grant project exceeded all expectations as we developed networking partnerships with Age In Motion, Inc., The Alzheimer’s Association (Rochester office), W-K Community Education, Three Rivers Community Action, Inc., and Wabasha Clinic-Mayo Health System. This partnership planned and implemented a comprehensive training and education program for staff, community members, and caregivers.

Project implementation and oversight was the responsibility of a multidisciplinary team. The Dementia Team successfully completed the following activities:

  • Conducted a survey of professional and lay caregivers to determine needs for dementia education
  • Developed an education plan
  • Purchased and installed The Learning Network (TLN): computer-based training
  • Created policies that mandate all long term care staff complete a minimum of four modules annually and encourage other staff, clinic staff and physicians to proactively complete online courses
  • Provided training sessions that helped staff access computer modules
  • Hosted four education sessions for long term care, acute care and primary care professionals providing an overview of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Formed a team of local caregiver “experts” who are available when staff need additional knowledge, resources, assistance
  • Provided specialized one-day training for team
  • Purchased activity cards specifically designed to “maintain the brain and enhance memory.” Recreational Therapy incorporates these activities in their long term care therapy schedule
  • Regularly provides mental health tips and brain aerobics activities for staff as part of our workplace wellness initiative
  • Sponsored community-wide “Brain Aerobics” Alzheimer’s Prevention Program
  • Sponsored a five-part caregiver series
  • Created an Alzheimer’s and Dementia resource packet to be distributed at primary care clinics
  • Initiated the review and evaluation of various dementia/Alzheimer’s assessment tools. This initiative is still in process
  • Built a stronger awareness of Saint Elizabeth’s Alzheimer’s Support Group.


  • Improved training is high quality, consistent, efficient and cost effective
  • Enhanced work environment positively impacts recruitment and retention
  • Improved quality of care and life for patients and residents with dementia disorders.
  • Increased use of behavior/recreational therapies and decreased use of psychotropic medications in treating residents with dementia disorders in the long term care setting
  • Enhanced awareness and understanding of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Improved education, support and resources for families and lay caregivers
  • Improved methods of screening, diagnosing and early intervention of dementia
  • Stronger network of community-based senior care and services
  • Added programs and services that fill gaps and meets community needs.

Challenges/Lessons Learned
It was difficult to engage acute care nursing and physicians. Busy clinic hours and high census impacted their ability to participate in group educational sessions. They have access to the TLN computer-based learning modules but lack the time to devote to this self-learning option. We are considering the sponsorship of an “after-hours” symposium for physicians, providers and staff.

Another challenge is integrating an effective early identification screening process for dementia into the primary care clinic setting. Our team continues to explore options build awareness for tools that help to identify early warning signs.

Plans for the Future
The team will reconvene develop new objectives focusing on local experts, physician/acute care education, and the administration of an early identification screening process, and more community/family education.

Contact :
Rita Fox, Vice President of Long-term Care
Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center
1200 Grant Boulevard West
Wabasha, MN 55981
(651) 565-3111

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Updated Monday, February 09, 2015 at 03:18PM