Note to editors/producers: High-resolution video/photos for this story are available for download at this link.
PHOENIX (Nov. 16, 2023) – Susan Dimpfel has unique experience when it comes to caring for the aging population. Dimpfel is a caregiver for her parents and also works as a nurse navigator for the Acute Care for Elders (ACE) unit, a new specialty program at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix that’s helping to improve medical care for patients over the age of 65.
The unit was started by Dr. Nimit Agarwal, Medical Director for the hospital’s Center for Healthy Aging and Chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. Agarwal said he saw a massive need for this kind of care for some of the community’s most vulnerable patients who often require more specialized treatment and are at higher risk for complications.
“When older patients are admitted to the hospital, unfortunately this can sometimes lead to a downward spiral of events in their health,” Agarwal said. “With the creation of the ACE unit and more education about specialized geriatric care, we are much better equipped to prevent that from happening by reducing length of stay and helping patients get back to where they were before they were admitted.”
The unit has seen nearly 700 patients since it was started about a year ago. It has resulted in an increase in identification of delirium — which can lead to further problems if unidentified — by almost 25% compared to typical care. Additionally, the unit has improved the process of accurately identifying all medications the patient is taking its emphasis on the importance of family caregivers being involved as much as possible to advocate for the patient and help provide comfort during their stay.
Dimpfel’s parents, who are both in their 90s, were in the hospital and cared for in the ACE unit this past year. Her father, Robert Malinski, was admitted in March for a hip fracture after a fall. Malinski’s wife, Anne, was admitted in July after suffering a pulmonary embolism. The couple had relatively short lengths of stay at the hospital thanks in part to the specialized care offered by the unit.
Some of the common risk factors for poor outcomes in older adults admitted to the hospital include delirium (decline in mental state) and decline in functioning or mobility. To mitigate these, the unit prioritizes identifying incidences early so they can be properly treated and managed. Since many older patients come in as a result of a fall, safely getting them back to normal mobility is another key factor. The unit’s nursing team plays an instrumental role in ensuring patients’ quality of care — aside from typical nursing duties, they help patients get in and out of bed, stay engaged with families on a regular basis, and are specially trained to recognize symptoms of delirium.
“This was an experience where I can say firsthand how grateful I am for the unit and that Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix is offering this care,” Dimpfel said. “Even with both of my parents being in their 90s, they’re now back to their normal selves after going through such significant injuries and illness.”
Back at their retirement community, the Malinskis were able to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary together in August. Shortly after, Dimpfel visited them with her siblings to take photos together for their yearly Christmas card. Robert, who leads a singalong group at his retirement home, serenaded Anne and their children in his typical fashion, this time with the classic tune made famous by Doris Day: “Que será será, whatever will be, will be.”
About Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix
Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix is a large teaching hospital that has provided medical care to Arizona and the Southwest since 1911. It is part of Banner – University Medicine, a premier academic medical network. The institution, which has trained thousands of doctors over decades as a teaching hospital, is the academic medical center for The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. The hospital, recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s best hospitals, specializes in heart care, cancer care, high-risk obstetrics, neurosciences, organ transplants, medical toxicology and emergency care, including a Level I trauma center. Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix is part of Banner Health, a nonprofit health care system with 33 hospitals in six states. For more information, visit bannerhealth.com/universityphoenix.