Acute Care for Elders (ACE) unit offers specialty care for seniors

Sacred Heart Medical Center, University District in Eugene is now providing specialty hospital care for older adults in a dedicated Acute Care for Elders (ACE) unit, with the goal of helping seniors maintain their independence and prevent physical and mental decline during treatment for serious illnesses. This specialty care helps older adults quickly recover from acute illness and get back to normal living routines.

“Research has shown that about 25 percent of elderly patients who are hospitalized for common illnesses never return to their pre-hospitalization living situation due to unmet care needs,” explained Dr. Jeffrey Larkin, medical director of the ACE unit at Sacred Heart. “With the launch of the ACE unit, we can change that by helping older adults return to their homes and the lifestyle they enjoy.”

The ACE model of multidisciplinary care decreases the likelihood of nursing home placement when the patient is discharged from the hospital and also at 12 months after the patient’s discharge, without an increase in hospital length of stay or hospital costs. The ACE Unit at Sacred Heart, University District, is one of approximately 90 such units in the country. The first ACE unit was created in 1989 at the University Hospitals in Cleveland, which pioneered the care model still in use today.

Under the guidance of Sacred Heart’s nationally recognized Gerontology Institute, evidence-based care is provided to seniors who require acute medical (nonsurgical) care. The care team is specially trained in the care of geriatric patients, typically age 70 and older. Specialty training includes geriatric patient assessments, senior issues sensitivity, and working effectively with people who have communication impairments.

Members of the team who provide medical care on the ACE unit include:
• Board-certified geriatricians
• Geriatric nurse practitioner
• Hospitalists
• Geriatric-trained nursing team
• Physical/occupational therapists
• Pharmacist
• Behavioral health specialists
• Registered dietitians
• Social workers and care managers
• Chaplains

The ACE unit is the most recent innovation at Sacred Heart’s University District campus, which is currently undergoing a transformation that will include the demolition of four of the hospital’s older wings to make way for a new, 95,310-square-foot hospital building.

Sacred Heart Medical Center, University District, has operated as a 104-bed hospital with a 24-hour emergency department since Sacred Heart at RiverBend opened in August 2008. Key services at the campus include the Acute Care for Elders unit, Gamma Knife Center, Regional Infusion Center, Oregon Rehabilitation Center, and behavioral health services. All of those services will remain open for patients on the campus throughout the construction project, and nearly all will receive new, updated facilities, including the aging Johnson Unit, which is the largest private acute-care behavioral health inpatient unit in the state. When construction is complete, inpatient behavioral health will be located in a new, 23,000-square-foot space that replaces the Johnson Unit. PeaceHealth hopes to complete the transformation of the Sacred Heart, University District campus by 2014.