Section: Clara Maass Medical Center News

Clara Maass Medical Center Pilots Program to Help Senior Citizens Who are Admitted to the Hospital


Belleville, NJ - Clara Maass Medical Center has launched a comprehensive program to prevent delirium in elderly patients – which includes everything from close monitoring of the patients’ medication to engaging seniors’ minds with card games, conversation and reading.

The Hospital Elder Life Pilot Program’s overall goal is to reduce mortality and readmission rates for vulnerable seniors. CMMC was able to launch the program this spring with the help of a generous grant from The Health Care Foundation of New Jersey.

“We’re so proud to be able to offer this service to our senior patients,” said Mary Ellen Clyne, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Clara Maass Medical Center. “We hope to make their stay in the hospital as comfortable as possible and to contribute to their overall health once they are discharged.”

Starting in March, Nurses Salmarie Salinas, RN, and Nkechi Okeke, RN, became the new Geriatric Coordinators for CMMC’s Elder Life Program. They start their day at interdisciplinary rounds with the medical teams overseeing patients ages 70 and older in the Medical-Surgical Wing of the hospital. Both women check for any history of Alzheimer’s Disease or Delirium in the patients and then make one-on-one visits during the day to assess how the patients are doing.

The coordinators check for a number of issues – including signs of confusion, a change in behavior, or any decline that’s been observed since the seniors have become inpatients at the hospital. They enroll seniors into the pilot program who are deemed to be at risk for delirium. Those patients receive ongoing attention to keep them engaged and feeling comfortable during their hospital stay.

With the help of the coordinators and specially-trained volunteers, the patients may get help at mealtime, take part in relaxation exercises, enjoy hobbies such as playing cards or board games, be read to, walk around with a companion, or simply converse with someone to share memories and stories together.

“While they’re in the hospital, it can be confusing,” explained Salinas, who said patients may become overwhelmed or intimidated if it is their first time in a hospital. “Sometimes their family members can’t be there,” said Okeke. “It can be as simple as having someone communicate with them and keeping them mentally and physically active. . . That lessens the fear.”

But the treatment doesn’t end there. Before the senior patients are discharged, both Salinas and Okeke come up with a discharge plan for them to help keep them healthy and prevent them from having to return to the hospital. Each patient’s “My Care” plan spells out guidelines for follow-up doctors’ appointments, medication scheduling and a number of short and long-term goals.

Though its only in its pilot stages, both coordinators say they’ve gotten excellent feedback from patients and their families. “It’s rewarding,” said Salinas, who observed that they make a difference in the patients’ lives through simple tasks at times – reminding family to bring in the patient’s prescription eyeglasses, or getting them a device to amplify their hearing.

Okeke said she especially enjoys interacting with the seniors and hearing their memories, “I get more from them than they get from me.”

Jane Kessler, vice president of Clara Maass Medical Center Foundation, said this important program would not be possible without the generosity of The Health Care Foundation of New Jersey, “The Health Care Foundation of New Jersey is a consistent supporter of programs and services here at CMMC. This Elder Life Program is one more way they are bettering the lives of patients at our hospital.”

About Clara Maass Medical Center
Clara Maass Medical Center has won numerous awards and accolades. In 2013, Becker’s Hospital Review named it one of “100 Hospitals with Great Heart Programs.” It is ranked among the 50 Best Regional Hospitals in the New York Metro Area by U.S. News & World Report. In 2012, it received two Grade “A” scores in Hospital Safety by the Leapfrog Group. HealthGrades awarded Clara Maass an Emergency Medicine Excellence Award. Thomson Reuters named Clara Maass among the top 100 hospitals nationwide in 2012, one of only three hospitals in New Jersey to attain the distinction. In addition, Clara Maass won the Thomson Reuters Everest Award, one of 12 hospitals in the United States to do so. Clara Maass Medical Center was ranked as the second highest in New Jersey for hospital safety by Consumer Reports. It is ranked top in the state for the treatment of Congestive Heart Failure and Heart Attacks by the New Jersey State Department of Health and Senior Services.

Located in Belleville, NJ, Clara Maass Medical Center, a Barnabas Health facility, provides a complete continuum of care to residents of northern New Jersey. Clara Maass’ centers and services include The Health and Wellness Center, Nuclear Medicine, The Cancer Center at Clara Maass, Adult Cardiac Services including Diagnostic Services, Cardiac Catheterization, Elective and Emergency Angioplasty and Rehabilitation, The Pain Management Center, The Joint & Spine Institute, a Vascular Center, Same Day Surgery, The Wound Center at Clara Maass, The Center for Sleep Disorders, The Bariatric Surgery Center, Rehabilitation Services, The Eye Surgery Center, Maternity Services and Parent Education, as well as Pediatrics. For a physician referral or more information about Clara Maass, call 1-888-724-7123 or visit

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Date: May 23, 2013

Contact: Elizabeth Moore
Director of Public Relations

Categories: Hospice,Press Releases