How to Improve Immunization Rates

Getting a flu shot matters. “Flu and pneumonia are a critical health concern, and in recent years have resulted in over 50,000 deaths annually, making it the eighth-leading cause of death, just behind diabetes,” says Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP.

During this year’s immunization efforts, staff at the Chartwell Westbury Long Term Care home were concerned that a number of the residents were refusing flu shots each year—this despite encouragement from staff and family members.

The home had implemented the Java Music peer support programs and the Java Mentorship program and staff decided to ask the Mentorship group for help.

Mark Recto, Program and Support Services Manager and Gloria Williams, Recreationist talked about how the peer support and mentoring groups had evolved. Mark stated: “We started with Java Music and then we piloted Java Mentorship, and these programs skyrocketed, pretty much.”

In the Java Music Club, a standardized peer support group, residents meet regularly talk about shared challenges in a safe and supportive way. The Java Mentorship program was then added to enhance peer support throughout the homes. Java Mentors form a team made up of residents and volunteers who focus on supporting at risk residents who rarely leave their rooms or who are identified as lonely or socially isolated.

During the team meetings, mentors receive education and training on how to support those that rarely leave their rooms, how to sit with someone who doesn’t talk much, how to build trust and meaningful relationships over time. After the team meetings, the mentors pair up and conduct visits. Pairing up makes the visit more comfortable.

Mark reports that one of the nurses approached the mentorship team and asked for help. They saw how successful the resident mentors were at connecting with their peers and asked: “Could you help us and see what the mentors can do to encourage these residents to get their flu shots?”

“The next thing you know, the mentors were encouraging these residents to get their flu shots—where to get it and how to get it. It was kind of nice to see. We were able to increase the numbers!”

“These resident mentors were telling other residents: ‘Get your flu shot so that you don’t get sick.’ And because it was coming from their peers, these residents were more open to hearing the message. They could relate more to the Java mentors—it was easy. It was amazing to see that our flu shot numbers just went up. We are hoping to use the same technique next year.”

Perhaps the Java mentors will inspire more staff to get their flu shots too? Judy Donnelly, the Chartwell Westbury’s administrator states: “We are very proud of the work of our Java Mentorship group.”

They are so enthused by the Mentorship group that they made a video that can be seen here: Java Mentorship at Wesbury LTC

Please note: This blog has been reposted from fall of 2018.

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