In April 2017, in front of a crowd of more than 85 community members and leaders, The Outer Banks Hospital was named the First Dementia-Friendly Hospital in the state of North Carolina by the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services, a group leading the effort to implement North Carolina’s first Alzheimer’s state plan.

Based on the 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment that revealed that individuals with dementia and their caregivers needed more support, the Healthy Carolinians of the Outer Banks’ Dementia Task Force was created in March of 2014. The task force executed several lofty goals, some of which included creating educational programs for caregivers, first responders and local businesses; developing one-on-one counseling; advocating for the addition of a specialist on the beach; and establishing a local Alzheimer’s walk.

Because of the Hospital’s close alignment with the Dementia Task Force, it seemed only natural to find ways to incorporate Dementia-Friendly efforts into the work of the hospital and now, into Outer Banks Health system. What started as training staff in best care practices that include a sensitivity to and an awareness of the difficulties faced by those with dementia and their caregivers, has grown into a versatile program that touches our patient-facing departments in the hospital as well as in our medical practices. Our efforts are what led to our Hospital to be named the First Dementia-Friendly Hospital in the state.


  • Positive Interaction Training to include all of the hospital services and medical group practices
  • The All About Me Booklet is intended to provide professionals with information about the person with dementia as an individual. This will enhance the care and support given to the person in an unfamiliar place. (This is not a medical document.)
  • ​Food and Nutrition Services changed the presentation of meal trays to make them more appealing to individuals with cognitive impairment
  • Earlier appointment times at practices
  • Partner with Healthy Carolinians Dementia Taskforce
  • Hospital team members attended training with National speakers
  • The hospital has had the opportunity to speak at local and state conferences
  • Creation of a tool kit that includes enrichment activities such as books, music and dolls; introduced activity aprons
  • One of our pharmacists is certified in Geriatric Pharmacy thru the Board of Pharmacy Specialties
  • ​Purchase of Ipads that have diversionary and dementia specific programs which support motor skills, provide stimulation and cognitive function help create a positive social interaction of those with dementia

Purple Seahorse

The purple seahorse was adopted by the Outer Banks community as the symbol for dementia because purple is the nationally designated color for Alzheimer’s and “seahorse” is a noun translated from the Latin word “hippocampus,” which is the portion of the brain that plays a major role in memory. Purple seahorse sign is a visual cue for alerting the treatment team that the patient is at risk for cognitive impairment

Patient Companion Volunteer

Patient Companion Volunteers play an important role in supporting patients with dementia and their families to have the best possible experience in hospital. This volunteer position assists the patient, family, and care team by providing one-on-one service to the patient with dementia in our hospital when family is not available to be with the patient. Taking the time to get to know each patient and engaging them in activities that are tailored to their individual interests and abilities can significantly improve the patient’s wellbeing and help prevent functional decline. The skill, empathy and knowledge of Dementia Volunteers’ can also provide reassurance to family members that their loved one will receive the personalized care they need. These volunteers receive extensive training on positive approaches when working with individuals with dementia. Your nurse can assist you if you would like to request a Patient Companion Volunteer for your loved one in our hospital.