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New strategy for better care of the dementia patient
Southampton doctors and nurses are revolutionising the way patients with dementia are treated in hospital with the launch of a pioneering new project that aims to create a calm and comfortable time when admitted for treatment.
Southampton General Hospital has become the first in the UK to employ a hospital-based specialist nurse and have unveiled their new “dementia-friendly” ward for those suffering from memory loss when admitted with other medical conditions.
The development, led by matron Jill Young and her team in the medicine for older people unit, has been hailed a breakthrough moment for dementia patients and their families.
Everything from door colours and floor patterns, to artwork and the height of the nurses’ station have been analysed by a team of advisers, community nurses and Dementia UK to create the most suitable environment for patients, relatives and carers.
Among the innovations are brightly coloured doors to help patients remember which bay they are staying in and images such as umbrellas, lighthouses and starfish instead of bed numbers as a visual memory aid.
Doors that patients do not need to enter, such as cleaning stores and staff offices, blend in with surrounding walls, while the nurses’ station has been lowered and renamed ‘reception’ to improve accessibility andmake it more approachable for patients.
Paperwork is locked in cupboards to keep the area clutterfree and visiting restrictions have been lifted to give carers and relatives access any time day or night.
Jill said: “We know dementia patients can be extremely confused in a hospital environment, particularly when they require medical treatment, and relatives are often concerned their dementia needs are neglected in the absence of carers or family.
“That’s why we embarked on this project – it gives us a chance to show we are determined not just to improve care for these patients, but to give their families and friends the confidence that we understand the condition and can offer the right support.
“We have worked hard to focus on the small things, like colour recognition, less clutter, better communication between staff and patients, to prevent further confusing patients and to give them and their families a sense of normality.”
Until now, mental health nurses specialising in dementia care, known as admiral nurses, have formed part of community nursing teams.
In the newly-created hospital post, Jeni Bell, a former clinical lead admiral nurse in the community, will shadow clinical staff and oversee a training and development programme to look at understanding patients’ body language and handling those who do not interact verbally.
Barbara Stephens, chief executive of Dementia UK, added: “This project, particularly the introduction of the first admiral nurse specialist to be based in a large acute hospital, is a breakthrough moment in the care of dementia patients in hospital and a model of what we want – and need – to see across the country.”