A North East hospital is investing more than £35,000 in a new pilot scheme to create a more friendly environment for people with dementia in hospital wards.
The scheme includes a range of innovative measures including adapted lighting, new furniture, better signage and colour-coded systems to help patients get better care for their needs.
The changes are being trialled on Ward 23 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QE) in Gateshead and are just part of the wider agenda that the hospital is currently looking at for dementia patients.
Gillian MacArthur, director of nursing, midwifery and quality at QE Gateshead said: “We know that one in 14 patients over the age of 65 currently has a diagnosis of dementia and this number will increase because of an aging population.
“Our patients tell us that what they need from us is kindness, compassion, a smile, understanding and most importantly to be their voice when they are unable to speak.
“At QE Gateshead we’re tackling this in a number of ways including more training for staff and changes to the way wards can be designed.
“Ward 23 is currently being piloted as a ‘dementia friendly’ unit, which means looking at everything from signage to lighting and working out what we can do differently.”
One in 14 patients over the age of 65 currently has a diagnosis of dementia – around 850,000 patients in the UK and with an aging population that is expected to increase to 1.7 million by 2015.
Almost 70% of hospital beds are currently occupied by older people and one half of these beds have patients with some cognitive impairment, including dementia and delirium, in them.
Ward 23 now uses coloured crockery, glasses and jugs to indicate that a patient may need extra help in taking on calories and fluids. It also ensures that staff should be making sure that a patient’s water is within easy reach.
The QE has also introduced a forget me not scheme where patients who have extra communication needs are issued with a blue wrist band when they come to hospital, so that staff know they may need a bit of extra help.
All staff at the Trust, including those who don’t work directly with patients, must complete a mandatory training session on dementia.
A clinical dementia symposium and support group has also been organised so that staff can share best practice of treating or helping those patients with dementia.