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David Sills, Dementia and Admiral Nurse Lead and Layla Hibbs, a Dementia Occupational Therapist, gave a thoughtprovoking presentation about Dementia at a very well-attended Members’ Health Event.

David explained that Dementia is an umbrella term, covering in the region of 240 different types of illness. I was interested to learn:

  • there are currently 850,000 diagnoses in the UK which is likely to rise to 1m by 2025
  • two thirds of those diagnosed are women and the condition affects 1 in 6 of those aged 80 and above
  • 40,000 diagnoses involve those aged 65 and under

David described the symptoms of dementia as loss of memory, confusion, searching for words and changes in personality and skills. Those with dementia retain long term memory but struggle to retain new memories.

He described strategies to help those diagnosed with Dementia when in hospital. These included giving time for information to sink in so as not to scare patients with dementia. As a care giver, it is important to try and understand the impact of not recognising everyday objects or faces.

It is also important to keep a consistent environment and furniture should not be moved around. Interestingly, patients with dementia can struggle with colours and using more than one colour on a floor should be avoided as the patient may think there is a step and slip.

On the theme of colour, some hospitals use red mugs, which encourage patients with dementia to take in more fluid.

Eating can be very tricky - finger food can be a good solution and it is important to allow plenty of time for patients with dementia to concentrate on this activity.

Every patient aged over 75 who comes into hospital as an emergency admission is automatically assessed for dementia. Nursing staff keep ‘care diaries’ to record significant events and these enable them to support patients better on the ward. Surrey-wide, there are organisations to help diagnose and support people with dementia and aids such as Tele- Care alarms, electric pill dispensers and door sensors are available.

The aim is to make the Trust a dementia friendly environment and this is being driven by a steering group of key staff.

Volunteers also play an important part - offering companionship and helping patients with dementia out at mealtimes.

Central to the strategy is training and every single member of staff (clinical or non-clinical) is trained at a basic level during induction, with ‘Dementia Champions’ leading the way on the wards.

The Butterfly Scheme has been a huge help, and ‘hospital passports’, which can be filled in by the patient or their care giver help staff to understand the patient better - for example, sharing their interests or favourite foods.

Recently, the team have also started a Memory Café - every Wednesday at St Peter’s Hospital from 4pm to 6pm, to help support carers. Everyone is welcome to attend. Contact David Sills on 01932 726106 for more information.


Article written by Margaret Lenton, Public Governor for Windsor and Maidenhead


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