The nurses who battle dementia
By Vicky Lake | Friday 21 November 2014
As a new staff member at Alzheimer’s Research UK I needed to learn as much as possible about dementia and the people we’re working to support. I quickly learned that Alzheimer’s Research UK’s headquarters are extremely dedicated to defeating dementia, but it’s always important to remember why this is our mission. I met with three nurses who look after people with dementia on a daily basis; Sara a GP Practice Nurse, Amrit a hospital Discharge Manager and Yvonne a hospital Dementia Nurse.
We all know nurses do amazing jobs but I was astounded by the multitude of ways they support people affected by dementia. Here’s just a snapshot…
When patients are experiencing confusion, they receive a screening at their GP. After undergoing tests to rule out other causes of confusion, Sara will refer three to five patients a week to the memory clinic.
Yvonne trains hospital staff on how to look after people affected by dementia, making them ‘Dementia Champions’ with a (highly sought after) badge to wear on their uniforms.
Brightly coloured wooden activities and vintage jigsaws and puzzles are used to engage people and hopefully spark some memories for them.
Each week a group of volunteers descend upon the hospital to take people for a walk up and down the corridors, make use of the activities, talk to them about their past or simply keep them company.
Extended visiting hours
If somebody is particularly distressed in hospital it is often helpful to have their main carer close by. Yvonne has implemented a rule which allows carers to come in early or leave later if it will help.
Signs on the hospital wards are limited to make sure that the information the person’s needs is clear. There are simple signs which always follow the same format – word, picture, arrow.
Amrit ensures all patients who leave hospital needing care and support at home are put in contact with the right people and agencies.
A nurse’s wish list
I asked our team of nurses what they wish they could do for people with dementia:
- To make every department in the hospital dementia friendly
- Give every nurse, doctor and carer the knowledge to manage challenging behaviour
- Prevent people with dementia coming to hospital where possible so they can stay in familiar surroundings
- A community dementia nurse in every area.
They all said – “That Alzheimer’s Research UK will find a cure.”
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