Bury St Edmunds: Dementia awareness now on the increase
14:13 26 March 2014
In the past three years awareness of dementia has increased dramatically.
This is largely due to wider publicity and better education sparked by a national dementia strategy.
At West Suffolk Hospital, a dementia practitioner has been employed to educate staff and volunteers, with an emphasis on providing the best possible support to patients with cognitive problems while they are in the hospital’s acute wards.
The practitioner, Maggie Woodhouse, provides training for more than 500 staff aimed at helping them to differentiate between dementia and delirium, and dispelling some of the myths surrounding the condition.
She said: “A lot of the training centres on putting people in real-life situations so they can see what it might feel like to be on a hospital ward when you have no memory and don’t know why you are there. It’s a way of enabling staff to empathise.”
Money raised via the West Suffolk Hospital’s Forget-Me-Not Dementia Campaign will be used to support ongoing work to make the hospital’s acute wards and surrounding corridors more dementia friendly.
During the past year, some of the wards and individual bays have already been painted in bright contrasting colours and a memory walk corridor is planned.
Ms Woodhouse said: “The short term memory of someone with dementia is damaged by the condition but long term memory is still intact. They are able to remember things that happened a long time ago but unable to identify with what’s happening at present.
“The colours help dementia patients to be able to see which bay they came from and that in turn promotes independence and makes people feel more at home so they are able to engage.
“The memory walk corridor will feature pictures of towns in west Suffolk and old photos so staff can bring patients there to chat about the pictures.”
Ms Woodhouse also co-ordinates a team of dementia champions – staff trained to promote best practice and identify patients with dementia on the wards to make sure their voice is heard.
She also provides training and ongoing support to a team of six reminiscence volunteers who spend time with patients, using memory materials to spark conversations.
Ms Woodhouse concluded: “I have been working with people with dementia for 30 years but in the past few years, things have really started to take off in terms of supporting people with the condition.
“It’s making a big difference giving training to people who are then able to understand what it might feel like to have dementia and they can use that empathy in their hospital roles.”