Norfolk hospital’s drive to improve dementia care

A tiny blue flower has become the symbol of a Norfolk hospital's pioneering project to improve care for dementia patients.

Matron Barry Pinkney knows how important is to care for patients with dementia. Just recently he had 15 patients who had dementia on a 23-bed ward at the James Paget University Hospital.

Mr Pinkney has been leading a project at the Gorleston-based hospital to improve care for dementia patients.

And in just six months the 'More About Me' scheme has proved so successful that it has won an innovation award and funding to do more training for staff.

The project was based on the Alzheimer's Society and Royal College of Nursing's 'This is Me' leaflet.

The leaflet is a simple and practical tool that someone going into hospital can give to staff to help them understand the condition. It provides a 'snapshot' of the person with dementia, giving information about them as an individual, such as needs, preferences, likes, dislikes and interests.

But Mr Pinkney said that in practice the booklet could sometimes get mislaid or overlooked among other documents, and the idea about the 'More About Me' project was to make it more visible.

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The hospital is now using laminated cards, into which personal information sheets about patients can be inserted.

The card can be displayed prominently next to the bed of each patient who has dementia, so that all staff know instantly that that patient has the condition and there is information in the card to help them care for them.

The cards have a forget-me-not on them, to remind staff that they need to be extra attentive, in particular making sure that these patients eat and drink well so they do not become dehydrated or lose weight.

Mr Pinkney said: 'This helps us to get an understanding of the person as an individual, for example it might say my name is George, but I prefer to be called Eddie, and it might tell us things like they used to be carpenter.'

On wards where the More About Me ethos has been trialled, one staff member is also designated as a dementia champion and wears a forget-me-not pin badge so they can be easily identified by family members who have any concerns.

There are also memory boxes of nostalgic items so that patients can reminisce, and to help bring a bit of familiarity to them in an unfamiliar place.

Dementia project facilitator and ward sister Ali Thayne said: 'We are getting really positive feedback from families, patients and from staff.

'It has made a big difference. As a nurse you want to make a difference to people's lives and that's what it has done.

'We have been encouraging staff to sing to patients, as we know they respond better to singing and dancing and movement .

'When the Royal Wedding took place we made a big effort to put up bunting and the staff wore hats and the patients loved it and it got them talking about past experiences and past Royal Weddings.

'Bringing out their memories and their own personal experiences is very important.'

The team is now looking at making environmental changes to the hospital, for example using bright and contrasting colours to help dementia patients identify objects clearly - one idea is to introduce red toilet seats to help them easily go to the bathroom.

Willie Cruickshank, of the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance, said the More About Me project was an example of how a few simple ideas could be introduced to make a drastic difference to care.

He said: 'This is really raising the profile of the issue of dementia.' He added that part of the alliance's remit was to help share ideas and successful projects like More About Me across care providers in the two counties.

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