A hospital in Reading has become the first district general in the UK to equip itself with so-called “magic tables” for patients with dementia.
The Royal Berkshire Hospital received the innovative Tovertafel technology in August but has only just officially launched it.
“Watching the patients’ reactions, it’s amazing how much they change”
Tovertafel means “magic table” in Dutch. It got its name after a dementia patient who was trialling the technology said, “this is a magic table”.
Costing from around £7,000, the Tovertafel is a projector on the ceiling that can project light onto a table below. It allows patients to take part in various games that help to stimulate their brains and lead to social interaction.
The Tovertafel was invented in Holland in 2014, where there are now 2,500 of the machines. The UK was the first export country and there are about 300 Tovertafel in British care homes, day centres, libraries and hospitals.
The Royal Berkshire, which has five Tovertafel – one on each of its elderly care wards, has the biggest concentration of any site in the UK.
Sharon Herring, director of nursing at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, said the Tovertafel could help nurses.
“Where you are doing one-to-one care you may be able to stop that and have one nurse with five people and cohort your patients together,” she said.
She described the technology as “a bit like children’s interactive tables at museums”.
One game involves a ball being projected onto the table that players can push back and forth with their hands, trying to keep the ball on the table.
“It relieves pressure on the staff while still stimulating the patients”
In another, the patients get a dustpan and brush and try to sweep up leaves that are projected onto the table.
“Watching the patients’ reactions, it’s amazing how much they change. They can go from uncommunicative to animated,” said Ms Herring said. “It’s quite moving when you see them.”
Often there are some dementia patients who want to leave the ward but the Tovertafel can help to reduce the anxiety that patients feel, she said.
The machines were paid for out of “patient experience” fundraising for the Royal Berkshire’s charity.
Mehdi Bedioui, chief executive and founder of Shift 8, which installs the machines in the UK, said that using the projector nurses could leave a patient sitting at a table to entertain themselves in a safe environment.
“Research has shown that TV is overstimulating, they can’t focus on it,” he said. ”But the Tovertafel is the appropriate level of stimulation and helps them go from passive to active.
“It relieves pressure on the staff while still stimulating the patients,” he added.