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How can we reduce the stress of hospital admissions for people with dementia?

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Having dementia is bad enough, then you get ill or have a fall and end up in hospital, the worst place you could be with dementia.

If you have dementia, you struggle with thought processes, are unable to join in with conversation and lack recall of what’s happened just recently.

So imagine what it’s like to find yourself on a hospital ward. There’s noise, chatter, laughing, crying, beeping machines and it’s a frightening place. People wear odd clothes and rush around, never having the time to stop when you reach out for support and reassurance.

You don’t recognise the place or the people and it’s scary.

You feel ill and hurt so much but can’t tell the people around you that you are suffering.

”The fear and anguish of people with dementia can be easily missed in a hospital setting”

People do things to you that hurt - sticking needles in your arm, wires on your chest, strangers wash your body and do intimate things with a quick explanation that you didn’t quite hear properly and certainly didn’t understand!

The fear and anguish of people with dementia can be easily missed in a hospital setting. That’s why it is so important for staff to offer support based on an understanding of what someone with dementia is experiencing.

Dementia champions

At my trust, our dementia champions are staff from all clinical areas including nursing, radiography, physiotherapy, and also porters or catering staff. They have all volunteered to champion dementia care in their area of work.

It’s a voluntary role, but I support them and offer quarterly conferences they can attend to learn more about dementia, find out what we can offer as a hospital trust and what they can do to support dementia care in their own clinical area.

”Both help support the person with dementia on their journey around the hospitals”

They ensure colleagues and other staff understand the how to use the Butterfly Scheme and our own ”Forget-Me-Not” passport of care.

The Butterfly Scheme is a opt-in scheme for support via the use of a butterfly on the person’s notes. It ensures staff care for the person with confusion and/or dementia appropriately and safely. The passport is completed by the person and their carer/family to provide information about the individual’s care needs to give a person-centred approach.

Both help support the person with dementia on their journey around the hospitals as both an inpatient and outpatient.

The champions spread the word about John’s Campaign, which offers families and carers the opportunity if they wish to be involved in the care and decision making for their family member who has dementia.

”They are experts in their own right and strive to ensure dementia care is given appropriately”

They become their advocate providing support and a recognisable face, which is so badly needed for reassurance.

Dementia champions are usually staff who have experienced or are experiencing dementia in their own family and know how hard it is to cope, therefore they are experts in their own right and strive to ensure dementia care is given appropriately, patients are safe and comforted when needed.

My ultimate goal is to ensure all staff give person centred care every time for every person with dementia who comes into our hospitals.

Tall order?

Well, if we can train and educate our staff to understand dementia, recognise symptoms and learn how to manage care and promote support tools then we just might get there!

June Andrews is an international dementia expert and author of “Dementia: The One Stop Guide”


Don’t miss our new series on dementia:

Dementia 1: How dementia differs from normal ageing


  • The differences between dementia and ‘normal’ ageing
  • Physiological changes that lead to dementia
  • The concept of ‘inflammaging’
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