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Project to tailor dementia care launched in Sussex

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Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust has launched a project intended to improve care for dementia patients.

The “Knowing Me” initiative allows staff to know more about the lives, likes and dislikes of their patients, despite dementia making communication and understanding more difficult.

Each patient with dementia, or other conditions affecting memory, has a “Knowing Me” book which can be filled in either by them or their carers.

The book allows staff to get a fuller understanding of the patients in their care, from the individual’s life story to specific pieces of information such as how they might behave when thirsty, how they relax, or how they react when in pain.

The book also has sections allowing the patient to note down what their interests and hobbies are, and how they like to lie in bed to get comfortable. The book is kept by the bedside, and patients with a book also have a small magnet, displaying the “Knowing Me” symbol, on show at the top of their bed so all staff can immediately see that a person may have difficulty with communication.

The initiative was developed by a range of trust staff, including specialist nurses, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists.

Heather Pennicott, one of two dementia nurse specialists at the trust, said the book helped staff to “build a positive relationship with the patient and their carers”.

She said. “The more we know about the person – their history, what they like, what they dislike, how they might react – the more we can make sure we respond to their specific needs. Instead of giving someone the right care for ‘a dementia patient’, we want to be able to give the right care for them as an individual, and them alone.”

Cathy Stone, the trust’s director of nursing and patient safety, said: “The ideal is that we treat our patients as if they were members of our family, and this initiative helps staff to do that. It allows them to know more about the person in their care, and to use that knowledge to tailor treatment to their individual needs.”

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Readers' comments (3)

  • A little bit behind the times l would say. this approach has been in existence for years in other areas.

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  • I have to say that this is a bit of an insult to those Nurses who for many years have managed to establish meaningful relationships with elderly people who suffer from dementia.

    Unfortunately a lot of us are now a dying breed, especially those RMN's who trained in the 60's & 70's when the training we recieved prepared us to provide a high standard of care for those elderley people who also had dementia. If we failed then we would suffer the consequences.

    I am not disputing that there have been developments in the knowledge we have about dementia, but it isn't just about knowledge it is also about putting that knowledge into practice.

    With the care of people suffering with dementia placed in the hands of the private sector where in most cases profit comes before standards even if we have the tools, are we able to use them? From what l have seen and heard the answer is no.

    One or two trained nurses on a shift, what do we expect when it comes to standards!!

    I really hope that Cathy Stone the Director of Nursing improves the care that is provided, but its going to take a lot more than a "knowing me" book and stickers to do it.

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  • We too use a booklet 'All About Me' for any patient who has cognitive impairment, this allows the carer to become involved in the care of their loved one and enables the nurse to deliver care whilst recognising what it likely to cause anxiety etc. With staffing levels as they are in many NHS establishments it is even more important to focus on delivering the right care to the right person at the right pace. An individualised booklet enables this to happen, whilst involving the key carers throughout the patient journey. Many of our older patients who appear to be confused do not have a diagnoses of Dementia; carers were therefore reluctant to use the 'This is Me' booket produced by the Alzheimers society, hence why we produced our own.

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