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Community hospitals urged to become more dementia friendly

Study into dementia-friendly hospitals

The Mental Welfare Commission has recommended that smaller hospitals do more to make their environment friendlier for dementia patients.

A study was undertaken, surveying 56 community hospitals in Scotland between June and September 2017, with the findings reporting that there were “issues with the dementia-friendliness of the environment, care planning, activities provision and staff training” in several facilities.

However, the report did highlight that both carers and patients had a positive view of care and treatment.

Some issues that were found during the survey included a day room with an uneven floor which looked more like a storage room for chairs; poor signage, flooring that could increase the risk of falls, (according to the Alzheimer’s Society, there were 6,834 incidents of people with dementia falling in hospital in 2015) and a lack of contrasting colours in important areas such as toilets and grab rails.

It was also discovered that dementia-friendliness audits were only carried out on a third of the wards.

Why is special consideration to space needed for dementia patients?

On average, people with dementia in hospital stay more than twice as long as other patients aged over 65 so it’s vital that hospitals take the unique issues they face into consideration. The King’s Fund, found that a dementia friendly environment reduces falls, improves orientation and reduces anxiety for the person living with dementia.

90,000 people in Scotland (with a further 700,000 in England) have dementia and almost 300 sufferers were consulted as part of the study.

Executive director of the Mental Welfare Commission, Kate Fearnley, said: “We are concerned there is a lack of focus on patients’ needs, related to their dementia.”

“More than half the patients we saw had been in a community hospital for a month or longer, meaning they are often spending long periods in an environment that may not be dementia-friendly.”

What can hospitals do to make environments more dementia friendly?

  • Shiny floors can seem slippery and unsafe to those with dementia so it’s ideal to use a matte floor.
  • A person living with dementia often struggles differentiating colours but you can make clear paths for patients to follow with high contrasting colours which their eyes will be able to focus on. The use of bright colours throughout the facility is also encouraged.
  • Social spaces for patients are important in order for them to be able to move away from their beds, and interact with other people. Where feasible, memory lanes or replica villages can be made to help patients feel more at home.
  • Natural light and views of the outdoors can be extremely beneficial to stop patients feeling closed in or trapped. The light should also be adjustable to help with sleeping patterns, such as blackout blinds in bedrooms.
  • Clear signage should be used to help patients navigate their way around the hospital/care home.
  • Keeping spaces clean, tidy and free of clutter can help to minimise distress.

For example, Bradford Royal Infirmary has recently undertaken important work to make their hospital more dementia friendly. They have painted over the bland white walls of the bays and corridors, rejuvenating them with bright bold colours. They have provided patients with cinema seats for them to watch local archive films and an office has been turned into a ‘memory cafe’ where patients enjoy afternoon tea. Social dining is encouraged in bed bays and new lighting schemes are being trialled to aid sleep patterns.

Other hospitals have taken steps to make their environments more dementia-friendly. North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has given its elderly care ward an overhaul and Whipps Cross Hospital has invested half a million pounds to become dementia friendly.

Minimising disruption during improvements

For hospitals to make changes to their wards for the benefit of dementia patients, more often than not, they’re going to have to do so whilst the patients are admitted. So it’s vital any refurbishments or improvement are done in a way that does not cause too much disruption or anxiety to them.

To minimise disruption and to shield the works from patients, Hoardfast internal site hoarding can be used throughout the duration. The temporary partitions can be used to enclose areas that are being worked on, completely covering them and safeguarding them from patients.

The Westgate team is familiar with the strict requirements of a hospital environment, which have played a central part in the systems design. Many panels within the range have a 2.7m standard panel height option, specifically created to fit the average hospital ceiling height. Of course, we can provide different height variations.

Hoardfast panels can also be used to create structures such as memory cafes or memory lanes from bygone eras for patients to enjoy. Graphics can be used to visualise these eras for patients, bringing the space to life with high quality visuals.

For added patient experience and to provide additional comfort for those with dementia, screen graphics can be a great way to enhance the environment, providing clear signage and calming visuals.

Other benefits of the Hoardfast range include the option for fire and sound rated panels, and single or double doors and vision panels.

The hygienic components and simple click-together installation of the Hoardfast range make it ideally suited to sensitive hospital environments, find out more here.

Hoardfast
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