People with dementia account for approximate 3.2 million hospital bed days per year with about 25% beds occupied at any one time (DH2014).
Some of the most common reasons for their admission include falls, urinary tract infections, chest infections and stroke (Alzheimer’s Society 2009).
Following a review of dementia care in hospitals by the CQC (Cracks in the Pathway, CQC 2014) it was suggested that these patients were likely to experience poor care at some point along their pathway.
In January 2016, the Government published a policy paper to support the delivery of more integrated and effective services for patients, their families and carers.
What did that mean for the JPUH?
The small dementia team were able to provide education and teaching to all staff, including reminiscence, triggers, and communication from internal and external providers to raise dementia awareness but this was not sufficient.
We did not have the capacity to sit 1:1 with patients who required enhanced supervision, to keep them occupied with meaningful experiences or support ward staff. We needed to do something different, be creative and on no budget. The Trust already had general volunteers around the hospital so here was an opportunity to explore and recruit more people. With a new volunteer coordinator in post we were able to work collaboratively to review a more effective way forward.
Using my clinical academic knowledge and understanding of dementia, with the library team provided the underpinning research based framework; we were able to highlight skills and understanding to enhance care, and support patients and staff in a more person centred approach.
Our dementia volunteers all receive dementia care as part of their corporate training, and attend additional presentations about meal time support. There are opportunities to attend further sessions such as Sage and Thyme and Dignity Awareness. Evidence of their visits and input is recorded to capture the difference it is making and to be able to report back to Carers and Patients’ Experience (CAPE) board.
How do we recruit?
We updated the Dementia Befriender’s poster and the volunteer coordinator contacted the local colleges and 6th form.
The dementia team promoted the dementia befrienders volunteers at a major Careers Fair held at the hospital..
There is also the normal recruitment process including interviews and DBS checks.
Why are dementia befrienders an asset to the team?
We appreciate each one’s individual skills and interests to enrich the patient’s hospital experience. They use reminiscence tools, memory boxes, baby dolls, music boxes, arts and craft etc. that are available in our Carers’ Corner Library
We have a colourful shopping trolley and a `man’ bag to transport the items around the wards.
The team build up a rapport with the patients and staff over a period of time learning to understand their personalities and select items specific to certain patients.
The team can be directed to certain wards but can also be redirect to areas when needed through their bleep.
After initial hesitance from the wards, the difference it has made is incredible. The response from staff and families is evaluated from the feedback cards and verbal communication. Patients are provided with an opportunity to have an improved hospital experience and families feel reassured there is someone who can spend quality time with their loved one.