It is demonstrably clear that a hospital stay can be a distressing, scary and potentially damaging experience for a person with dementia or for those with mental health difficulties, and that the close involvement of their carers hugely improves the quality of their care.
Carers have an intimate knowledge of the patient and can support and comfort them. But these carers also need support, comfort and recognition, and at Worcestershire Health and Care Trust Older Patient Inpatient Mental Health Service, we are working to make this happen.
We want to care for the carer. To encourage carer engagement, we work with them to get a full life story of the vulnerable patient, finding out about their past work, their family life, their needs and preferences, likes and dislikes – nursing staff always need to think of the patient as a unique person. Carers are encouraged to be actively involved in the patient’s care. At the same time, we recognise that hospitals can be intimidating places.
We want to welcome carers. When they arrive we give them a carers’ leaflet so that they know what resources are available and what they can expect during their loved one’s time in hospital. They can stay with the patient and there is also a carers’ room – a dedicated space, where carers can access information, find support and help, or stay overnight if this is what they need.
Carers should not feel alone. There is a dedicated carer link on each ward, who will make initial contact with the families, ensure that a carer assessment has been offered and provide support throughout their loved one’s stay in hospital. If more intensive support is needed, this is provided. Moreover, once a week, we hold a carers’ forum – a weekly informal drop-in where carers are actively asked to raise concerns or ask questions. Alongside this, we have educational support for carers, giving books on prescription, links to external services and tailored sessions. In this way we hope to make carers into a valued and supported community.
We wholeheartedly support John’s Campaign, which is about compassionate care for all of our patients and about recognition of the vital role that a carer has to play.
Dr Natasha Lord, clinical psychologist, Worcestershire