Facelift for dementia care ward at Great Western Hospital


Charity funds £98,000 revamp of Jupiter Ward to make it more dementia friendly

An elderly care ward at The Great Western Hospital in Swindon has been transformed into a specialist dementia-friendly unit thanks to a £98,000 redesign funded by the trust's charity, Brighter Futures.

Jupiter Ward has been given a facelift using the principles of Kings Fund research into dementia-friendly design and international best practice in dementia care. A number of discreet adaptions have been made to the ward aimed at reduce anxiety, improve confidence and support a speedier recovery.

Dementia patients often have difficulty understanding time and place and can become confused in unfamiliar environments. The ward has therefore been made to feel more homely, for example by introducing a lounge area for visitors and patients.

Nursing staff are also closer to patients in each bay, rather than based at one central station. This will not only allow staff to respond to patients more swiftly, but will offer patients constant reassurance.

Dementia can also affect judgement of distances and height, for example seeing a step when there isn't one, so changes have been made to reduce the risk of falls. The floor now has a matt, rather than shiny, finish to reduce falls. This is because people with dementia can struggle with depth perception, so while most people see a nice shiny floor, to those with dementia it could appear like there was water on the floor or movement.

Special clocks have also been put on wards as people with dementia can find it difficult to distinguish between day and night; and each bay is painted a different colour with an associated picture to make it easier for patients to recognise. While the condition affects sufferers' memory, their ability to remember colour and shapes is less affected.

And coloured plates have been introduced to ensure there is contrast with food, as patients with dementia have a tendency not to notice pale foods, such as potatoes on light plates for example. There are now also dark toilet bowls and handrails to ensure they stand out to patients and easy-access wet rooms for personal care.

In the near future the team will be piloting a project with volunteers to encourage more social interaction at meal times by bringing the tables together and encouraging patients to both eat and engage in conversations. Making meal times more prevalent also acts as a time anchor, helping patients to recognise a routine and time of day. This pilot is just one of the projects which will be funded by the £100,000 grant awarded to the trust from the national Helping in Hospitals Programme.

Wendy Johnson, the hospital’s divisional matron for care of the older person and the matron lead for dementia, said: "I am delighted with the new ward which has been specially designed around the needs of patients with dementia. These discreet features will make a big difference and will help us to give patients the dignity and independence they need and deserve.

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"I hope the improvements give more peace of mind to families and carers and ultimately help to improve the experience of our patients."