BY Katie Mansfield
THE Enquirer has joined forces with Basildon Hospital to launch its new ‘Butterfly’ appeal, where you can play an active part in helping dementia sufferers cope with the anguish and confusion of this dreadful, debilitating illness.
Enquirer reporter Katie Mansfield gets up close and personal with a disease that ruins lives - but finds a caring hospital community that aims to make life better for sufferers.
Dementia. The word conjures up images of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, illness, Little Britain mocking the forgetful, Terry Pratchett, memory loss, losing your marbles, elderly people.
The list is endless and at no point did I ever consider the care and treatment dementia sufferers need or the awareness the illness deserves - until I met up with a group of nurses at Basildon Hospital.
One in five of the hospital’s older inpatients have some form of dementia diagnosis, ranging from mild confusion to end stage dementia. The illness is becoming more common and widespread and more of an issue for the hospital as patients are diagnosed earlier and are living longer.
When patients with dementia are admitted into hospital it is normally because of an urgent physical illness.
However, once that has been treated the nurses on Osler Ward work with dementia sufferers to make their stay in hospital as pleasant as possible.
The Enquirer is helping Basildon Hospital launch the Butterfly Appeal to raise money to enhance the existing dementia care at the hospital.
The hospital wants to raise £31,000 to enhance their services to patients with dementia.
The money will:
- Provide day room facilities on each of the three elderly care wards
- Pay for an activity coordinator to work with dementia patients, promoting ‘recollection’ and enhanced memory recall
- Buy audio equipment, art materials and other items to help patients’ memories
Karen Scott Nurse for Specialist Care for Older People (pictured far left) told me: “When a patient with dementia is admitted into hospital it can be a scary and frightening time for them. They can become disorientated. We want to make their stay as calm and less fearful as we possibly can.
“We work with their carers and relatives to ease the situation and to get them home. Nobody wants to stay in hospital for long periods of time but whilst they are here with us we try and make things easier for them.”
Dementia is a syndrome that is associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities. These include: memory, thinking, language, understanding and judgement.
Symptoms of dementia can include: forgetfulness, memory loss, confusion, anxiety, frustration and loss of speech.
In England alone, there are currently 570,000 people living with dementia. That number is expected to double over the next 30 years. Usually dementia occurs in people who are 65 or over. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop it. Dementia is slightly more common in women than in men.
Research has shown that patients with dementia respond well to colour and simple signs. Some of the money raised will go towards simplifying nurse’s badges so a patient knows immediately who is treating them and colour coding exits and toilet signs to lessen confusion.
Donations will also go towards creating a day room on each of the hospital’s three elderly care wards. Patients and their carers can then develop a routine away from the organised chaos of a hospital ward.
Karen added: “Even simple things like adjusting clock settings so the patients can know the time, date, month and year and delivering a daily paper can really make a difference.”
Funds raised will also pay for an activity coordinator to work with dementia patients on recollection and reminiscence therapy.
Karen explained: “It is basically the patient saying ‘This is me.’ The more we can find out about who they were and who they are now the more we can understand them. We had one gentlemen who kept lying underneath his bed- it turned out he used to be a mechanic and was lying under the bed as if he was fixing a car. Another man used to be in the armed forces and loved talking about boats and battles so we got a carer to sit with him once a week and reminisce with him. It made his stay much better.”
Karen Fashanu, Lead Nurse for Care of Older People (pictured third from left) said: “We want to enhance the experience and create a real dementia friendly environment. We work closely with the dementia and intensive support team, and local authorities like social services to make sure when the patient is sent home the care continues. It is a full cycle.”
Hannah Coffey, Director of Operations (pictured centre) was keen to stress how every patient is an individual with unique needs that the hospital works to cater for. She said: “It is really about recognising what each patient needs and going over and above what we already offer. Dementia is a broad term and every case is different. We want to enhance our existing care.”
It is a myth that you have to be old and sickly to have dementia. The condition can affect anybody, at any age, no matter how healthy or unhealthy they are. It is brought to the hospital’s attention when a more pressing physical illness requires hospital treatment.
Mental illness is no longer the taboo it once was and the nurses at Basildon Hospital were keen to tell me just how open and honest their patients are.
Karen Scott explained: “There was a bit of concern when deciding on the logo for the campaign as at first we were like ’Oh no - if everybody has a butterfly above their bed, people will know they have dementia.’ But that is just it- the patients want people to know- they are up front about it, they can laugh about it and they are keen to raise awareness too.”
So what is being done to raise the much needed money? Fundraiser Helen Mattock (pictured far right) said: “We have started with collections, and our foyer sales all contribute to the appeal.
“The League of Friends has been incredibly supportive. We are holding a ball on 13, October alongside the Polly Parrot Appeal raising funds for Children’s A&E. We also have spaces for the next BUPA 10k run so people are more than welcome to run or us! Also if anybody wants to get involved or has any ideas for fundraising, be it sponsored walks, bike rides, runs, please do let us know.”
To support the appeal. Contact Dee or Helen in the Charity Office on 01268 524900 ext 4198, or email charity@ btuh.nhs.uk
Pictured l-r: Karen Scott, Nurse for Specialist Care for Older People, Bella Hernandez, Senior Sister on Osler Ward, Karen Fashanu, Lead Nurse for Care of Older People, Hannah Coffey, Director of Operations, Diane Sarkar, Director of Nursing, Helen Mattock, Fundraiser.