Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust champions dementia for World Alzheimer’s Month

29 September 2017

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust (TSDFT) have been working hard with regional dementia charities, to raise awareness of dementia for World Alzheimer’s month (September) and to improve the services and treatment for people living with dementia in Torbay and South Devon.

During September the Dementia Team set up a stall in the main entrance of Torbay Hospital, to highlight some of the initiatives developed by the Trust to help people with dementia. Local charity partners were also present, including representatives from the Alzheimer’s Society and information about ‘Purple Angel’, a local initiative developed to raise awareness of dementia.

In Torbay and South Devon alone, over 3,000 people are known to be living with dementia, but it is predicted there are another 2,000 people unregistered or undiagnosed locally*. These figures show the sheer scale of the issue.

One key initiative to tackle better treatment and care for dementia patients at TSDFT has been the development of Dementia Champions. There are currently over 50 champions working in the Trust, who are trained to recognise people living with dementia and help to support and improve the care and treatment they receive. Champions complete a level three City Guilds qualification in ‘Understanding Dementia’, to achieve champion status and become active members of the Trust Dementia Team. A further 22 champions will be trained shortly.

There is also a Dementia Leadership group, made up of local people who live with dementia, facilitated by the Alzheimer’s Society in partnership the Trust. The group often ‘walk the wards’ to look at the hospital environment and what changes could be made to make dementia patients more comfortable. The group also help to scrutinise new dementia policies and procedures, suggesting changes based on their own experiences and best practice.

Other small changes exhibited by the team, included:

  • Cannula mitts for dementia patients – used in A&E and care of the elderly wards. The mitts knitted by local groups (including the local Women’s Institute), feature: buttons, ribbons, flowers and small knitted balls; and help to prevent patients pulling out cannulas.
  • Twiddle mitt is used throughout the Trust to allow patients to twiddle without causing damage (similar to Cannula mitt) and act as a comforter and distraction.
  • The ‘blue forget me not flower’ (Alzheimer’s Society logo) is used on the beds to help identify those that need additional time and support due to dementia or other cognitive problems.
  • Mealtime ‘buddy’ volunteers can help patients that may need additional support during mealtimes.

Dementia Champions help to identify the patients that would benefit from these initiatives and ensure they receive the support they need.

Stephanie Janka-Spurlock, Dementia Education Lead at TSDFT, stated: “We take dementia care very seriously and strive to support people with dementia, both while in hospital, and in their own homes. The majority of Trust employees have a basic knowledge in how to recognise and support someone living with dementia. However, we aim to continue to work with our staff and partners to increase this knowledge and understanding.”

Teresa Parsons, Services Manager at the Alzheimer’s Society in Torbay said: “It’s important people with dementia are understood, respected, supported and confident. Working in partnership with the Trust has led to many improvements to the care given to people with a diagnosis of dementia in the area. Facilitating the Leadership group continues to ensure people with dementia are given a voice and a chance to shape best practice in the care they receive by the Trust.”

Jane Viner, Chief Nurse at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “as the Trust Executive Champion for dementia I ensure the Board have regular updates on the work being taken forward by the Dementia Champions and our partners. The Alzheimer’s Society are a critical partner and help us to focus our efforts in the right place to ensure we are addressing the issues that most matter to those living with dementia, their families and loved ones. This might be getting the signs right, ensuring a dementia-friendly workforce and personalising care. There is much still to do but we are passionate about continuing our improvement journey”.


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