Supporting people with dementia and their families

Date: 23 August 2017

Catering Manager Peter Reeson and colleague / Lorraine Brown

Dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. 

Dementia symptoms can come about through a number of different conditions and will often start small, but can become severe enough to affect someone’s daily life, including their mood and behaviour. 

Most often it occurs later in life but for some, it can occur earlier. At Medway we want to provide the most support that we can for those with dementia, as well as those who care for them. 

If you have dementia, or are caring for someone with it, and would like more information or support, please speak to one of our staff. 

Keeping up enjoyment of eating with finger food

Our catering manager, Peter Reeson, and his team (pictured above) have been working with our elderly care team on a novel way of supporting dementia patients – through finger food. 

For people with dementia, eating and drinking can become difficult. They may be less able to feed themselves and may also have a poor appetite or lose interest in food, making it more challenging to eat a well-balanced nutritional diet. 

Finger food is a way of giving choice to dementia and stroke patients not only to support good nutrition, but also to independently eat the food they want. 

Finger foods are prepared so that they are easy to pick up and eat with your hands and they are ideal for people who have difficulty in recognising or using cutlery. 

Once a patient under our care has been identified by the dietician or clinical staff as being someone who would benefit from finger food, we will make sure that they have a good selection of tasty and nutritious food available that they can enjoy. 

The menu choice has been specially developed to improve meal uptake and patient satisfaction, and individuals with dementia and their loved ones can be confident in the knowledge that patients will be receiving nourishing food even if they have lost interest in traditional meals.

Please talk to one of our ward staff to find out more.

Carers can visit dementia patients at any time at Medway Maritime Hospital

At Medway, we believe that the carers of dementia patients should be able to visit as often as they are able. 

Families are more than ‘visitors’ to a person with dementia; they are an integral part of that person’s life and their best means of connection with the world. 

That’s why we are proud to have signed up to John’s Campaign, to help support the carers who make such a difference to those with dementia. The principles behind John’s Campaign are very simple – when someone with dementia is hospitalised, medical staff should do all within their power to make access easy for family carers. 

Our Dementia Team has produced cards for the loved ones of dementia patients to carry, identifying that they are permitted to visit at any time.

If you are a carer for a dementia patient, please do ask a member of staff for your card. 

Lorraine Brown – ‘Warrior maiden’ fighting to make change

Dementia is ‘young onset’ when it affects people of working age, usually between 30 and 65 years old. It is also referred to as ‘early onset’ or ‘working-age’ dementia. 

Having been diagnosed at the age of 61, Lorraine Brown (pictured above) walked into a Dementia café and immediately felt: “I didn’t belong in this world, I wanted my world back”. The people she met were all in the latter stages of their illness, many of whom were in wheelchairs, and who were in a very different situation to her. She faced the harsh reality there was nothing in Medway for younger people with dementia. 

Lorraine’s passion to make a difference paved the way for her involvement with Medway Dementia Action Alliance, formed in 2015 to help improve the lives of younger people affected by dementia. 

As Chair of Dementia Action Alliance Steering Group and nominated ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, she has been instrumental in challenging stereotypes and the stigma associated with dementia. 

Looking back, Lorraine knows she has always been a positive person and it was that positivity that gave her the motivation to work for change. “I have always had the sink or swim approach. I have a lot of conviction and compassion. I am a ‘warrior maiden’ fighting to make change, let people know it’s not just old people who get dementia, it can also be young people with children. Dementia is a disease of the brain, I have dementia but dementia doesn’t have me.” 

Lorraine works closely with the dementia team at Medway NHS Foundation Trust and regularly teaches staff members about dementia from the perspective of someone who has it themselves. 

This is very important to her because, as she says: “Dementia robs you of everything. As the dementia progresses people can no longer speak for themselves. I am speaking about dementia and what a text book does not tell you. I am living the journey.”

You can find out more about the Medway Dementia Action Alliance by searching online, or calling Jane Page on 07718 322191 or 01622 747181.

Additional support for those with dementia

We have a number of support programmes for individuals with dementia. These include the Butterfly Scheme, our Dementia Buddies scheme and our RITA systems. If you would like more information about these, please ask a member of staff. 

The Butterfly Scheme

The Butterfly Scheme is a simple and discreet way for patients to alert staff that they have dementia and they may need extra support while they are with us. 

An opt-in programme, patients who sign up have a small butterfly symbol placed next to their bed. 

We have specially trained butterfly champions who have a greater understanding of dementia to support individuals in the Butterfly Scheme; they will be aware of their condition and ensure that these additional needs are supported. 

Dementia Buddies

Not everyone with dementia has someone to support them while they are in hospital. The ‘Dementia Buddy’ scheme at Medway provides an extra friendly face, listening ear and companionship as well as support during mealtimes to patients living with dementia. 

Run through the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Service charity, the buddies are fully trained volunteers who spend time on the ward giving quality time and make a difference to the overall hospital experience for these patients, as well as providing reassurance to families that their loved ones will have a visitor when they can’t be there. 

RITA systems

We currently have seven RITA (Reminiscence Interactive Theraputic Activity) Systems in the Trust. These self-contained, touch screen units contain hundreds of interactive activities, tunes, comedy and sports clips, poetry readings, radio recordings, games, quizzes as well as over 120 movies. 

It has the facility to save each patient’s favourites and pieces that are meaningful to them, as well as storing information about their preferences, life story and photo collages. This amazing technology was introduced to assist people living with dementia as well as people recovering from stroke and head injury. 

  • Summary:

    At Medway we want to provide the most support that we can for those with dementia, as well as those who care for them.