Helping patients with dementia across UCLH 

19/09/2019 00:00 
Visiting a hospital can be a confusing time for anyone, but especially for those with dementia. Volunteers are being introduced to help make the experience more pleasant for those with dementia at both the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) and University College Hospital.

Matthew Fielden and Lillyanne Tran are volunteering one day each in the cognitive disorders outpatients’ clinic at the NHNN, supporting people with dementia and their carers when they come into the hospital, including keeping them company in the waiting room, reassuring them and making sure they go to the right place.

Lillyanne wanted to gain more experience before she started medical school. Her grandfather had Alzheimer’s and she also wanted to use this experience to help others.

She added: “Some days were really tough to start with – especially the emotional side of dealing with the patients.

“I know being there frees up the nurses while we guide the patients to different departments and sometimes between hospitals.”

Matthew chose to sign up after deciding he wanted to give back to the community.

He said: “What I see is an amazing team effort – everyone here is integral to an excellent patient experience.”

Cath Mummery, the lead for the cognitive service, whose idea it was to bring volunteers into clinic, added: “Outpatients can be a fraught experience for patients and their families, particularly when they have a cognitive problem.

“Having volunteers in the clinic has transformed the experience. Patients are greeted by volunteers, made to feel welcome and may be escorted to or from other parts of the hospital, reducing the confusion. They are treated as a person, not as a patient.

“Having Matt and Lillyanne in our clinics has been immensely positive for all concerned and I would recommend it highly to other services.”

At University College London, six new dementia support volunteers join staff on T7, the care of the elderly ward, once or twice a week. The volunteers, who range from 18 to late 60s, take part in a range of activities, including arts and crafts, listening to music and just spending time with the patients who have dementia.

Feedback has been really positive, with one volunteer able to connect to a woman who cannot speak through music.

Another volunteer said of a patient she talked to: “We had a lively chat about likes, dislikes, life, etc. He likes books on thriller and I gave him one of the books in my hand which cheered him up.

“The doctor commented that this is the most happy they’ve seen him since his arrival.”

Danny Branch, volunteer services manager, said: “The patients can often be confused, anxious and bored during their hospital stay, but having a volunteer to spend time with them and engage in person centred activities can transform their experience

“A number of staff have commented that the volunteers have been a massive help. They really do make a difference.”

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