A quarter of beds in Altnagelvin are occupied by people with a dementia diagnosis and the number of people with the condition across Northern Ireland (19,765) almost equivalent to the population of Strabane.
Geraldine Brown, Assistant Director of Secondary Care, at the Western Trust, says that with this figure projected to rise to 60,000 by the year 2051, it is a priority that dementia care is optimised in all settings.
The Trust is using World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21) to raise awareness of the exceptional work ongoing in Altnagelvin Hospital through a dementia friendly project, which is in progress there.
“The aim of the dementia friendly project in Altnagelvin is to help deliver the best possible care and support for people with dementia and their carers whilst in hospital.
“This is being achieved by ensuring that all staff within the hospital are aware of and understand dementia.
“About one quarter of our hospital beds are occupied by people with a dementia diagnosis.
“Our staff play a pivotal role in recognising the needs of dementia patients and tailoring their care to meet such needs”.
Majella Magee, Service Improvement Lead for Older Peoples Mental Health commented: “It is crucial that we provide the appropriate care for these vulnerable dementia patients and their carers whilst in hospital.
“Through this project, our hospital staff are being trained in how to communicate with a person with dementia and how to respond to behavioural and psychological symptoms. “The training programme currently underway includes dementia awareness workshops for catering, cleaning and porter staff, best practice in dementia care for nursing staff and dementia design training for estates services staff.
“In addition, dementia design audits are being carried out and physical improvements being made in a number of service areas and wards across the hospital to ensure that the environment reduces confusion and distress for people with dementia.
“Any new builds and refurbishments within the hospital are being designed in keeping with best practice in dementia design”.
Eleanor Ross, Nurse Consultant with the Public Health Agency said: “There are often occasions when a person with dementia will require a hospital admission.
“The Alzheimer’s Society believes that people with dementia over the age of 65 currently occupy up to a quarter of hospital beds at any one time, it is therefore important that we have a well-trained and skilled workforce who can quickly identify and meet the needs of these people in order to provide safe care and a positive experience.
“The recent NI audit looking at care of people with a dementia in acute hospital wards has been of tremendous help in establishing what’s working well, so that we can build upon this good practice. I am delighted that Altnagelvin Hospital has signed up to the dementia friendly initiative. I commend their leadership and I look forward to other hospitals also engaging in this process in the near future.”