New dementia-friendly ward at St Mary’s Hospital expands dementia care improvement programme

A new ward specially designed to support dementia patients has been opened at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. It’s one of a programme of developments to improve care and support for patients with dementia, their carer’s and families.

Hospitals can be particularly disorientating and frightening places for people with dementia. Witherow ward at St Mary’s Hospital has been completely redeveloped with funding from Imperial College Healthcare Charity to reduce confusion and to help patients with dementia to feel safe and secure.

Key improvements on the ward include:

  • specialist lighting which mimics changes in natural light to help prevent patients from being confused about the time of day by artificial lighting
  • a social area where patients can eat their meals together and which is painted orange to help stimulate appetite, as many patients with dementia do not eat enough
  • pictures chosen by the patients themselves and hung over their bed to help them find it
  • doors painted in contrasting colours to help patients easily find the showers and toilets
  • matt wooden flooring, which replaces the old shiny blue coloured flooring that could be confused by some elderly patients as water
  • clocks from the Alzheimer’s Society that tell the time and date, which are known to help orientate patients with dementia.

A specialist cubicle has also been developed within the accident & emergency department at St Mary’s Hospital to support patients with dementia.  A specialist heated trolley and activity packs help to create a more calm and secure environment for patients with dementia.

Jo James, specialist dementia lead at the Trust said:

“We know that being admitted to hospital, especially through a busy A&E department, can be really distressing for people with dementia and for their carers and families. With increasing numbers of patients with dementia, it’s vital that we rethink how we organise and design hospital spaces.  And making our spaces clearer and more relaxing will bring benefits to all patients.

“We are grateful to the charity for their support which has enabled us to make these important changes.”

Ian Lush, Chief Executive of Imperial College Healthcare Charity said:

“The funds raised by Imperial College Healthcare Charity enable the Trust to provide patients with improved facilities which go beyond the everyday.

“The lighting, flooring and social area on this newly refurbished ward all aim to ensure that the Trust’s most vulnerable patients are able to access medical expertise in an environment which can help aide their recovery.  We have also provided artworks for the ward from our collection of art which is displayed throughout the hospitals for the benefit of patients, staff and visitors.”

A Trust audit, completed last year, found that over a quarter of Trust patients being treated within its medicine division had a diagnosis of dementia and nearly a half had some evidence of cognitive impairment including, dementia, delirium or learning difficulties. The Trust is working to make improvements so that patients with dementia have a better experience wherever they are in our hospitals.

As well as the redevelopment of Witherow ward and the specialist A&E cubicle at St Mary’s Hospital, the Trust:

  • Has rolled out a carer’s passport scheme that encourages and supports the carers of patients who are vulnerable or who have dementia to visit whenever they want to, outside of normal visiting hours.
  • Has introduced bento boxes for patients with dementia enabling them to snack on healthy food throughout the day.
  • Has introduced activity packs for patients with dementia to help keep them relaxed and occupied while they are in hospital.