One to one care is the greatest gift dementia patients at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital will receive this year

Members of the dementia support team with patients

Members of the dementia support team with patients - Credit: Archant

Dementia sufferers and patients left confused after illnesses are getting specialist one-to-one support thanks to a pioneering team at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital.

The team give one to one care across the hospital

The team give one to one care across the hospital - Credit: Archant

17 specially trained staff in the enhanced dementia support team spend their days visiting up to 20 individual patients right across the hospital to spend time with them, help them with complex needs, play games with them or simply just hold their hand.

Meeting some of the team along with three dementia patients at the Lister on Thursday, I was immediately impressed by how comfortable and relaxed the patients seem, even through they are coping with such a devastating and stressful illness.

The specialist carers sat with the patients, some holding their hands and some just chatting light-heartedly and enjoying cups of tea and biscuits.

Clearly not nearly every patient in the hospital gets such specialist treatment, but this team which represents an investment of £0.5 million is helping redress that balance.

I sat chatting to 93-year-old, Pat Langdoe, 87-year-old Jean Taylor and Pam Sim, 79.

Pat wanted to talk about her memories of Stevenage in the 1960s.

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She remembers the town when it was just a village and the opposition faced by new town settlers as they tried to forge new lives for themselves.

As with many dementia patients, her long term memories are still good even though her short term recall is limited.

I asked her about the care she received from the team.

She said: “I think they do very well”, before joking that they help keep the patients under control.

As dementia services specialling team lead Rizaldy Tibio explained, the unit is supported by the Trust’s e-rostering support system, software which allows it to plan rotas for the staff for each day, in relation to patients’ needs and risk assessments.

The team has a matron and a service coordinator who lead and support the 17 clinical support workers.

They work in three hour shifts before rotating, which means both staff and the patients get greater variety – something which is believed to benefit them – and there is greater flexibility in the use of staff.

The team uses distraction therapy and theraputic techniques to help the patients remain calm and settled. The aim is to avoid having to use medication for this, and to avoid them causing harm to themselves or others.

It’s not easy work by any stretch of the imagination.

As Safer Staffing Matron, Emily Watts, explained:

“It’s challenging because sometime the patients can be aggressive or restless and it’s about trying to calm them down.

“Sometimes its also about taking them out of their boredom and out of themselves.”

The team has ‘tool kits’ of puzzles and games, DVD’s and even tablets which the patients can use to keep them entertained.

Recently the hospital has had visits from school choirs and church hand-bell ringers to help bring some festive cheer.

But the staff also seem to find the work very rewarding.

Emily added: “It’s good to be able to work in different parts of the hospital and there’s an element of autonomy about it.

“It’s very rewarding from a personal perspective and the skills are transferable to other areas of work.”

East and North Herts NHS Trust which runs the hospital says this king of work is essential in a society where dementia is becoming vastly more widespread.

“Dementia takes a huge toll on our care services. With the numbers of people with dementia expected to double in the next 30 years and predicted costs likely to treble to more than £50 billion, we are facing one of the biggest global health challenges.

“Prior to the introduction of the new team, the Trust was having to book agency workers at short notice to assist with he care of these higher risk patients.

“The costs for agency staff was escalating and the patient experience was not as good as the Trust would have wanted for this vulnerable group of patients.”

The Trust estimates it will save £0.58 million from its bill of booking agency staff to cover these services.

Clearly this is just the tip of the iceberg in meeting such a huge challenge with limited resources, but with the team soon set to expand from 17 to 27 staff, the hospital is making a clear commitment to try to meet the demand.