Simple things count

KNOWING the simple things can make a big difference in improving the quality of health care for dementia patients.

A specialist program at Shellharbour and Kiama hospitals helps staff be aware of information such as how playing a patient's favourite music can make otherwise daunting transitions easier.

The hospitals are working with the Clinical Excellence Commission's Partnering With Patients program to introduce the Top 5 project.

This involves carers providing a list of the five most important things staff should know to communicate with and reassure patients with dementia.

Figtree resident Val Fell is a carer for husband Ian, who was diagnosed with dementia about five years ago.

Mr Fell lives in a nursing home.

"I think it's essential from a carer's point of view to know the people looking after your partner or family member have a personal interest in the patient," Mrs Fell, 83, said.

"If the person is upset and the nurse knows they have a particular type of music or composition they like, they can play it.

"A piece of clothing they're particularly fond of can help, or knowing what name they respond to.

"They may seem like little things, but they're important to the patient and carer."

Shellharbour and Kiama hospitals launched the program last Friday, with 20 other NSW hospitals.

It was launched with patients to mark the start of Dementia Awareness Week, which runs until September 28.

Shellharbour and Kiama hospitals' director of nursing, Narelle Gleeson, said when a person with dementia was admitted to hospital, feelings of anxiety could result due to the disruption to normal routines.

"It can be very daunting for both the patient and their loved ones," she said.

"The Top 5 project will see carers contribute to tailoring specific care plans for the individual patient by simply answering a series of questions about their own daily techniques.

"By having carers provide this personal insight into their loved one's daily routine, it enables us to better adapt their care for the hospital setting."

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