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Innovative project to improve dementia care

​An innovative project which is helping patients with dementia to enjoy crafts, reminisce over music and maintain their practical skills is being showcased by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation​ Trust (NSFT) during a national awareness week.

The activities area at Carlton Court, in Lowestoft, offers service users the chance to get away from the ward environment to take part in activities such as baking, singing, painting and solving puzzles. The space is also used by occupational therapists to help assess patients by designing specific activities based on their own history and life skills.

Staff also regularly arrange themed events to tie in with key dates, such as Easter or Valentine's Day, and were even visited by a pony and made their own hats to mark the Cheltenham Festival.

Their work is being showcased during Dementia Action Week, which runs from 21 to 27 May and is designed to encourage people to take actions – both big and small – to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.

"We first created the activities area around five years ago to offer a social and stimulating space where patients could access person-centered care away from the ward," said Jayne Green, Ward Manager.

"Since then, we've worked hard to further develop the area by providing activities which relate to each individual's life history to help them reach their full potential and maintain their practical skills.

"The area makes the experience of coming into hospital easier for people by providing somewhere outside of a clinical setting where they can relax while also evoking their senses to help them reminisce. We've had some great feedback from relatives, and encourage them to come and join in with sessions taking place during their visits."

Occupational Therapist Debbie Pegrum works closely with Activity Co-ordinators Alison Matthews, Wendy Beckham and Mo Marshall to engage with service users and encourage them to use the activities area.

She said: "I really love working at the unit. I get to offer one-to-one, personal support to patients, which makes it feel like I am making a real difference. It is also great when you see the patients getting involved and really enjoying the range of activities we offer.

"Patients with dementia can get distressed at times. We find the activities area really helps in those situations as offering them something to do which they enjoy will distract them and have a calming influence.

"Spending time in hospital can also be quite boring, so it's essential to offer people something different to help occupy their minds and keep them stimulated.

"We are working hard with our service users and their families to achieve positive outcomes, and have also introduced sensory items on the wards with visual and tactile pictures on the walls to enable good quality of life."

Caption: Occupational Therapist Debbie Pegrum (standing) is pictured with Activity Co-ordinators (left to right) Mo Marshall, Wendy Beckham and Alison Matthews.

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