NHS staff in South Tyneside to get first-hand experience of what it's like to have dementia

Health staff in South Tyneside are to get a taste of their own medicine during a national awareness week around dementia.

By Gareth Crickmer
Monday, 20 May, 2019, 11:53
From left, healthcare assistant Wendy Donkin, staff nurse Emma Dryden and ward manager Faye Wright, who work at South Tyneside District Hospital, will be among South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust staff promoting Dementia Action Week.

They will be subjected to the sounds and sensations sufferers hear and feel while on a ward in a bid to better understand what it is like to have the memory loss condition.

During Dementia Action Week, which runs until Sunday, May 26, they will wear headphones through which typical background hospital noises will be played.

And clinical and non-clinical staff at South Tyneside District Hospital will be blindfolded and given gloves to wear to blunt sensation to their fingers.

Bosses say they hope to increase employees’ empathy, sensitivity and patience when dealing with a dementia sufferer.

They also aim to raise awareness of beneficial practicalities such as keeping down noise levels, which can sometimes cause distress.

Melanie Johnson, South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals, said: “As our population ages, dementia is one of the most challenging healthcare issues we face.

“Our trust is committed to improving dementia care for our patients, providing tailored support to relatives and carers and developing our staff to equip them with the skills and training they need to care for people living with dementia in South Tyneside and Sunderland.

“Dementia Action Week is a platform to raise awareness of the importance of everyone, not only healthcare professionals, taking action to create supportive communities so people living with dementia do not feel isolated but are able to live the best life possible with the condition for as long as possible.”

Around 2,100 people in the borough – and 850,000 in the UK - have the condition, and it is feared one million could be affected by 2021.

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The ‘dementia experience’ sessions have been organised by South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s Delirium and Dementia Outreach Team.

Other learning opportunities are available to teams at South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital, including around pain management, falls prevention and medication.

The week will also see the MELISSA (Mobile Educational Learning Improving Simulation and Safety Activities) bus at the South Tyneside hospital’s Haven Court integrated service for older people.

It is used to deliver education and training for the NHS workforce across the North East and North Cumbria.

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s Dementia Action Week events for the public will be as follows:

* Wednesday, May 22nd – information stand, main concourse, Sunderland Royal Hospital, 1pm to 4pm;

* Thursday, May 23rd – cake sales in the main entrance, South Tyneside District Hospital, 10am to 2pm, and in the Alexandra Centre, Sunderland Royal Hospital, noon to 4pm, to raise funds for dementia care;

* Friday, May 24th – information stand, main entrance, South Tyneside District Hospital, 10am to 2pm.

Tommy Whitelaw, of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, will also visit South Tyneside District Hospital to raise awareness of dementia with staff.