Tommy and Matthew from the Dementia Carer Voices team visited University Hospital Hairmyres last week for a You Can Make a Difference Day
We would like to extend our great thanks to Susan Friel (Chief of Nursing Services) for inviting Dementia Carer Voices back to Hairmyres Hospital last week. UK Project Lead Tommy Whitelaw and Policy and Information Assistant Matthew Hilferty visited the hospital for a dedicated You Can Make a Difference Day. The Dementia Carer Voices team attended the unveiling of their staff pledge tree last year and we were honoured to be asked to return.
Tommy began the day with a key note talk in which he spoke about our You Can Make a Difference campaign, sharing key messages from the Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland Fiona McQueen. Following this session, four workshops took place which were inspired by our Five Steps to Change flyer.
The first of these focused on how it feels to live with dementia. Nurses were encouraged to try on several items of clothing which mimicked the physical impairments of dementia – hearing loss, sight loss, posture changes and a dulled sense of touch. One nurse told us how frightening she found this experience, and that it was ‘like looking into fog.’ Whilst experiencing these impairments, the nurses were then hurried along the hall towards a toilet door. Everyone who volunteered became very unsteady and disoriented, telling the group that they now had a better understanding of the challenges people living with dementia face in everyday life.
The second session featured a presentation on the Charter of Rights for People with Dementia and their Carers in Scotland. This session stressed the importance of empathy, encouraging a greater understanding of why people become distressed. Past experience can affect this, as can a strange new environment in which you have been separated from your loved ones. People have a right to be included in the decisions which affect them – to be treated with dignity and respect, and to not have things done ‘to’ them.
The third session highlighted the importance of active listening in care. Nurses were paired up and then separated. One nurse was instructed to ask the other about their holidays and slowly disengage to the point that they were no longer listening. The other then reported back on how this made them feel – sad an unvalued. There is a lot that can be learned from having meaningful ‘What Matters to You?’ conversations with people that you care for. This is valuable for information gathering, but it is also important in terms of boosting the wellbeing of the people that you care for.
The final session delved into innovation and how it can be used to improve the experiences of people living with dementia in hospitals. Skype was used within some wards to help people living with dementia feel closer to their families. As a result, one man had even been able to see his Grandson on his birthday. Elsewhere, one ward also had a tablet that allowed people to listen to their favourite music and speeches. Some staff in this session, however, argued in favour of the simple personal touch in care – giving people a ‘Who’s who?’ of staff when they are admitted to a new ward, or even just holding someone’s hand who is feeling anxious.
Staff in several sessions highlighted how much they had enjoyed meeting people from different teams within the hospital, and hearing about the work that they do. During the active listening session, in particular, staff commented on how refreshing it was to hear different team’s perspectives and how this would have an impact on their future care.
We would like to thank Mairi Houldsworth and Laura Walker (who ran the session on how it feels to live with dementia), Dominique Docharty (who ran the session on the Charter of Rights), Anne Carlin (who ran the session on active listening) and Margaret Gibney (who ran the session on innovation). We would also like to extend special thanks to Linda King who ensured the day ran smoothly.
We really appreciate everything you did for us on the day, and hope we will be able to return for another visit soon!