Inevitably, some people living with dementia will end up spending this festive period in hospital. It’s always the hope that, whatever people are being treated for, the whole staff team will fully support their dementia care needs in a person-centred way. We know that there are wonderful teams out there, missing out on their own household’s festivities in order to care for others and doing all they can to provide excellent dementia care at all times. If you witness this, expressing your appreciation will really mean a lot; a few kind words, explaining what that person-centred care has meant to the patient and their family and friends, will be very precious.
We do also know, though, that routines and shift patterns are often disrupted during holiday times and things can and do go wrong – and that’s where carers need to know where to turn. If this happens to someone you know, please, please say something sooner rather than later; a problem nipped in the bud is far preferable to a situation getting out of hand – and hospital teams do want to get dementia care right.
Ideally, you’d speak to the Matron for Elderly Care or the hospital’s Dementia Lead – but even if nobody in those roles is available, there should be someone overseeing dementia care at all times, so start by asking for a dementia champion on the ward; if that doesn’t sort out the issue, ask to speak to the most senior member of staff on the ward. From there, you can ask to speak to a dementia specialist nurse or any matron. Don’t feel you’re causing trouble; getting dementia care right is far better for everyone concerned than getting it wrong and your insight, as a carer, should be valued highly by all staff. What starts as a small issue can unsettle or distress a person with dementia so badly that the whole situation escalates; by explaining calmly what the problem is and, ideally, suggesting how it might best be addressed, you’re supporting the staff team and your input should be viewed in that light.
It’s worth ensuring that any concerns are written into the person’s notes and referred to in their person-centred care document (This is Me, REACH out to Me or similar; the booklet in which you’ve offered insight into the patient’s particular likes, dislikes, routines and needs) so that all staff are made aware of the situation. If you can’t immediately speak to the person you want, ask when they will next be available and leave your contact details, with a request that they ring you – and don’t be afraid to phone in if you think your request may have been overlooked. Again: getting dementia care right is far better for everyone – for staff, as well as for patients and families – than getting it wrong.
My wish this Christmas is that the support offered by family carers of people with dementia is acknowledged by staff teams and that they, in turn, are acknowledged for all the very special and dedicated care that they deliver. May that wish come true, but if there are issues along the way, please don’t hold back in communicating with the staff team to ensure the person’s care needs are fully met; by working together, hospital teams and carers will ensure the best hospital experience for people with dementia – and that’s what we all want.