There’s no doubt that a familiar face, like that of a loved one and carer, can really put a person with dementia at ease during a hospital stay. The benefit to patient, family and staff is immeasurable; vital not only to settle the person, but to aid communication and prepare them for diagnostics or treatment, thereby helping professionals carry out their jobs. The carer may also be able to provide vital information and background, or support and stimulate a restless patient as opposed to leaving them confused and bed bound.
John’s Campaign, founded in 2014 by Nicci Gerrard and Julia Jones, calls for an end to restrictive visiting hours in hospitals to enable more people with dementia to benefit from the support of a carer when they need it.
It began when Nicci’s father John was admitted to hospital. Before admission, John was living well with dementia. But when his family were unable to visit him, John became a shadow of his former self and never recovered. Nicci wrote in the Observer about her father’s hospital experience and the response was enormous – from those who had or who feared similar experiences themselves (such as Julia’s mother, June, who has Alzheimer’s and whose response is below) to those who feared for loved ones.
Since then, many senior leaders in health, social care and regulation have pledged their support. Many hospitals have engaged with the campaign, but its adoption has been patchy and risks the pitfall of becoming a tick box exercise as opposed to real culture change.
For busy health professionals on already crowded wards, accommodating extra bodies may be seen as just another challenge, with many other competing demands taking priority – they may have concerns about potential risks and the impact on other patients.
This challenge is what led us to work with John’s Campaign to produce a new guide on implementing the Campaign in hospital wards. “Implementing John’s Campaign,” also outlines the benefits of having a carer present on wards and addresses professionals’ concerns with straightforward and practical information.
We hope to inspire and empower more John’s Campaign champions in hospitals like Jo James – who pioneered its implementation at Imperial College Hospital – to face the challenge head on and put simple solutions in place. Passionate staff on the ground like Jo are often the most able to affect real change in their hospital, by bringing together likeminded colleagues and demonstrating what can be achieved.
Trusts can get involved by identifying a lead champion to implement the Campaign in their hospital, allowing people with dementia to have a better patient experience.
After all, improving hospital stays for people with dementia by embracing their carers is an important step which could make a huge difference.