Darlington memorial Hospital, Outpatients Department

Published on , in News.

The unit has been completely remodelled into a 'dementia-friendly' environment, with help from the Alzheimer's Society as well as expert patient's knowledge, and research by the King's Fund, Stirling University. The work was funded by a grant from the Department of Health.

It was officially opened by Mrs Sue Snowdon, the Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham.
There are currently around 6,000 people living with dementia in County Durham and Darlington. In 2013, as part of on-going attempts to tackle dementia, the Government pledged £3.9m to care homes and hospitals in the North East to make environments more accessible for those living with the condition. Of this, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT) was allocated a total of £1,034,090 - the largest investment in the North East.
Bill Headley, Director of Estates and Facilities at the Trust, explained how the outpatient department has changed throughout the remodel: "We recognise that there is a growing need for dementia-friendly environments up and down the country, as we're growing older and living longer than we ever have done. Before the department was refurbished, it was a really large area which was decorated in a similar colour palette throughout. To you or I, this might look quite neat and tidy, but we know that people with dementia have difficulty distinguishing between doors and walls, particularly if they are both the same, flat colour. We understand that this can result in an area that can be really disorientating and confusing.
"We've worked closely with the Alzheimer's Society and expert patients to ensure that the newly refurbished area will be as clear and straightforward as possible for all service users. Elderly people and those with dementia often look down or straight ahead, so having signage above doorways and hanging from the ceiling as we did in the past means they could easily be missed. Now we've moved the signs to eye level, we have a much better chance of anyone using the facilities to see them. We've also adjusted the colour of the signs as well as the font size to ensure they are easy to read."
Dementia-friendly colour schemes have been incorporated throughout the unit to help users distinguish between the different areas. The medical outpatients department has a woodland theme, decorated in browns and greens and featuring images of trees and leaves. By contrast the dental area has a blue colour scheme and seascape imagery.
Jenny Leeming, a Dementia Support Worker from the Alzheimer's Society, said: "We've really enjoyed working alongside the Trust to create this dementia-friendly outpatient department to help improve the lives of those living with dementia in our community.
"Many of the simple, practical things demonstrated in this project make a huge difference to people with dementia and their carers.  But it's not just the visible things; the awareness and understanding of the hospital staff also makes a huge difference which is vital to support people living with dementia.
"We hope that patients using the service will find it clearer and easier to navigate, and that staff will enjoy continuing to provide the highest possible standards of care in their new environment."

Watch our short video about the transformation of the department:

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