A day in the life....of a Dementia Support Worker

Barry Walkden is a dementia support worker in Glan Clwyd Hospital. He is an invaluable member of the team and doctors and nurses regularly seek his assistance to get more information on patients with dementia. His engagement with patients, especially when they exhibit behavioural disturbance keeps them occupied and they become less disruptive. When he is away, his absence would be immediately noticeable when one enters the ward. People like Barry are immensely valuable for the NHS to provide better care for older people admitted to an acute care setting. He had been awarded a ‘seren’ (a star) by the health board and was one of the nominees for the ‘seren of the year’ in 2018. Here he describes a day from his work. – V. Adhiyaman (geriatrician)

I am Barry Walkden and I’ve been in post as a Dementia Support Worker for almost 5 years now and I can honestly say that no two days are the same.

The day usually begins with a handover from the night staff and this is when I find out if we have had any new admissions of patients living with dementia. Once handover has been done I check through the nursing process to see if the dementia care pathway has been implemented, and if not I get that process started and remind the trained nursing staff of any that need to be completed. I also check to see if information regarding the butterfly scheme, and ‘this is me’ documents have been given to the patients’ next of kin. These are initiatives which help all staff on the ward support patients living with dementia more effectively and also help us get to know the individual better. I also introduce myself to family members as more often than not a hospital admission can be very distressing for the individual living with dementia, and also for their family members and loved ones so I try and do my best to address any concerns they may have at this time.

 Any time there is a query around the diagnosis of dementia with an individual I will contact the psychiatric liaison team as they have access to mental health notes which will include information regarding memory clinic appointments, assessments and diagnosis, and any ongoing support they may be receiving.

I support patients living with dementia with their personal care – nutrition, hydration, washing, dressing and help to promote life skills for as long as possible by promoting independence. I have a bit more time to do this as I’m here primarily for the individuals living with dementia, and sometimes these tasks associated with daily living can take a little bit longer.

Sometimes I do activities with individuals, dependant on interests; inclination etc and this can include music, reminiscence, reading, films, games, and some craft work. For the last couple of years this has been primarily at the patients’ bedside but prior to that we had an activity room located off the ward. This was a great resource to have and was a massive loss to the ward due to the hospital redevelopment. Thankfully we will have another activity room soon to take patients living with dementia so they can relax away from the clinical environment and engage in activities which will hopefully improve their hospital stay.

The health board has made a commitment to become a more dementia friendly organisation, and to do this we are asking staff to attend ‘dementia friend ‘information sessions which myself and my Dementia Support colleague facilitate every Thursday afternoon. This is a session where we give some information around dementia and also include a few helpful tips which can help the way people communicate with individuals living with dementia. Please feel free to contact me if you would like any information around future sessions! Barry [dot] Walkden [at] wales [dot] nhs [dot] uk

Comments

Hi Barry, I had the great pleasure of working with you on Ward 1. It's been a pleasure reading your blog; Partly because it brought back so many fond memories of Ward 1 but mainly because of the vitally important job you do. The more people who know about your work, the better.

Kind regards

Alistair

Well done Barry. Great work. You're making a huge contribution to the quality of care.

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