A NEW ‘home help’ website giving dementia patients timely reminders and reassuring them of key visits of family, relatives, social activities and carers is being trialled in a care home in Sheffield.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has become the first NHS organisation in the country to start using an innovative memory aid system called myhomehelper (www.myhomehelper.co.uk) – inspired by former computer programmer Kevin Marsch’s own personal experience of dementia.
Kevin, 39, of Hull, has been caring for his mum, Patricia, for the last two years after she was diagnosed with vascular dementia, the second commonest form of the illness which occurs when the oxygen supply fails and brain cells die. During the early stages of her illness he started receiving 10 to 20 anxious calls a day at work simply because she was unable to remember what time he was due back home or when he was popping round for a visit. As a result, Kevin started putting simple messages on her computer when he was on a holiday. This made her a lot less anxious and the technology developed from there.
Now a new online system based on Kevin’s experiences is being tested by Royal Hallamshire staff caring for dementia patients in the community. The facility allows them to post practical messages and reminders to residents about scheduled events taking place at the care home on to a computer monitor displayed in the home’s lounge area. This includes what time lunch is due to be served and when the hairdresser and podiatrist will be visiting all patients.
Kevin Marsch, 39, of Hull, said: “A few years ago my mum got really anxious when I went away, so I started posting messages on the computer to ease her anxiety. She’s been using the system for nearly three years now, and although her condition is getting worse she says it’s like a comfort blanket to her, which is great because it proves she still has a strong recognition of it despite the challenges of her illness.”
Jayne Stocks, a specialist nurse at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The number of over 65s suffering with dementia in Sheffield is predicted to rise by 35 per cent by 2025, so it’s vital that we support patients who wish to remain in their own home for as long as possible. Although technology will never replace face to face care, in conjunction with formal and informal care it can help meet individual and families care needs.
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