Article 08.07.2021

New study to improve dementia care in hospitals

A team of researchers from the University of Hertfordshire, Leeds Beckett University and the University of Nottingham have been awarded funding by the Alzheimer’s Society to co-design resources to improve dementia care in hospitals.

People with dementia are admitted to the hospital for many health reasons, often not directly related to their dementia. Being in a hospital can be frightening and disorientating. This can mean a person requires additional support from staff during their stay. This support may be in the form of one-to-one care (also known as “specialing”) or bay nursing (also known as “cohorting”).

Together, these activities are called “constant observation”. Constant observation is a common practice in hospitals and aims to keep patients safe. It is an opportunity to provide care that responds to the particular needs that a person with dementia may have. To do this well is not easy in a busy ward environment. Staff may need support and additional training with opportunities to think through how the hospital environment can be adapted to reduce distress and confusion.

Led by the University of Hertfordshire, the two-year project will work with hospital staff and people with dementia to co-design and test resources that can be used during constant observation to support person-centred care.

Dr Melanie Handley, Research Fellow in Health and Care for Older People and joint project lead at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “We are delighted to be working with university and hospital partners in Hertfordshire, Leeds and Nottingham to support best practice for people with dementia admitted to hospital.

“Co-designing resources with the people who will use them and benefit from them is important for addressing the known challenges of providing good dementia care in busy hospital environments. This study will help us to understand if an intervention that aligns patient safety activities with a person-centred approach improves the experience of staff and people with dementia to support recovery and reduce distress.”

Rosemary Phillips, a former family carer and co-investigator on the project, said: “My father spent his last month in the geriatric ward of a major teaching hospital, and I was there for several hours every day. There were days when I witnessed some outstanding one-to-one care. And there were other days, with different staff, where the care was poor. What is needed is a clear understanding of best practice, in a form that staff are able to implement. CONNECT should be able to deliver just that, and I look forward to working with Mel and the team as they take on the task.”

Project partners:

  • University of Hertfordshire (lead)
  • Leeds Becket University
  • University of Nottingham

The project is led by Dr Melanie Handley and Professor Frances Bunn at the School of Health and Social Work, University of Hertfordshire.

This research is supported by funding from Alzheimer’s Society (grant number 516 AS-PG-19a-010).