If something’s worth doing, it should be done wholeheartedly. If we believe that for both practical and compassionate reasons, it is crucial to work collaboratively with carers to improve the care of patients with dementia, then we should make sure this principle of inclusion is not fragmentary and partial, but applies to all. That is why we at the Western Trust took the decision to implement John’s Campaign not just in some wards, or in some hospitals, or in some residential homes, but in all of them.

We didn’t start from zero. Some areas within the general hospitals had already implemented open visiting for dementia patients. But we thought it was important that we work towards a whole hospital and Trust approach. Therefore all Western Trust hospitals and residential homes, including those for older people and people with learning disabilities, are supporting John’s Campaign and welcoming carers.

We know that for this to work properly and become embedded in our culture, not only do NHS staff need to understand that carers are welcome, but so do patients and carers. There was significant media coverage to launch John’s Campaign across the Western Trust, so that staff, people with dementia, their carers and members of the public were aware of it. This included coverage in newspapers, social media and television. We also put the message out via our community and voluntary sector networks such as Alzheimer’s Society carers groups. We want to ensure that all carers know they have a right to stay with their loved ones while in hospital or in a Trust residential home. We have included information on the Trust’s new hospital visiting poster and all wards and facilities have purchased a recliner chair for carers should they wish to stay overnight.

We know that being in hospital can be a very difficult time for someone with dementia. Our hospitals can be confusing, noisy and complicated places to navigate. People with dementia can find it difficult to express their needs or even understand what is being said to them. They may feel lost, frightened and confused. Family members and carers are experts in looking after their loved ones and are aware of their likes and dislikes. We know that patients are greatly comforted by the love and familiarity of the people they know. Signing up to John’s Campaign and welcoming carers onto the wards to provide care, support and reassurance is an important step in improving our care of these vulnerable patients.

We will continue to work closely with families and carers to make the stay in hospital or residential home as good an experience as possible and warmly welcome families to stay with their relative when they need them most.

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