Hollywood star calls in at hospital

Jane Gilby, dementia lead nurse, Eddie Marsen and Debbie Hewitt, activities coordinator

A HOLLYWOOD actor lent a professional voice to help Basildon Hospital patients who live with dementia. Eddie Marsen, star of Ray Donovan, V for Vendetta and Gangs of New York, attended Basildon Library for the ‘United Voices Against Dementia’ event on Thursday 18 May.

More than 30 members of the public came along as part of Dementia Awareness Week to record their memories of Basildon or read a classic book chapter, a poem or newspaper article.

Known as reminiscence therapy, the dementia lead nurse wanted to create a localised version for patients with dementia at Basildon University Hospital, as part of the Trust’s ongoing commitment to improve care. The recordings will be uploaded to mp3 players for patients living with dementia to listen to, when they’re in hospital.

Eddie brought his mum Anna to the event and they both made recordings. Eddie tweeted afterwards and said: “It was a wonderful morning at Basildon Library with the team from Basildon Hospital. My stepfather died of dementia. My mum and I were honoured to record readings for reminiscence therapy.”

Clare Culpin, managing director of Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals, (pictured left) said: “It has been a pleasure to be involved in such a unique project that will enhance the care we give to our patients with dementia.

“Dementia is a disease that has directly impacted upon my family. I decided to read one of my favourite childhood stories and I hope the patients enjoy listening to it.”

The event was organised thanks to library staff at both Basildon Library and Basildon Hospital Library, thanks to an idea from the dementia lead nurse. Some members of the public dropped by whilst running other errands as the event was held at Basildon Library, in St Martin’s Square.

Nurse Dawn Stewart, 57, moved to the UK from Jamaica 17 years ago, and made the move to Basildon seven years ago.

She said: “I’m a trained nurse and I worked with patients with dementia in a nursing home.

“The thing I noticed is that they would go back to what they were before. So if they were a nurse, they’d care for others. One patient was a mayor and she would do mayoral things; time stops and reverses. If this helps, I am happy to be involved.”

There was a selection of material to choose from; 1950’s and 60’s newspaper articles, book chapters and poems. Or people could speak of their own memories or the area.

As well as the recordings, there was an information stand and the hospital’s dementia lead nurse, Jane Gilby was on hand to answer any questions.

She said: “It’s been great to see how receptive people have been to what we’re trying to do and how eager they are to be involved. Dementia is something a lot of people have experience of and they want to be able to help.

“Dementia can be an isolating and lonely disease and reminiscence therapy is one way of trying to make a connection with the person. This is especially important when they are in hospital and we need to care for them.”
Another method being introduced at the Trust is an empathy doll (pictured left with Debbie Hewitt, dementia activities coordinator).

Made and donated by a member of hospital staff, the lifelike weighted doll is designed to help healthcare professionals connect with people with dementia.

Debbie said: “A member of staff saw me doing activities on a ward and asked if I ever used dolls. Although we haven’t at the hospital before, I have used them in previous roles. When I explained I needed a hard bodied one, for infection control purposes, she donated this.

“We haven’t used it yet, but I will explain to patients that it is a doll and try to use it to engage them in conversation. You often find they will start reminiscing about their own children, or by soothing and cuddling the doll, they actually calm themselves. It won’t work for everyone, but it’s something else we can use to engage with patients and provide better care.”

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