Dementia activity kits on trial in emergency departments

Could activity kits for dementia patients in ED improve treatment outcomes?

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Trial aims to reduce stress and trauma faced by people with dementia and their carers when presenting at emergency departments.

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EMERGENCY department waiting rooms aren't the most soothing of places for the best of us. But what if you, or the person you are with, is living with dementia?

It can be confusing and confronting for the patient, frustrating and upsetting for the carer - not to mention everyone around them.

So hats off to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital which is hosting a trial that aims to reduce the stress and trauma faced by people with dementia and their carers when presenting at emergency departments.

And it's not rocket science, either.

BRIGHT IDEA: Nurse researcher Dr James Hughes and Leonie Higgs (front) - pictured with colleagues from HESTA Queensland - are leading research into whether activity kits could reduce stress and trauma for patients with dementia.

BRIGHT IDEA: Nurse researcher Dr James Hughes and Leonie Higgs (front) - pictured with colleagues from HESTA Queensland - are leading research into whether activity kits could reduce stress and trauma for patients with dementia.

The trial will involve providing patients presenting to the hospital emergency and trauma centre with activity kits in the hope this simple intervention will help prevent agitated and aggressive behaviours.

The kits contain puzzles, doodling pads and a colouring pack as well as reminiscence cards, playing cards, towels to fold and a music player.

RBWH and Queensland University of Technology nurse researcher James Hughes hopes the kits will reduce the use of psychoactive medication, sedation and physical restraints in emergency departments.

Dr Hughes said people with dementia and cognitive impairments were almost twice as likely than the general public to seek care at emergency departments.

"For people with dementia, a sudden change in the environment, such as a busy hospital waiting area, coupled with their immediate medical problem, can quickly cause disorientation and behaviours such as wandering, agitation and aggression," he said.

"If we can prevent the unwanted behaviours we can avoid resorting to measures such as psychoactive medication, sedation, physical restraint or one-on-one nursing care."

Dr Hughes said roughly a third of patients aged over 70 who presented at emergency departments had cognitive impairments, with most of them being dementia related.

He said researchers planned to recruit 112 patients who could be identified as at risk of developing behaviours that could complicate and delay treatment.

Dr Hughes and his seven-member team of nurses, doctors and academics, will compare the behaviour, care and treatment times of people with dementia who are given the kits with those who are left to their own devices.

The research is being funded by the Rosemary Bryant Foundation in partnership with HESTA and results are expected to be available by August next year.

For more information click here.

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