The Challenge Project began as a two-year pilot and has been hailed as a great success, with the joint work of hospice specialist palliative care nurse Alison Jones and dementia support worker Michelle Morgan, and has now become a permanent project.
Alison and Michelle have provided education and support to dozens of people with all types, and at all stages, of dementia, as well as support to the patients’ carers, families and friends.
Dementia isn’t always recognised as a life-limiting illness and the project aimed to improve palliative and end of life care for people with dementia, who previously had late or no referral to palliative care services.
- raising awareness of dementia
- promoting advance care planning
- providing carer and family support
- providing education for other health professionals
The project now offers a single place of contact when people affected by dementia in Blaenau Gwent need advice and information – and has given patients access to a range of specialist hospice services such as complementary therapy, physiotherapy, chaplaincy, social work, Hospice at Home service, and welfare rights advisors.
Hospice Clinical Nurse Specialist Alison Jones said:
“Families now feel they have a single point of contact. They can ring us for information or to discuss health issues. That makes a big difference.”
The direct contact between the project and patients and families means people can bypass the waiting for appointments to be referred by specific professionals.
The project has also seen the hospice and Alzheimer’s Society exchange training and the hospice staff and many volunteers have become Dementia Friends.
‘We now have a better understanding of dementia and have adapted our approach, including making our building more dementia friendly,’ Alison added.
Hospice chief executive Helen Rees, said:
“The Challenge Project has been incredibly successful – we knew there was a great need for improved dementia services for people in Blaenau Gwent and we are very proud of this successful partnership between the hospice and the Alzheimer’s Society.
‘We are determined that this service will continue to grow in the future as it develops and expands and meets the needs of the increasing number of people suffering from dementia in this area.’
The Challenge Project support group meets weekly where patients and their carers get together to enjoy games, conversation and art and craft activities, with the specialist support always close at hand.
Patients who have become withdrawn due to their condition have been said to come out of themselves during the sessions and sit and talk with the group.
Having the opportunity to interact with other people with the same condition, means a lot to both the patients and to their carers who may be suffering enormous stress from their caring responsibilities.
Another benefit of the project to the hospice has been the creation of a new garden outside the day centre.
Alison and Michelle recognised the benefits of gardening to dementia patients and began to think of ways to create a new garden where both patients and carers could work and relax.
The hospice had recently created a partnership with local branches of Carillion plc – as part of the national partnership between Hospice UK and Carillion – and last spring the company agreed to build a garden, providing all materials and labour free of charge.
In just a few weeks, an overgrown patch of land outside the day centre had been transformed into a small but well-used garden, with patio, pagoda, and borders for planting.
By July, the opening ceremony had been held during a dementia group session and was attended by staff, volunteers and staff from Carillion..
Patient David Williams was diagnosed with mixed dementia in 2015 and has been attending the group with his best friend David Birch.
For David Birch, the group has provided a support network for carers.
‘Because everybody is in the same boat you pick up tips from others, he says. ‘The staff also give you advice on things like finances and what help you can get.’
There is also a befriending service, where volunteers for the Hospice visit people with dementia in their own homes, often visiting and providing respite care on a weekly basis.
To find out more about the scheme please visit the Hospice of the Valleys website.