The ingenious idea of the authorities at Swansea’s Cefn Coed Hospital in Wales, United Kingdom to open a socializing pub helped their dementia patients in the best way.
The hospital has a special ward for them known as Derwen Ward, with a capacity to accommodate 20 men at a time. Before you jump into conclusions, you should know that this is not a regular pub, so there is no alcohol or fights inside.
Dementia is a progressive condition characterized by a persistent disorder of the mental process, loss of memory and daily functioning capacity, and usually affects people above the age of 60.
It has 7 stages, and it actually covers a set of conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, etc.
Dementia leads to memory loss, and the most recent memories tend to be lost first. Sometimes, people only remember patterns of behavior they employed in the past. The progressive disappearance of memories can cause a condition called sundowning, or a late-day confusion that coincides with the fading of natural sunlight and increased shadows.
This condition is characterized by episodes of anxiety, panic, aggression, panic, restlessness and the inability to distinguish reality from dreams.
The patients of the Cefn Hospital start to display symptoms of this condition once it is evening, so the idea is to give them a chance to go out after work, just like they used to do when they were young.
This prevents anxious attacks and depression, and the old men are happy, relaxed, and grateful even the beer they get is non-alcoholic, and the darts are plastic.
The clinical lead Dawn Griffin explains why they had to set up the pub in the ward:
“In the evenings some of our gentlemen can get unsettled and agitated. They think they’ve finished their shift for the day and they are of the generation where they would go to the pub for a pint with their friends after work. We thought – what better way to help them than to get a pub on the ward? It’s about trying to normalize things they were doing before they came into the hospital.”
The idea was birthed by Dawn and the ward manager, Kate Protheroe. The makeshift pub looks like any other pub and it has been a huge success for the hospital.
It does not serve alcohol and does not have metallic darts, in order to prevent any problems, as these men get a lot of medications so alcohol might interfere with them, and many of them have poor motor control skills.
Yet, they spend their time socializing and sharing memories and make new ones at the same time. Also, The Derwen Arms pub offers special dinners on certain days, like Valentine’s Day, when the elderly men can invite a partner to celebrate.
“The reaction has been huge. They’re socializing well. They have a day area and they use it, but they often ask us when the pub is opening. They can take their relatives and friends there for a pint when they visit.”
According to Wales Online:
“There is money available for stock out of the ward’s rehabilitation budget but the ward manager, staff and relatives also make donations, as does another ward on the hospital site that makes use of the ‘pub’. “
Ms. Protheroe said:
“Even in these early days, the Derwen Arms has had a huge impact on the service we are able to provide. There is evidence that the quality of care and patient engagement have improved, and pharmacological intervention has reduced as a result of this initiative.
We would like to express our thanks to all ward staff for embracing the improvement for the benefit of our patients, and service managers for supporting us every step of the way. Thanks also to friends, families, and colleagues for their kind donations. We couldn’t have achieved this without them.”
Additionally, the Alzheimer’s Society organization gives the following tips about sundowning to carers:
- Try to support the person to do things they find relaxing and enjoyable at this time of day
- Think about what’s happened during the day. Could the person be trying to communicate a need, such as needing the toilet, feeling hungry or being in pain?
- It might help the person to avoid daytime naps, although some people find rest after lunch helps if they get tired during the day.
- Natural daylight can help the person – try to support them to get as much as possible by getting outside, and by making sure curtains are open and other objects aren’t covering windows.
- Think about the physical environment – is the lighting appropriate? If it’s too dark the person is likely to struggle to see things and if it’s too bright or noisy it may be making them feel more agitated.”