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A project to create a home-like area for dementia patients wins The Pitch

Just like home

September 2018

A project to create a home-like area for dementia patients wins The Pitch

A project to create a home-like area for dementia patients wins The Pitch

A replica fireplace, lounge chairs, soft toys and brightly coloured tablecloths will be added to the dementia care ward at Balmain Hospital as part of suite of measures to improve patient experience.

The “Wake-Sense” project, which aims to awaken the senses of cognitively-impaired patients on the Wakefield Ward, won $35,000 at the 16th round of The Pitch.

Acting Nurse Unit Manager Tara Finnie said the funding would be used to create an area, away from the clinical setting, where patients with dementia or delirium can retreat to feel safe and comfortable.

The space will be fitted-out with sensory aids that are age-appropriate, such as soft toys to comfort patients who are missing their pets. Lighting, colourful artwork, a faux-fireplace and a fish tank will be added. There will also be a refurbishment of a kitchenette with a modified hot water system, so patients can safely make tea and coffee.

“People with dementia are more able to enjoy objects and spaces that are familiar to them from earlier in their life,” Ms Finnie said.

A major part of the project will be the use of brightly coloured plates, cups and tablecloths to help patients with cognitive impairment carry out daily tasks such as sharing a meal with each other or their families.

“Having different colours for patients with dementia might sound really, really simple but it makes a big difference for them because they really need a colour contrast to be able to focus on things,” she said.

The team behind the Wake-Sense pitch, including Acting General Manager of Balmain Hospital Michael Morris and Director of Nursing Hayley Sciuriaga, say an environment that provides appropriate stimulation and activity will help keep patients with dementia and delirium active and included. Ultimately, this should reduce risk-taking behaviours such as wandering, which can lead to falls, incidents of aggression and emotional distress.

A pitch by the RPA anaesthetic department to help distract patients undergoing hip and knee replacements under regional anaesthesia was also successful, with $16,000 in funding awarded by the judging panel.

Anaesthetic fellow Dr Daniel Carayannis said the use of regional anaesthesia, such as nerve block, is associated with a reduction in complications, decreased mortality and faster recovery compared to general anaesthesia.

However, the prospect of being awake during surgery can be anxiety-provoking for many patients and many orthopaedic procedures are loud, with surgical instruments creating unpleasant sounds. As a result, many patients are given heavy sedation – including general anaesthesia.

Dr Carayannis said research shows distraction techniques such as listening to music can greatly reduce the need for sedation.

The Institute for Rheumatology and Orthopaedics will use the funding to purchase iPads and noise-cancelling headphones, which will be offered to patients from their arrival at theatre through to their discharge from the recovery ward.

In the future, educational content could be uploaded to the iPads for patients to view just prior to surgery, particularly in the anaesthetic preparation areas.

“The patients can be distracted by listening to music that they like or a movie as well as education content while they’re having the procedure so avoiding general anaesthetic and avoiding heavy sedation,” Dr Carayannis said.

“The noise-cancelling headphones will eliminate a lot of that ambient noise that you hear from the theatres, which is anxiety provoking,” he said.

The final round of The Pitch for 2018 will be held at Concord Hospital on November 30. For more information, visit

To watch the videos, click here.


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