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IN-DEPTH: DEMENTIA CARE


A partnership with The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama brings virtual reality to dementia care.


I


n 2015, a patient at St Mary’s Hospital living with dementia asked their nurse if they could go to the theatre. They were too unwell to go, but it made the team think: ‘why don’t we bring the theatre to the patient?’ The Trust contacted local drama schools and eventually found Dr Nicola Abraham, a lecturer in applied theatre practices at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, known as Central. “My nan has been in and out of hospital; I wished I could have done some drama-based activities with her, to calm her down and make her smile,” Nicola says, “so working with the Trust was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.”


The Trust partnered with Nicola and her students at Central on a multi- layered project. They set out to enable patients to revisit and feel immersed in some of their favourite places and fondest memories using paired writing, film and virtual reality (VR).


HAPPY PLACES


BRINGING TO PATIENTS


TRANSPORTING PATIENTS TO THEIR HAPPY PLACE


One patient had gone for a walk every morning around Epping Forest with his wife, and missed it dearly when he had a stroke and was admitted to hospital. Central students spent time with him, getting to know where he used to walk and where he felt most at ease. They then made a short film for him to watch on a VR headset, even including a voiceover to imitate a conversation with his wife.


Another patient had always wanted to visit the zoo, but didn’t get a chance before she became unwell and lost mobility. Students asked her to name her favourite animals before heading over to London Zoo to make a film. Other film locations include Kew Gardens, Hammersmith Bridge and London Bridge. “It’s so heart-warming to see patients receive their films,” says Jo James, consultant


“ There’s so much more we can do with the project,” Jo says. “That’s what makes it so exciting.”


Jo James, consultant nurse in dementia and delirium


nurse in dementia and delirium, who forms the Trust’s dementia care team with Nicole Bevan, Natascha Teszner, Lucy Gilby, Victoria Ruddock and Bella Batucan. “It helps calm them down, engages their brain and takes them out of the ward, even just for a few moments – this is really valuable to their wellbeing.” One patient involved in the project


8 /Trust


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