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A boxful of nostalgia provides effective therapy

13 June 2013

Health Care

Rummaging through a toolbox containing sets of dominoes, playing cards, keys, old photographs and other familiar items is proving an effective way of calming older hospital patients when they become agitated or anxious.

Southend University Hospital's day assessment unit (DAU) now has around 20 memory boxes - thanks to a grant from the hospital's charitable funds and the success of members at Southend-on-Sea'sSlimming Worldgroup.

The group's interest was triggered by DAU manager Louisa Brown who was named their 'woman of the year' last year after losing four -and-a-half stone in just 12 months. Despite her new svelte figure, Louisa has remained a member to stop her slipping back and because she enjoys the social element. The group undertook a sponsored slim to raise £500 for the department.

The popular Tiptree Toolboxes were first developed for patients with dementia at Colchester Hospital and have been modified for Southend patients by falls practitioner Kate Chapman, who said: "Patients with dementia are twice as likely to have a fall. To stop them pacing around the ward, we can sit down with them and use the contents of the boxes to have a meaningful conversation about their reminiscences and life story. We are finding this has a very calming effect."

Louisa added: "We had already bought four boxes with the charity funding so when the group was looking for a local charity to support, I suggested they might like to provide some more. We are really grateful to the members as the boxes are proving invaluable for focusing the attention of some of our vulnerable patients."

The contents also include a big-piece jigsaw, a calculator for patients who may have worked with figures, some coloured pencils and a bright yellow duster."

A delighted Christine Timms, dementia clinical nurse specialist (CNS) at Southend, said: "We must do all we can to prevent falls which can cause pain, injury, loss of confidence and independence and increase the patient's length of stay.

"Patients with dementia are prone to 'sundowning' - becoming more confused in the late afternoon or early evening. In an unfamiliar environment, the toolboxes provide a focus.

"It is hoped that eventually there will be one toolbox in every adult ward and theSlimming Worldgroup has certainly made a huge contribution to achieving this."


With pic:Louisa Brown and Kate Chapman show off the toolbox and big-piece London bus jigsaw