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Dementia befrienders thanked as part of Dementia Action Week

24 May 2018


Southend Hospital has 50 dedicated feeding buddies and 13 dementia befriender volunteers, and more than 20 of them were thanked for their continued work and dedication to patients and the Trust with an afternoon of tea and cake, as part of National Dementia Action Week, which runs from Monday 21 May – Sunday 27 May.

Being in hospital can be a frightening time for anyone and the dementia befrienders are welcoming faces who sit in wards and talk to patients diagnosed with dementia. They can chat, listen or simply just be there and hold the hand of a patient with dementia.

 The tuneful sound of Lee Pankhurst twanging away on his guitar has become a familiar and welcome tone reverberating around the care of the elderly wards of the hospital, something the guitarist, aged 56, from Westcliff, has been doing for a year.

Lee said: "When I started out as a dementia befriender I found that sometimes it was a struggle to have a conversation with some of the patients and asked if I could bring my guitar with me. I play songs that everyone can listen to and it brightens up their day, and mine as well."

Lindsay Popham, Dementia Clinical Nurse Specialist, said: "Lee makes an amazing difference to patients, it gets them singing, reminiscing and encourages movement. Music accesses different parts of the brain than language, so music can be used to communicate or engage with someone who has been diagnosed with dementia, even if they no longer speak or respond to other people's words.

"Music may inspire an emotional reaction for the patient, so playing music that meant something to them, such as a favourite song, or a tune they used to sing to their children, can tap into powerful memories and emotions and help them connect with others around them."

There were lots of other events taking place during Dementia Action Week at the Trust including a rousing sing-a-along with guitar playing volunteer Lee Pankhurst and a visit from Lily, a Tibetan spaniel, and her owner Sylvia, part of Pets As Therapy (PAT).