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How hospital visits from children help ease the pain of dementia patients

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 08/02/2018 Naomi Ackerman

© Provided by Getty A new project bringing children on to hospital wards for the elderly has made dementia patients happier and even helped reduce their pain.The scheme, based at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, is believed to be the first in the UK to aim to bring mutual benefit to children and the elderly by them interacting in hospital.The project launched in December with 10 six- to seven-year-old children spending three hours on the hospital’s Albert Ward.Doctors said afterwards the children had a more positive outlook on both hospitals and older people, and wanted to return, while elderly patients showed improved mood, reduced pain and better communication.The project was started by Dr Charlotte Lance, a junior doctor working in paediatrics, and lead nurse Jo James, dementia co-ordinator at Imperial College Healthcare trust. The pair, who will present their findings at a conference on intergenerational care at Goldsmiths University next week, now plan to run similar sessions with two primary schools on a regular basis.Ms James said: “There is evidence that if people with dementia interact with children their wellbeing improves. It also improves things like communication, eating and drinking.”Dr Lance said: “We found patients had improved mood, a reduction in pain, improved communication and showed enjoyment, happiness and laughter.”

© Provided by Getty Describing how it benefited children, she said: “Before, their descriptions of elderly people had included words like ‘scary’, but afterwards the descriptions of elderly people became much more positive.”Dorrie Hooson-Jones, Key Stage One leader at Laurel Lane Primary School, said: “Everyone who attended the afternoon had a fabulous time: spirits were lifted and a sense of joy filled the room. The children have asked many times when they can return.”Dr Bob Klaber, consultant general paediatrician and associate medical director at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “It was a really extraordinary event and wonderful to see the positive impact on the children, patients and staff. We are all very excited to be working together to develop this into something that continues to grow.”

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