For people with dementia traveling in an ambulance can be a potentially frightening experience.
The UK’s first ‘dementia-friendly’ ambulance was launched by East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) earlier this week.
EMAS work alongside UnityDEM, the University of Northampton’s Dementia Centre, to update four emergency vehicles, making people with dementia feel less frightened or confused when traveling in them.
The redesigned ambulances will start serving patients throughout Northamptonshire and Leicestershire on Monday.
Responding to around 43,000 emergency calls a year from patients living with a diagnosis of dementia, there are plans for all 104 ambulances across the two counties to be dementia-friendly by the end of October.
‘Subtle adjustments can have a big impact’.
The vehicles include several key changes.
The window nearest the ambulance stretcher – is now covered with a scene that contains key points to talk and reminisce about, including children playing to remind people of their youth and animals for patients to guess what they are.
Music provision – a USB device provided with music in specific decades to allow staff to choose tracks that patients are most likely to have positive reactions/memories to.
‘Twiddlemuffs’ – a knitted hand muff, decorated with internal and external items, such as buttons and ribbons.
This is Me documents – these include information such as what people like to be called, where they grew up, how they take their medication, things they don’t like and can be completed at home by patients and their carers for paramedic crews to refer to during future emergency call outs.
Communication guide for staff – dementia friendly training for all front-line EMAS staff was rolled out from April this year; this guide contains top tips on using the changes in the ambulance to prompt conversations, how to alter their communication style to meet the needs of the patient and things to keep in mind for any patients who may not be able to communicate verbally.
‘A sudden, strange and potentially frightening experience’.
Charlotte Walker, Ambulance Operations Manager and project lead said: “Continuously developing our service to meet the specific needs of our patients is vital and enables the response patients receive across the East Midlands to be of the highest possible standard.”
Professor Jacqui Parkes, the University’s NDRIC lead, said: “Sometimes, it’s not just the big things that make a difference in people’s lives, but more subtle adjustments and tweaks can cumulatively, make a big impact.
“For people with dementia, going into an ambulance can be a sudden, strange and potentially frightening experience, but EMAS have shown with their dementia friendly ambulance – the first of its kind in the UK – that with little adjustments, this can be reduced and lead to a much more positive experience. We look forward to seeing the full fleet in action very soon.”