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More and more people in Dorset are playing a part in their loved ones’ hospital care thanks to a successful ‘passport’ scheme.
This week is Carers Week, a national campaign highlighting the challenges carers face and recognising the valuable contribution they make.
There are currently more than 6.5million people across the UK caring for a loved one, ensuring those living with illness and disability have the support they need to lead as normal life as possible.
Dorset has an estimated 83,000 unpaid carers, and thanks to Dorset HealthCare’s Carers’ Passport initiative, they can extend the support they provide to friends and relatives in community hospital wards.
People are given a badge, or ‘passport’, which allows them to stay beyond regular visiting hours – providing reassurance and additional help for the person they are caring for.
Since the scheme was rolled out across all 12 of the county’s community hospitals last year, more than 50 people have taken advantage of the passport. Gill Morris, from Branksome in Poole, has been caring for her mother Betty for around four years after she was diagnosed with early onset dementia.
Last month, 90-year old Betty developed an abscess in her mouth which left her exhausted and unable to walk. She was admitted to the Guernsey Ward at Alderney Hospital in Poole, but rather than Jill having to step aside to let staff look after her, she has been involved in every stage of her care.
“The Carers’ Passport has been fantastic for me and my mum,” she said.
“When she was first admitted, experts told us she may never walk again, and we should be considering placing her in a care home. But now she has been discharged and has made a good recovery.
“I believe having regular access to her outside normal visiting hours to carry out simple tasks like washing her before bed, emptying her catheter and simply being on hand to relay information or sit by her side is the main reason behind this.”
The simple idea also makes a huge difference to the care nursing staff can provide. Carers can often provide inside knowledge, which helps them meet the individual’s needs more effectively.
And this is a factor echoed by Guernsey Ward Staff Nurse Sarah Fincher, who has been supporting Gill in looking after Betty.
“Why should the care someone receives from a loved one stop just because they are admitted to hospital? Family and friends should be given access to those they care for outside of normal hours,” she said.
“The Carers’ Passport enables those close to the patient to continue looking after them with the support of clinical staff. It frees up our time, and patients feel so much happier knowing those close to them are involved at all times – maintaining routine is vital.”
Jill believes her involvement in the care provided boosted her mum’s morale and gave her the drive to recover.
“Mum’s admittance to hospital was an anxious time for us all, and although my mum is a very determined person, you always fear the worst,” she said.
“Giving staff background information they wouldn’t otherwise of had meant we could tailor her care to suit her routines, which reduced stress, and I could monitor her progress at all times. Not once did my mum feel alone or scared during her hospital stay, and it was a great comfort for me to feel included.”
Precious Whild, Senior Sister on the ward, added: “Adopting an open door approach towards carers, embracing them as an extended part of the ward team, has given them confidence, pride and enabled them to feel a part of their relatives’ rehabilitation. It has also made our patients feel more motivated and encouraged, resulting in speedier recoveries.”
Talk to any member of hospital staff to find out more about the Carers’ Passport scheme. More information is also available online at: www.dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk/patients-and-visitors/carers