By Sara Matthews, Macmillan Information and Support Radiographer, Radiotherapy Department, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
The rising number of people who have both a diagnosis of dementia and cancer has led to the creation of a radiotherapy dementia team at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH).
A recent study by the Centre for Dementia Research at Leeds Beckett University identified that 7.5% of people aged 75 or older with a cancer diagnosis have dementia. These patients often have many complex needs and are more likely to live in a care home.
When attending a radiotherapy department, the unfamiliar environment and the number of health care professionals they meet may heighten confusion and distress. The OUH radiotherapy dementia team identified that a person’s experience of radiotherapy may be improved if a quiet waiting room was created. A calm environment is recommended by the SoR guidance Caring for people with dementia: a clinical practice guideline for the radiography workforce (imaging and radiotherapy) to support patients and reduce distress.
Redecoration of an existing clinic room in the department followed the advice of the OUH arts advisor and large photographs of local landscapes were commissioned to provide a reassuring and welcoming atmosphere.
Macmillan Cancer Support kindly funded the artwork and new colour co-ordinated and comfortable furniture to promote a relaxing tone to the room. Dementia-friendly stimulating activities (puzzles, Twiddle-muffs and reminiscence themed books) are available to help pass waiting time and to support opportunities for conversation, helping patients, carers and staff to build relationships.
Completion of the OUH ‘Knowing Me’ form during conversations allows for information to be collected about the patient and their additional needs. This helps patient centred care and the active preparation for and management of confusion or other symptoms of dementia.