KEEPING dementia patients’ anxiety to a minimum is at the heart of a £98,000 ward redesign to speed up their recovery and give them greater support at the Great Western Hospital.

The hospital’s charity Brighter Futures has invested nearly £100,000 in a complete overhaul of the Jupiter Ward which is dedicated to the elderly, many of whom suffer from dementia, in a bid to give them the dignity and independence they deserve.

The eight-week refurbishment will start on August 28 and see the new ward reopen on November 3. In the meantime patients will be admitted to the Teal Ward.

The project, which took nine months of research and planning will see the flooring replaced with mat faux-laminated lino, dark toilet bowls and handrails and a new clock indicating day and night to ‘anchor’ patients in time.

Each room door will also be painted a different colour with the picture of a fruit, animal or object of that colour next to it to stop patients wandering into another bay accidentally or getting lost.

While the condition affects sufferers’ memory, their ability to remember colour and shapes is not, according to Wendy Johnson, who is leading the project.

“It is going to make an enormous difference for generations to come,” said the matron for older persons’ care, neurology and stroke services. “This is not a dementia specialist ward but a significant number of patients have dementia.

“One of the main things we will do is replace the floors. What we see are nice shiny floors but people with dementia have depth perception issues and to them it looks like there is water on the floor.

“They will be tentative with their steps, less likely to walk around and more likely to fall over. It can also affect their anxiety level. The design will aim to reduce their anxiety. If they are constantly anxious, they will be more prone to infections, suppressed appetite and they will sleep less. They will get weaker.

“It will really help promote independence, dignity, privacy and respect. And it’s important for recovery.”

Coloured plates will also be introduced as patients with dementia have a tendency not to notice white foods such as potatoes on light plates. Other hospitals have seen a drop in food waste of 40 per cent since introducing coloured plates, according to Wendy.

The nurses’ station will also be removed and replaced with a relaxing sitting area for families and patients.

Desks will be placed in each room with computers for staff to work by patients’ bedside. This will not only allow them to respond to their needs swiftly but again reassure patients.

She added: “What we are trying to achieve is an environment that doesn’t put people with dementia at a disadvantage in terms of recovery but helps to enhance and quicken the recovery process. It’s about compassion and respect.”