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Alzheimer's Society
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Top tips for nurses

Orientation

People with dementia can experience difficulty with orientation. There are lots of things that can be done help with orientation whilst in hospital which can reduce anxiety and agitation.

  1. A brief life story about the person with dementia can help you to see the person behind the condition. Ask carers or family members to complete a short history about their childhood, hobbies, education or jobs they have done. This can help with conversation and may enable you to connect with the patient. Note important dates on a calendar such as anniversaries - it will give you something to talk about and helps to orient time.
  2. Show the person with dementia around the ward, particularly where the toilets are, before showing them to their bed. Signs can also help the person to navigate their way around the ward. Pictures at eye level can be more effective than words and act as a visual reminder.
  3. Someone with dementia may feel anxious and confused when placed in an unfamiliar environment like a hospital ward. It can be reassuring to surround them with familiar processions such as photos. Ask friends or family to create memory box with items of which can be used to connect and communicate with the patient.
  4. New people and new surroundings can be confusing for people with dementia.  Regular routines and the involvement and regular visits from carers and family members can be reassuring and help reduce anxiety.
  5. If the person with dementia still reads, it can be helpful to provide a notebook so that staff and visitors can write messages and leave reminders. A clock which clearly displays the date, time and year can also help a patient with their orientation.  Alternatively, you can help by writing the day and date on a white board or by displaying a calendar.