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June 2013

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The cognitive impairment identifier. (Copyright: Ballarat Health Services)

Bedside symbol helps identify dementia needs

Ballarat Health Services’ ground-breaking work to develop a symbol to identify and help patients with cognitive impairment has been recognised at the Alzheimer’s Australia’s National Conference.

The symbol is currently used as a bedside identifier to alert staff to the distinct needs of patients with cognitive impairment and their carers.

Between 2006 and 2011, BHS’ work has been extended to 22 Victorian hospitals.

Hospitals involved commit to training and education of all staff to ensure an understanding of dementia, how to communicate effectively and involve carers.

Alzheimer’s Australia Chief Executive Officer Glenn Rees said that Alzheimer’s Australia recommended a similar approach for national use.

‘Patients with cognitive impairment face considerable challenges in acute care settings.

‘A symbol is necessary because, just like visual and hearing impairment where symbols are common place, cognitive impairment is easily missed,’ Mr Rees said.

‘At BHS about 30 percent of all patients have some cognitive impairment,’ said Associate Professor Mark Yates of BHS’ Dementia Care in Hospitals Team.

‘After the introduction of the program and the bedside symbol, carer satisfaction improved and more than half the staff surveyed said the symbol and education changed their delivery of care,’ said Associate Professor Yates.