Galway University Hospitals launches Ireland’s first dementia awareness programme

Orla Shiel, occupational therapist; Chris Kane, general manager; Barbara Hodkinson, founder of the Butterfly Scheme; Julie Nohilly, acting director of nursing; Janet Britt, Butterfly Scheme; Dr Ronan O Caoimh, consultant geriatrician; and Ellen Wiseman, patient advice and liaison service.

Orla Shiel, occupational therapist; Chris Kane, general manager; Barbara Hodkinson, founder of the Butterfly Scheme; Julie Nohilly, acting director of nursing; Janet Britt, Butterfly Scheme; Dr Ronan O Caoimh, consultant geriatrician; and Ellen Wiseman, patient advice and liaison service.

Galway University Hospitals and Saolta University Health Care Group, in collaboration with the founder of the Butterfly Scheme, Barbara Hodkinson, officially launched the Butterfly Scheme in Galway University Hospitals last week.

The Butterfly Scheme allows people with temporary confusion, memory loss, and dementia to make this fact clear to hospital staff and provides staff with practical training to offer a simple, five-point, targeted, response to meet their needs. At-a-glance, discreet, identification via a Butterfly symbol is available for hospital patients who wish to participate. UK research has demonstrated that patients who choose to use this symbol receive more effective and appropriate care while in hospital.

The launch was officiated by Carmel Geoghegan, AG Networks, and Keith Finnegan, Galway Bay FM and saw 150 staff members who volunteered as Butterfly Champions complete their training under the leadership of Barbara Hodkinson, the UK founder of the Butterfly Scheme who oversaw the training. The Butterfly Champions work in all areas of the hospital, from ward clerks to porters, radiology staff, therapists, catering staff, nurses, doctors, etc.

It is also anticipated that more than 300 staff will receive training in a specific dementia care response called the REACH response.

Dr Rónán O Caoimh, consultant geriatrician, Galway University Hospitals, welcomed the scheme. “The Butterfly Scheme increases awareness and provides clear solutions to complement the goals of the Irish National Dementia Strategy launched in 2014, which states that all hospital staff involved in the care and treatment of people with dementia should be aware of their diagnosis and its impact," he said. "The scheme, already successful in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and we at Galway University Hospitals are very proud to announce that we are the first hospital in the Republic to Ireland to launch the scheme.”

Orla Sheil, senior occupational therapist, Galway University Hospitals, added: “The insight for getting involved with the scheme came primarily from my experiences working on the ground in the emergency department with the Frail Elderly Assessment team, where I felt that the lack of a system to help staff identify patients with dementia and cognitive impairment increased staff difficulties in meeting patients' care needs. I researched what potential schemes were available to assist hospital staff in helping to deliver a better care response to patients with dementia and came across the Butterfly Scheme. Since contacting Barbara Hodkinson in April, the enthusiasm and interest from the steering group committee in the hospital has carried the project forward to a very successful launch.”

The Butterfly Scheme is much needed in light of the growing prevalence of dementia in Ireland and the findings of the first Irish National Audit of Dementia Care in Acute Hospitals in 2014 that highlighted the lack of standardised care for people with dementia in Irish hospitals.

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