Praise for ‘Getting to Know Me’ programme at Foyle Hospice

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An innovative ‘Getting To Know Me’ programme, spearheaded by the Foyle Hospice which aims to ‘capture the essence’ of every individual patient, is being lauded by both professionals and families.

Foyle Hospice looks after ever-increasing numbers of patients with dementia, amongst other life-limiting illnesses, and strive to provide the highest, most up to date care possible.

Dementia care is a vital and ever-increasing component of the local hospice’s care and something it is continuing to develop.

Due to the nature of dementia, many people fear they will lose their ‘voice’ and the identity of who they are as a person when they enter hospice care, but Foyle Hospice is ensuring this is not the case.

A ‘change project’ introduced by Staff Nurse Michelle McDuff via a Dementia Champions Programme facilitated through North West Regional College, led to the ‘Getting to Know Me’ document, which has been such a success it is now presented to every hospice patient.

It also led to Michelle being invited to do an oral presentation at the International Conference on Palliative and Dementia Care 2019 which was recently held in Belfast.

The two-day conference brought together the most up to date research-based ideas, training, projects and eminent, expert speakers on palliative dementia care from across the world, and the hospice document was of huge interest.

Michelle said she developed the “Getting to Know Me” document as she identified a need for it within the hospice and in a bid to further enrich the care of patients and their families.

“The aim of the project was to develop a new holistic assessment tool to be used in the Hospice In-Patient Unit, to help us facilitate a better understanding of the individual behind the diagnosis of dementia and to capture the essence of the whole person.

“We had documentation covering all health needs assessments but nothing to say: ‘What about me and who I am as a person.’ .

“We wanted to facilitate a better understanding of the person behind the diagnosis.

“We had an in-depth holistic assessment tool for everyone but felt there was more we could be doing.

“We have also seen an increase in numbers of patients with dementia either as a primary or secondary diagnosis.”

Michelle prepared a questionnaire type document, which can be filled in by either the patient or their family, with the patient’s consent.

It asks a number of simple, concise questions which aim to find out more about the patient, their lives, likes and dislikes and what makes them who they are.

Questions covered in the “Getting To Know Me” include - what name they like to be called – a name that ensures comfort and familiarity; who is the person who knows them best; do they have any pets?

Michelle explained that pets can cause much worry and concern to patients and it’s important for staff to know that.

Other questions include how they cope in times of distress, such as playing music or going for a walk; how they like to get washed and dressed; their normal day-to-day routine - did they go for a walk at a certain time of day maybe; when they like to sleep and rest; spiritual considerations; how they enjoy their food - and not assuming they need help - their life so far, such as their previous jobs, and important dates like birthdays and anniversaries.

Michelle elaborated on how the answers to the questions not only allow the staff to get to know the person better but can also help identify triggers such as important anniversaries that may affect their mood.

She discussed how the document also aims to allay any family concerns.

“It’s something that family members can look at and, hopefully, go home and say: ‘The nurse truly listened to me.’ They also can add to the document and can record all the details they think might be important as well.

“When patients enter our doors we don’t want their loved ones to feel like they’re letting them go.

“Regardless of the source of information we want to know as much as possible about that person, for example, if the patient wants a loved one to come in and do their care in the mornings.

“Maybe that was something they did together and it doesn’t necessarily have to stop.

“There are some small things that hospice staff may not consider to be that relevant to the patient’s care, but we have come to realise that it is those small things which are very important to that individual patient at the time of their care in the hospice, such as letting their pet dog visit them on a daily basis.”

Michelle said she was ‘shocked’ at the high level of positive feedback she received from the conference, with other health professionals voicing their interest, and already planning to look at adapting and developing the document to suit their health care settings.

She told how she developed the project from an Alzheimer’s Society of Scotland programme - with their agreement - and adapted it to a hospice setting.

It was launched via a pilot programme and Michelle then looked at and evaluated how it was working and if anything could be changed.

She was concerned it may stigmatise patients with dementia, so it was decided that, due to its success and the benefits it could undoubtedly have, it would be used for all hospice inpatients, regardless their diagnosis.

Michelle added that due to its success in the inpatient unit, it is now being widely used in Day Hospice and more recently by the Specialist Community Nursing Team.

“Through the project, we anticipated that amongst the benefits achieved it would help empower individuals, we would have an equal partnership with them and they’d know we had truly heard and understood them as individuals.

“We are continually working with them and their families to ensure they get their voices heard and also to ensure the qualities that make a person who they are can all be captured.

“We wanted to send out the message that patients and their families are recognised, valued and involved, as well as build improved teamwork amongst staff.

“To date, thankfully, we have discovered that the document and what we learn from it is working to ensure that the transition from home to hospice inpatient care, and vice versa, is as easy as possible whilst also improving patient’s quality of life and wellbeing.

“Patients may ask: ‘How can you really see me if you don’t get to know me?

“This is the essence of the project and this document makes sure we’re doing that - getting to know what makes them who they are and focusing their care around that.”

Visit www.foylehospice.com for more information.