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Hospiscare Insights: Working with Dementia


Chrissey Hussey


My name is Chrissy Hussey and I am one of the first Admiral Nurses in the South West. I’m very pleased that my role comes under Hospiscare’s umbrella.


How did you come to be here? 

I had intended to do my nurse training back in 1972 after my A levels but I was offered a place at Dartington College of Arts which, at 18 years old, was an offer I just couldn’t refuse!  

It was when I became a nursing student in 2002 that I met my first dementia patients. My initial placement was in a community hospital with predominantly elderly patients, and I found myself naturally drawn to those who had cognitive frailty and were experiencing difficulties with memory and comprehension. I was able to utilise my arts background and draw on my previous work experience to communicate and connect with these patients, helping to support them when they were distressed. This was a very enlightening experience and left me wanting to know more about the world of the dementia patient. My husband was a dementia specialist consultant in older adult care and we had many discussions about challenges faced by dementia patients and their families. 

I have worked for Hospiscare since qualifying as a staff nurse in 2003. In fact, I went into nursing solely with the intention of working within palliative care. My father had developed lung cancer and was supported by a palliative team within the community. The support that he received as well as the outstanding empathy and support shown to my sister and me as my father’s main carers, confirmed my belief that this was the dream job I had been searching for. 

It is such a privilege to work for Hospiscare. It’s an all-embracing organisation that never stands still and there are always exciting innovations being introduced, such as the Admiral Nurse Initiative and dementia strategy. 

 

What do you do?

In my current role as Admiral Nurse I provide support to family carers and people living with dementia throughout their dementia journey, particularly during complex periods of transition. 

In particular, my work revolves around grief and loss, enhancing the adjustments needed as dementia progresses, and enabling carers to cope with their often very demanding role. I also provide education, leadership, development and support to other colleagues and service providers. Collaborative working across the board is a key component of the Admiral Nurse role, as well as establishing creative dialogue between Dementia UK and Hospiscare that will be used to develop dementia care further.

 

Do you have any tips for communicating with someone with dementia?

  1. Short, simple, precise and concise is my mantra when attempting to talk with someone who has dementia. Remember, in this instance, less is certainly more.
  2. Try and be at the same height as the person. If they are sitting down, you try and sit down as well. 
  3. Engage the person with eye contact making sure you have their attention.  
  4. Think of your tone of voice. Smiling when you talk lightens your tone. Talk slower than normal and with a good volume.   
  5. Don’t overload the person with too much information or detail as their processing skills are often diminished.
  6. If you are offering the person a choice, restrict it to two items - maximum three.   
  7. Patience is key. When asking a question, wait for the answer. If it becomes clear that the person is not going to answer, repeat your question in the same way using the same words.