A LEADING dementia activist has been touring Bolton to explain her fight ­— John's Campaign.

Author and journalist Nicci Gerrard visited the hospital and library.

Abigail Major reports.

JOHN’S CAMPAIGN was co-founded by Nicci after the death of her father, Dr John Gerrard in 2014, who had Alzheimer’s.

During a hospital stay earlier in his illness, visits from his family were restricted, and the decline in his condition was extreme upon his discharge.

Nicci and her family have campaigned for carers to have the right for unlimited visiting when their loved one is in hospital.

Speaking at Bolton Library she said: "We need to have a conversation about it.

"When people are in their last stages of dementia, they are at the mercy of the world.”

Nicci was at the library discussing dementia and promoting her new book "What Dementia Teaches Us About Love".

Dr Gerrard lived with dementia for over a decade before he died, Nicci said: "He spent 10 years living with it and nine months dying.”

She told the audience she and her family couldn’t tell him they loved him and thinks he felt abandoned.

Nicci also shared her experiences with staff at Royal Bolton Hospital who have recently been working hard to improve dementia care.

These improvements include the use of activity boxes with reminiscence items, special wall vinyl to make the wards less ‘hospital-like’, and the introduction of communal café areas.

The café lets the hospital run a variety of activity sessions for dementia patients like arts and crafts, singing, movement, music, reminiscence events and sensory activities.

The hospital has also introduced its first ever Admiral Nurse. These nurses are highly specialised in dementia care.

They can share their expertise and experience for the benefit of families ­— with one-to-one support and practical solutions.

Kerry Lyons has been working on the trust’s complex care wards since last year, and has been instrumental in getting many of the improvements up and running.

She said: "Kerry said: “It was such a pleasure to meet Nicci yesterday and to talk to her about the improvements we’ve made.

"It’s a privilege to be Bolton’s first Admiral Nurse, and I take great pride in my role and helping patients with dementia have the best experience they can when they are in hospital.

"The work Nicci has done with John’s Campaign has made such a difference.”

The hospital has also developed "What Matters To Me" booklets which encourage staff to help make each patient feel at ease in the hospital by understanding their needs and interests wherever possible.

Royal Bolton Hospital staff have also focused their attention on implementing the I-Care project.

This is a local initiative that has helped place greater focus on acknowledging the importance of carers within the hospital environment.

The project takes advice from carers themselves on what they want to see.

The trust’s recent CQC inspection highlighted the project as an example of outstanding practice and it has also been shortlisted for a Royal College of Nursing Award.

As a result of John’s Campaign and the I-Care project, carers for those with dementia who are an inpatient at the hospital now benefit from additional support.

This includes lanyards highlighting that they have open visiting and play a key part in their care, comfort bags for overnight stays, and the introduction of three relative’s rooms where they can spend the night if they wish.

Dementia Awareness campaign Purple Angels has also lent, donating MP3 players to the hospital with nostalgic music for patients.

These help to calm people who have become distressed, can aid communication and also help to stimulate patients.

Nicci said; “The things you’ve shown me are the examples that can spread, it’s just brilliant to see.

"This really feels like a great place to be working.

"I came away feeling glad, moved and full of admiration.

"Well done to you all and thank you.”

Linda Denman, assistant director of nursing at the Trust said: “It was an honour to show Nicci around.

"She was really impressed with our work and I know that we are going to continue to go from strength to strength in this area. We’re doing this because it is the right thing to do, for our patients and their families.”

n To contribute to the Trust’s fundraising campaign, ‘Donate £1 to Dementia’, visit Bolton Charitable Fund’s Facebook page @boltonnhscharitablefund.