27 February 2020

Investing in older people

Over the last few months, you may have donated to our appeal to help refurbish wards where older people are treated.

We hope that we’ll soon have raised enough funds for work to begin on the gym, which will be the first area to benefit from the renovations. We caught up with Elizabeth Booth, Advanced Physiotherapist on the ward, to hear more about the team’s plans:

“Imagine that you are in your 90’s. You live alone and get by without help, but life has become a struggle recently. The most basic of tasks tire you out.

Getting up, washed and dressed now takes most of the morning. You get by and, twice a week, pluck up the courage to try and walk to the local shops to get food.

These trips out are difficult. And apart from buying food as a necessity, this is the only time that you get to see any other person. Life is lonely.

One evening, you feel unwell, coughing and have a temperature. Whilst you walk to bed you fall over. You try for hours, but you can’t get up. It’s cold. It’s frightening. The floor is hard. The police tell you you’ve been on the floor for three days.

The local shopkeeper was worried when you didn’t come to the shops as normal on Tuesday, and the police forced entry. An ambulance takes you University Hospital Southampton, and you are taken to G Level for your care.

Old Woman's Hand Praying, Southampton Hospitals Charity

This is a  sad story, but one that we hear far too often.

Being an inpatient can be a frightening experience and we recognise that home is often the best place for our elderly patients to be. Many of them suffer with anxiety and depression, delirium and disorientation, often made worse due to their illness, injury or falls.

A huge proportion of patients don’t want to stray far from their beds, or the bay they are in. We are constantly striving to encourage patients to get up, get dressed, drink enough and move around more.

There are some frightening statistics around the deconditioning of elderly patients. Just one week of inactivity for our patients can result in a 10-20% loss of muscle mass, and means the difference between them maintaining independence or becoming dependent, frail and losing quality of life.

The Medicine for Older People Therapy team is made up of Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and Therapy Technicians.

We try to approach our patients as individuals and work with them to achieve their goals. That might be just to get home, but for others it might be having the ability to go to the bathroom independently and preserve their dignity.

That’s why we are delighted to be working with you, as a supporter of Southampton Hospital Charity, in an ambitious project to develop a specialised, state of the art space within our gym.

The new space will enable us to provide individualised care, which will get frail patients home quicker, living independently and safely.

Because of your support, the new gym will include:

  • Bright and engaging decoration
  • The ability to section off areas of the room to provide quiet spaces for cognitive assessments or sensitive conversations. This would also allow the room to be multi-purpose and enable us to treat several patients at once
  • New assessment equipment such as slopes and steps
  • Innovative new technology, such as biotech machines for measuring and re-educating balance
  • Specialist equipment including adapted exercise equipment and adjustable parallel bars
  • Plasma screens, speakers and a WiiFit to help make sessions fun and engaging
  • A new Activities of Daily Living Suite with a functioning kitchen and bedroom area.

All of this will help us to mimic the patient’s home environment as best as we can, so we can assess what they need to do to get home. It will also enable us to progress a patients abilities and reduce the amount of care they may require at home, which presents a huge cost saving to the NHS and social services.

We aim to strengthen patients, help them to improve their balance, give them confidence with their mobility and encourage the ability to do personal tasks around the home. We aim to discharge patients home, happy, hopeful and enjoying their lives, as well as preventing further admissions.

We want to say to our patients: “We are investing in this space and these resources because we are investing in you. We believe you can get better and you can change your future”.

We want the gym to inspire, enthuse and motivate patients to engage with their therapy, and take a leading role in making care decisions and choices for their future.

With a predicted 35% increase in the number of admissions of elderly patients in the next five years, we are excited to be able to have a space to treat our patients efficiently and strive to constantly push forward the boundaries of excellent care.

We are here for patients now and in the future.”

Last updated: 27/02/2020

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