PERFORMANCE: Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust has launched a project intended to improve care for dementia patients.

The “Knowing Me” initiative allows staff to know more about the lives, likes and dislikes of their patients, despite dementia making communication and understanding more difficult.

Each patient with dementia, or other conditions affecting memory, has a “Knowing Me” book which can be filled in either by them or their carers.

The book allows staff to get a fuller understanding of the patients in their care, from the individual’s life story to specific pieces of information such as how they might behave when thirsty, how they relax, or how they react when in pain. It also has sections allowing the patient to note down what their interests and hobbies are, and how they like to lie in bed to get comfortable.

The book is kept by the bedside, and patients with a book also have a small magnet, displaying the “Knowing Me” symbol, on show at the top of their bed so all staff can immediately see that a person may have difficulty with communication.

The initiative was developed by a range of trust staff, including specialist nurses, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists.

Heather Pennicott, one of two dementia nurse specialists at the trust, said the book helped staff to “build a positive relationship with the patient and their carers”.

She said. “The more we know about the person – their history, what they like, what they dislike, how they might react – the more we can make sure we respond to their specific needs. Instead of giving someone the right care for ‘a dementia patient’, we want to be able to give the right care for them as an individual, and them alone.”

Cathy Stone, the trust’s director of nursing and patient safety, said: “The ideal is that we treat our patients as if they were members of our family, and this initiative helps staff to do that. It allows them to know more about the person in their care, and to use that knowledge to tailor treatment to their individual needs.”