NHS Ward Uses ‘Distraction Room’ to Reduce Anxiety in Patients with Dementia

Care staff within an NHS mental health trust have used their initiative to develop a new approach to supporting patients with dementia. The ‘distraction room’ was introduced onto a 10-bed ward for older people with dementia, at Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust, by Health Care Assistants Johanne Keeton and Jayne Powney and aims to encourage reminiscence and engagement with the various stimuli within the room.

All patients on the ward are encouraged to use the room and staff have already noted the beneficial effects, with users becoming less distressed and anxious. The ward is now in discussion with a research team to allow more detailed evaluation of the effects of this new approach.

Read on to find out more about the ‘distraction room’ and how you could adopt the approach within your care home to benefit your service users.

The ‘distraction room’ is just one example of how a non-pharmaceutical approach to supporting people with dementia can be effective and improve quality of life. As well as providing engagement and stimulation, this type of approach can also reduce reliance on anti-psychotic drugs which can, in turn, contribute to a reduction in falls and other drug-related complications.

Try introducing a similar scheme within your care home by asking for donations of useful items which can be made available to service users, either for short, pre-planned sessions or, if you’re lucky enough to have the space, as a permanent ‘distraction room’ of your own.

5 Items to Set Up Your Own Distraction Room 

  1. Vintage clothing: Items of vintage clothing, often available cheaply from charity shops or jumble sales can be an instant talking point offering a tactile as well as visual experience for service users with dementia. Hats, silk scarves, fake fur coats or even feather boas are easy to handle and offer a variety of sensations when held. Whether used for reminiscence activities, or purely for sensory stimulation, clothing is an excellent starting point for any distraction room.
  2. Postcards: Holiday postcards from familiar destinations can stimulate discussion and bring back memories of past travels. You can quickly build a collection by encouraging relatives and staff to send postcards back from their own holidays or set up a post box for visitors to donate old postcards of their own.
  3. Household objects: Everyday items and equipment that would have been used around the house by your service users are always popular items for discussion or for simply holding and touching. Kitchen equipment such as rolling pins or wooden spoons and DIY items such as old-fashioned wooden spirit levels or planes are ideal but remember to ‘make safe’ anything you plan to use that may include a blade or sharp surface.
  4. Picture boxes: Include a selection of themed picture boxes, each with a selection of pictures or photos that could be of interest to your service users. Subjects such as animals/pets, movie stars, food and drink or royalty are all likely to prove successful.
  5. Art materials: Providing paper along with coloured pencils or paints will provide your service users with the opportunity to draw or paint, either individually or as part of a group. You may even find that some service users have a hidden talent for art which they’re keen to rekindle. As well as being relaxing, creative activities can also boost self-esteem and help the people in your care to express themselves through their work.