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Autumn 2018Oasis of Calm

Rochdale Infirmary’s Oasis Unit is the first ward in the UK to offer a specialised environment for patients with dementia.

The unit originally opened in 2014, providing a safe and suitable space for those living with dementia and confusion, supporting recovery and access to nursing and mental health staff.

Here, everything you thought you knew about hospitals is flipped on its head, with 10 colourful bedrooms, a relaxing lounge, dining area, library and a calm room.

The Oasis Unit, funded by NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Clinical Commissioning Group, was implemented by Clinical Matron Louisa Harkness Hudson and then-sister Rhiannon Lloyd, with staff playing an integral part in its design.

Everything is more relaxed on this ward, which feels more like home than a hospital. Each bedroom is colour co-ordinated to help patients identify their own room, with numbers on the doors.

A plethora of books fills the library, featuring tomes about the local area and newspapers from days past, plus photographs of local areas to aid with remembering. Familiar wireless radios can also be found on the ward, and the staff have even made a modern flat screen television appear more as one from decades gone by.

The team also uses an ingenious invention called ‘RemPods’ which are therapeutic pop-up reminiscence rooms. When Real Rochdale visited, the current set up was a sunny beach hut and cocktail bar, ideal for jogging memories about holidays with families.

Ward Manager, Rhiannon Lloyd, said: “The service is very individual, as there are many different types of dementia and confusion. We try to make things as normal as possible. Without the Oasis Unit, the patients would be on another hospital ward where they can be seen as a nuisance.

There are no visiting hours as the ward is always open and has space for families to stay over.

The support offered by the Oasis Unit continues after a user has been discharged, working alongside mental health nurses, social workers and end of life care.

Patients on the Oasis Unit are treated to regular activities, such as tea parties, craft afternoons and movie nights. Schoolchildren have visited to practice their reading skills. Hot breakfasts are on the menu and patients are not discouraged from eating in their rooms if they wish.

There are two consultants on the ward with two trained nurses and two untrained, which allows for individual time with each service user.

There are no plans to extend the 10-bed unit, and staff are currently raising funds for a specialised garden, designed for dementia patients.

Rhiannon Lloyd added: “We have been asking what they would have in a garden if money was no object. We have some way to go, but we are really looking forward to how we can help the patients outdoors as well.”