Charity funded projects

Bringing interactive therapy to patients with dementia

11 May 2022

Two volunteers demonstrating the RITA dementia technology

Sussex Community NHS Charity is delighted to announce the rollout of a project our charity has supported to enhance patient wellbeing within our Trust’s Dementia Services.

The project, put forward by the Dementia Team and led by Deputy Dementia Lead Fran Hamilton, will have a huge impact on patient care and will enhance staff and patient engagement within the service.

“A significant issue facing patients living with dementia in hospital is their length of stay, which is often longer than that of people without dementia,” Fran advised.

“Older patients admitted in our hospitals with cognitive impairment or patients with dementia can become very distressed in an unfamiliar clinical environment. This distress can make meeting care needs very complicated and challenging both for the patients and the healthcare professionals.”

To address this issue, Fran applied for charity funding to purchase RITA systems for six Intermediate Care Units across Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust.

RITA stands for ‘Reminiscence Interactive Therapy Activities’ and is a pre-loaded system that helps to increase patient wellbeing through a range of activities, allowing them to stay in touch with the world.

“Over the past few years Alison Keizer, SCFT Dementia Lead has worked with the League of Friends –charities that support projects at hospitals - at Lewes, Zachery Merton, Crawley, Kleinwort and Uckfield sites to provide RITAs for some of our Intermediate Care Units,” Fran explained.

“This year we have had the chance to ensure parity across all of our community hospital sites, with new RITAs being provided, with the support of Sussex Community NHS Charity, to those without, and upgrades for existing RITAs funded by the League of Friends.”

The activities provided by RITA include relaxation music, photos and exercise sessions (to name a few!), which provide stimulation and engagement for patients with cognitive impairment. This can help reduce isolation, calm a distressed patient and spark interesting conversations amongst the patients, loved ones and carers.

What’s more, relatives can become involved too through assisting with the use of RITA and by helping to create personalised collages and life story books. This can allow relatives to feel empowered to help their loved one, in what is a very worrying and stressful time.

Fran explains: “The RITA systems will make a big difference to patients staying within our Intermediate Care Units.

“With its wide variety of interactive activities, including games, seated exercises, films and BBC archive clips, it offers stimulation and meaningful activities for patients with and without cognitive impairment.

“Enabling patients with cognitive impairment to be engaged with meaningful activity reduces distress and supports wellbeing.”

With the help of staff and volunteer teams, the systems will be helping patients very soon, and we’re really looking forward to hearing the positive impact it has on their health and wellbeing.