Hospital patients with dementia will be able to have visits from their loved ones in comfort over the festive period and beyond.
Only outdoor visiting has been allowed for some time at mental health inpatient wards due to record levels of Covid infections in the community.
But with the winter weather making this less than ideal, a new and innovative solution has been found.
Following feedback from patients’ families, two heated marquees have been put up at the 60-bed Ysbryd Y Coed older person’s unit at Cefn Coed Hospital in Swansea.
Complete with Christmas decorations, they provide a much-needed opportunity for face-to-face visits, with patients not even having to leave the ward.
Head of mental health and learning disability nursing for Swansea, Maria Anderton, explained how it works.
“The marquees, which have been erected in our inner courtyard, are connected to the family rooms on Derwen and Celyn wards.
“The patient will be sat at a table inside the family room with the patio doors opened out into the marquee.
“Their visitors can access the marquees without coming into the hospital building at all.”
In accordance with the official guidance, only two people from the same household will be allowed at a time for visits, which have been pre-booked with ward staff.
Social distancing must be maintained, face coverings worn by the visitors and no presents exchanged for infection control reasons.
However, Maria said the marquees are a significant step forward and a solution which is sustainable over the coming months, until such time as infection rates drop low enough to restore conventional indoor visiting.
“For a while, in order to protect our patients and staff, we have only been able to allow indoor visiting in exceptional circumstances, such as at the end of life,” she said.
“Families have had to remain outdoors which, in bad weather, sometimes means just speaking to their loved one through an open window or make do with video calls, which we know can be very difficult for patients with dementia.
“So we spoke to families and came up with the idea of having marquees.
“Our staff have dressed them with Christmas trees and even little wooden reindeer.
“We hope they will go some way to helping people feel closer over this very challenging Christmas period.”