A paramedic teddy bear has become a familiar sight when helping to calm the fears and anxieties of our youngest patients. Recently, Medavie Health Services West paramedics have been bringing that sense of comfort and care to another vulnerable group of patients: those battling a cognitive disability.
MHS West’s Innisfail, Ponoka, and Wetaskiwin divisions are the first emergency services group in Alberta to distribute Dementia Friendly Resource Kits. The kits include sensory items such as pictures, crayons, puzzles, and an item called a fidget mitt. A fidget mitt is a hand-made fabric sleeve that has two purposes – one to keep their hands warm and two (more importantly) to provide tactile stimulation for the patient which helps to distract them from the uncertainty of the ambulance ride.
The Dementia Friendly Resource Kits are the result of a collaboration between MHS West and the Innisfail Primary Care Network, in partnership with the Community Partners in Action group. The group has been working together with other community partners to help make living with dementia and other cognitive disabilities easier.
Dementia, and other cognitive disabilities such as Alzheimers, has many challenges – both for those living with it and those supporting them. People who suffer from these conditions sometimes experience disorientation, fear, anxiety, and social isolation. That fear and anxiety can become even more pronounced during an ambulance ride, when they don’t understand what is happening or where they are going. Healthcare workers tend to ask a lot of questions and that can be disorienting at the best of times. And long transports in ambulances usually require testing, diagnostics, and procedures, adding to the confusion.
The Dementia Friendly Resource Kits were first introduced to MHS West’s ambulances last year and are now also being distributed to local emergency departments, home care and other community emergency and support service organizations.