Hospital trials home help dementia support website


Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust community workers roll out myhomehelper at Hull care home

myhomehelper was the brainchild of computer programme, Kevin Marsch

myhomehelper was the brainchild of computer programme, Kevin Marsch

A new ‘home help’ website developed by a computer programmer from Hull and aimed at dementia patients is being trialled at a nursing home in Sheffield.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has become the first NHS organisation in the country to start using the memory aid system, myhomehelper, within the community.

The system was inspired by former computer programmer Kevin Marsch’s own personal experience of dementia.

The 39-year-old from Hull has been caring for his mother, Patricia, for the last two years after she was diagnosed with vascular dementia, the second most-common form of the illness, which occurs when the oxygen supply fails and brain cells die. During the early stages of her illness he started receiving 10 to 20 anxious calls a day at work simply because she was unable to remember what time he was due back home or when he was popping round for a visit. As a result, he started putting simple messages on her computer when he was on a holiday. This made her a lot less anxious and the technology developed from there.

Now the system is being tested by Royal Hallamshire Hospital staff caring for dementia patients in the community. The facility allows them to post practical messages and reminders to residents about scheduled events taking place at the care home onto a computer monitor displayed in the lounge area. This includes what time lunch is due to be served and when the hairdresser and podiatrist will be visiting all patients.

Marsch said: “A few years ago my mum got really anxious when I went away, so I started posting messages on the computer to ease her anxiety. She’s been using the system for nearly three years now, and although her condition is getting worse she says it’s like a comfort blanket to her, which is great because it proves she still has a strong recognition of it despite the challenges of her illness.”

Jayne Stocks, a specialist nurse at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, added: “The number of over-65s suffering with dementia in Sheffield is predicted to rise by 35% by 2025, so it’s vital we support patients who wish to remain in their own home for as long as possible. Although technology will never replace face-to-face care, in conjunction with formal and informal care it can help meet individual and families care needs.

Although technology will never replace face-to-face care, in conjunction with formal and informal care it can help meet individual and families care needs

“Kevin developed this system for use among individuals in their own home, and we‘ve been trialling the system in the community to see how it works. Since the care home has started using the technology, fewer relatives have been asking what time daily events are scheduled to happen as this information is available on the system. It’s also reduced the number of questions about key visits, such as when the chiropodist is coming, freeing up time for staff to spend more time assisting patients.”

The system is currently being trialled by staff from the trust’s intermediate care bedded unit, which looks after patients needing additional support once discharged from acute wards. The easy-to-use software includes a number of simple options to control information posted on the site and a coloured grid where staff can set precise times for reminders. Each minute can be allocated with a photo, random reminder, newsfeed and this is repeated for every hour until a specific timed reminder or video call overrides this.

The technology has been installed in the lounge area of the Pexton Grange care home, which has a number of NHS intermediate care beds and therapy staff work alongside care home staff to promote rehabilitation.

Sign up for your free email newsletter

The myhomehelper system recently won the People’s Choice Award at the Technology4Good Awards. These celebrate the work of people of all ages who use the power of computers and the internet to make the world a better place.