If you were to walk into the Constable Suite in Ipswich Hospital today, you might spot a pair of cheerful ladies, going by the names of Millie-Marigold and Kitty-Dandelion, clothed in colourful 1950s fashions and sporting large blue flower brooches. If you looked carefully, you may notice a ukulele slung over Kitty’s shoulders, or a puppet tucked under Millie’s arm.
These are our ‘Forget-me-not Visitors’, who make regular visits to Ipswich Hospital’s older patients who are living with dementia. And whilst they might look like a couple of friendly characters who’ve stepped out of the past, they are, in fact, highly trained professional artists who are experienced at working in hospital and care environments.
Working as a pair, they move around the wards, sensitively assessing each patient’s need for comfort, inspiration or company, and creating a unique experience for each. You might hear them singing songs along with patients, playing a favourite tune on the ukulele, reciting poetry, storytelling or using dance and clowning to improve someone’s day.
At a time when the pressures on nurses’ time have never been greater, the role our Forget-me-not Visitors play is crucial.
Hospital environments can be disorientating and frightening for a person with dementia and may make them more confused than usual. Time simply spent connecting with another person and being comforted can make a huge difference to their quality of life.
Our Visitors create a positive, friendly environment to help patients relax in the unfamiliar setting of the hospital, which helps to ease fear and confusion, reduce isolation and lift the spirits of patients and staff alike.
Kerry Day, Dementia Nurse at Ipswich Hospital said: “I have seen the Forget-me-not visitors with patients who are sometimes withdrawn and in their own world. Seeing someone who is lonely and withdrawn laughing or singing, or saying a few words of a long ago learned poem, or even just smiling, is the most amazing thing.
“The effects last for so much longer than the duration of the encounter. They help our patients have much needed contact with the world – the human contact that makes us feel loved.”
And it’s not just the staff and patients that enjoy the visits, the artists who take on the roles of Milly and Kitty find their time at Ipswich Hospital really rewarding too.
Suffolk Artlink Artist, Chris Draude, who plays Milly, said: “Some of the most magical moments have been when you get an eyebrow moving in recognition or a head that is slumped moves up. When the whole body posture changes and you are able to maintain eye contact this is truly touching. It is in this moment we have tapped into the individual, a meeting is made.”