Schoolchildren design Zimmer frames to help local people with dementia avoid falls

A dementia ward in Hove teamed up with a local school to design and create bespoke Zimmer frames for patients.

On Friday 5 October local schoolchildren designed and created bespoke Zimmer frames for patients at Brunswick Ward. Brunswick Ward is a specialist dementia unit at Mill View Hospital in Hove, run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust which provides mental health and learning disability healthcare across Sussex. 

Brunswick Ward has been working with the Dementia Action Alliance and Stanford Junior School in Hove on the project, which aims to educate children about dementia and help those with dementia avoid falls. 

The team on Brunswick Ward were inspired by a ‘Pimp my Zimmer’ project that took place at Woffington House Care Home in Wales. Residents there decorated their Zimmer frames with the help of local school children and the project was a huge success. Evidence shows that personalised frames are more likely to be recognised and used by people with dementia, reducing the likelihood of slips, trips and falls.

Pupils and staff at Stanford Junior School have taken part in a ‘dementia friends’ session, run by the Dementia Action Alliance. The Dementia Action Alliance is managed by Age UK Brighton & Hove and aims to make Brighton & Hove a dementia friendly city. Following their ‘dementia friends’ session, pupils aged 7 to 11 were given a selection of biographies of patients on Brunswick Ward. Using these as a guide, pupils designed Zimmer frames to stand out from the crowd, so patients can identify their own and use it while staying on the ward. They submitted their designs for judging and the 10 winning designs became reality as they had the opportunity then to decorate frames from Brunswick ward for patients to use.

Matron Lauren D’Souza, who heard about the initiative, was keen to see how it could help patients in Hove. She said, “Children at Stanford Junior School may have family members or know someone who has dementia. It can be a bit frightening at times and confusing for children so a session like this will help them to understand it better. Being practically involved in designing walking aids will help the children think about what it’s like to have dementia and

what might help someone with the condition. I am so excited that a local school has responded to this initiative and recognises the importance of it.

“Dementia Friends sessions are a fantastic introduction to dementia and it is great to work alongside the Dementia Action Alliance to educate people in our

community. I really believe as a dementia ward it is one of our responsibilities to reach out to the people around us and raise not just awareness but improve understanding of the illness.”

Matthew Moors, Dementia Action Alliance Co-ordinator said “It’s great to be involved in this project which not only helps those with dementia, but also works across the generations to educate children about the condition. The aim is for the new walking frames to reflect the personalities or life of those using them, which will reduce confusion, encourage their use and help to keep people safe.”

Falls reduction strategies are important when working with older people who are frail or unsteady on their feet. When a patient with dementia has a fall it can be particularly dangerous as they may not be able to immediately communicate if they are in pain and they may feel extremely distressed and confused.