You’ve probably never been in a hospital that had a pub, and for good reason. Most hospital patients are on medications that don’t mix well with alcohol and aren’t well enough to play billiards and darts. But this particular hospital has a pub, and they’ve got a good reason for it too.
As dementia patients lose more and more of their memory, usually starting with newer memories, it’s common for them to revert back to old habits and ways of thinking. Many of them also suffer from sundowning, which means they get antsy and ornery at the end of the day. For elderly gentlemen who used to work long days and then go out for a drink with friends, it’s hard to go without the evening social time they used to have. Instead of enjoying a pint of beer together, they’re stuck in their rooms alone, waiting impatiently for sleep to come.
Swansea’s Cefn Coed Hospital in Wales has a 20-bed all-male wing called the Derwen Ward. Staff in this ward focus specifically on ways to care for and entertain elderly men, individuals from a particular generation who worked long hours of manual labor and then relaxed at the local pub with their buddies. The hospital couldn’t open a real pub for them to visit, of course, but it was able to do the next best thing.
“In the evenings some of our gentlemen can get unsettled and agitated,” says clinical lead Dawn Griffin. “They think they’ve finished their shift for the day and they are of the generation where they would go to the pub for a pint with their friends after work. We thought – what better way to help them than to get a pub on the ward?”
The Derwen Arms pub was launched by Griffin and ward manager Kath Protheroe. It features non-alcoholic beer, so nobody gets drunk or has to worry about their medications not mixing well with their favorite drink, and the darts are plastic and can’t hurt anyone. And since they don’t have to leave the hospital to get to it, there’s no need to arrange for transportation or check in and out of the hospital.
Other than those minor details, though, the dementia pub is almost exactly like the real thing. There are tables and chairs just like a real lounge room, and special touches like beer mats bring it all together.
“It’s about trying to normalise things they were doing before they came into hospital,” says Griffin.
The pub even does special events, such as a Valentine’s Day supper, and invites patients’ wives to join them for a meal. Other family members and friends are welcome as well, and patients enjoy showing their loved ones around their favorite haunt.
So far, the pub seems to be relieving the issue of sundowning for many of the men, as well as encouraging them to socialize, which reduces the risk of depression and improves quality of life.
“The reaction has been huge,” says Griffin. “They’re socialising well. They have a day area and they use it, but they often ask us when the pub is opening. They can take their relatives and friends there for a pint when they visit.”
Thank you to the amazing staff of the Derwen Ward at Cefn Coed Hospital for putting in the time and effort to make some gentlemen very happy in their old age! All senior care facilities should have an awesome tribute to the old days like this one!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?