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Nambour hospital’s Acute and Restorative Care Unit is stepping back in time to offer comfort to patients with dementia. And the unit is calling on the community to help.


Making history

Nambour hospital’s Acute and Restorative Care Unit is stepping back in time to offer comfort to patients with dementia. And the unit is calling on the community to help.

What is now a bland and typically clinical room is being prepared to be transformed into an Art Deco-inspired space that will evoke memories of nostalgia and perhaps a dash of stylistic appreciation for patients at the Acute and Restorative Care Unit (ARC) at Nambour General Hospital.

Far from being just an aesthetic makeover, ARC nurse unit manager Fran Brewster says the effect this change will have on dementia patients who regularly use the space will be much more profound.

Ms Brewster says they would love to set up an entire vintage lounge area, complete with vintage-style furniture, pedal sewing machine, old radios, television, grandfather clock and dial phones so their patients can resume life as they remember it and reduce stress that come with modern technologies. Their surroundings will instantly offer comfort during an otherwise confusing time.

“Being in less clinically orientated surroundings is not only a good visual thing for patients in ARC, it is also good conversation starter as they tap into nostalgia and share their stories of their younger years,” Ms Brewster says.

“If a patient is heightened or agitated, this type of distraction brings things back to a calmer place and can de-escalate the behaviour.

“The ARC unit is in a hospital environment and it is very clinically orientated. We incorporate other therapies, like pet and music therapy, so the addition of reminiscence therapy will be an important consideration and a powerful tool for dementia patients, and when paired with a low-lighting, low-stimulus environment, we can bring it back a few decades and create a calmer environment.”

The unit has already received an old singer sewing machine and a piano and Wishlist, the Sunshine Coast Hospital Foundation, is putting the call out to the community for more donations of vintage items such as old-fashioned lamp stands, a ring telephone, record player, bureau, comfortable couch and other items.

All items need to be able to be wiped down to meet infection management standards at the hospital, and must not have porous or fabric surfaces.

Wishlist is also seeking people who can volunteer to come in and play piano music at various times throughout the week to create ambience and connect patients with the songs of their youth.

Ms Brewster says the unit, which was previously the Nambour Hospital’s paediatric ward, is leading the way to develop an innovative dementia-friendly environment.

The unit is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of health professionals and has two core functions. The first is the specialist management for people experiencing behaviours and symptoms associated with dementia and delirium. Ms Brewster says these patients can be referred to the unit from other hospitals, their homes or from an aged-care facility for assessment.

The second aspect of the unit is restorative care, which Ms Brewster describes as “slow stream rehabilitation for the older person” and allows the older person more time to recuperate and build up strength following an acute episode of illness or a fracture.

There are more than 413,106 Australians living with dementia that require specialist care to enhance their quality of life and that number is expected to grow to 536,164 by 2025, highlighting the growing need for dementia care services.

Ms Brewster says the unit has been operating for nearly two years and the team is actively participating in discussions and planning for the redevelopment of Nambour General Hospital campus.

“One of the key areas we are focusing on is to create an elder-friendly hospital and into 2021 we will have a 40-bed unit, and planning with Wishlist is underway to create an outdoor space to develop a sensory garden which would complement the medical interventions that we have,” she says.

“We have spent the past 18 months settling into the unit and defining what we do. The next six months we are dedicating to building the service and promoting quality of care in the dementia setting while thinking outside the box as well,” Ms Brewster adds.

“Our future upgrades will have a new design that incorporates elder-friendly signage, lighting, flooring and low-stimulus environments while injecting more creativity.”

If you can help with donations of items or services for the vintage Art-Deco room fit-out or the outdoor sensory garden, contact the team at Wishlist on 5202 1777 or email


Roxy has been a journalist for more than a decade and joined the MWP team at the end of 2016. She is a chocolate-powered writing machine who loves to engage with the Coast community, uncover untold inspirational stories and share information that can help people.

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