Have you ever heard about a hospital with a pub on site? Perhaps this sounds preposterous to you. After all, aren’t sick people supposed to stay away from alcohol? Typically, that would be true but sometimes, a pub can be in your favor. In this case, it serves no alcohol, doesn’t deal with bar fights and people don’t talk offensively. The goal? To keep the patients happy.
You can find such a pub at the Swansea’s Cefn Coed Hospital in Wales, United Kingdom. It isn’t open to the public; it is only available to the dementia patients and it is doing wonders. The men (up to 20 at a time) who stay in the Derwen Ward have access.
Dementia is a terrible condition that is associated with loss of memory and loss of the ability to function properly. It happens more often in people over the age of 60 and the severity increases as you move through the 7 stages. Dementia can occur as a result of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies.
When someone receives the diagnosis of dementia, they tend to go downhill progressively. Memories start to fade and disappear and before long, they are grasping just to try and get from day to day. The disappearance of memories can also lead to a condition, known as sundowning.
When an individual suffers from sundowning, it typically goes along with the fading light in the evening, leading to confusion. It can be punctuated with anxiety, panic, restlessness, aggression and other problems. Those issues may occur at any time of the day but they are more likely to occur as the sun sets. Unfortunately, nobody knows why it happens.
The men at the Cefn Hospital spend their days doing normal activities but when the sun sets, they start to display their symptoms. For some, working long days was a way of life and they might have stopped at the pub on the way home. It gave them the chance to socialize so having a pub in their ward helped them to be in familiar surroundings and to get over the symptoms to a large extent. They may still suffer from the issue but it is often much lighter.
Yes, there is no alcohol at the pub and the darts are plastic but the feeling is the same.
The pub is named the Derwen Arms Pub and it looks quite authentic. The men feel relaxed and comfortable at the gentlemen’s place. Dawn Giffin talks about why they set up the pub:
“In the evenings some of our gentlemen can get unsettled and agitated,” says Dawn. “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? It’s about trying to normalize things they were doing before they came into the hospital.”
At first, it was just an idea but then Dawn and the ward manager, Kate Prothe made it a reality. Even though they don’t serve alcohol and the darts are not metallic, the men don’t seem to mind. It’s a good thing because alcohol would not be a wise idea, considering their physical health and the fact that booze might interact with their medications. They also are not able to handle the booze with their limited motor control.
The pub also has a pool table, which is great for those who might be depressed. Elderly people can deal with fragile minds but having something to keep their minds off of their issues seems to help. The hospital considers the pub to be a big success and the men who visit look forward to visiting every day find that it makes up for some of what they lost.
“The reaction has been huge,” says Dawn. “They’re socializing 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.”
There are also times when special dinners are served and the men can have someone join them for a meal. It’s a great way to relive old times and celebrate.