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Posted 05 Sep 2016

Patient Victoria with her daughters, who share the care by staying overnight with her at Blacktown Hospital

Overnight accommodation for carers has transformed the hospital experience for patients and carers at Blacktown Hospital. The project has been so successful, it has been nominated for three awards. 
 
The carer zone includes a lounge which converts to a comfortable overnight bed and a curtain that separates the carer from the patient so staff can have uninterrupted access to the patient without disturbing their carer.

Carers, patients and staff love the new arrangement.

"Patients are less distressed because they have the extra comfort of a trusted carer with them, and carers have embraced the initiative because there are now clear policies to support their desire to remain with their loved one," said Peter Rophail, Stage 1 transition manager for the project. 
 
"Staff have told us that patients are calmer, less stressed, ate better, enjoyed mealtimes more and felt more supported when a trusted carer was able to stay with them overnight."

Peter said that the idea came from a carer. 

 “Carer zones were introduced because carers told us that hospitals did not have the proper facilities or policies to support their families,” he said. 
 
“Carers were sleeping on chairs with no amenities and little formal support
 
“In Blacktown especially, there is very high proportion of people from diverse communities with a culture of personal care for sick, confused, palliative or elderly relatives. They were finding it especially distressing to have to leave their adult relative at night, or sleep on chairs or on the floor in the patient's room. By the time patients were discharged, carers would be exhausted," Peter said. 
 
“When one of our carers said wouldn’t it be better to have a bed instead of sleeping on chair, we thought, of course. Carer zones are standard practice in children’s hospital, but for some reason they had never really been thought of for an adult hospital.” 
 
The project required a reimagining of patient rooms, changes to visiting hours, new carer amenities including lounges and beverage bars, and new policies for discount parking, breakfast vouchers and linen supplies. Every aspect of the change (from the comfort level of the beds to the change in hospital policy to allow carers to officially use the patient toilets) was managed in consultation with staff and consumers.
 
While primarily a patient experience initiative, the program has unexpected benefits for staff, too.  
 
“Staff report that patients are calmer and less stressed with a carer present, having a carer stay overnight has reduced the frequency of nurse calls and improved the experience of going home,” Peter said.
 
“In the Aged Care Ward, there has been a significant increase in the use of carer education resources as clinicians benefit from improved access to carers and relatives.”
 
The project has now been nominated for several awards and is currently a finalist in the WSLHD Quality Awards.

Carer zones will be included in the new facilities currenlty being planned for Stage 2 including paediatrics and maternity. 


 
It's so brilliant. It's great for the carer who wants to stay overnight with their parents… so last night I had a great sleep on a bed.Ruta, carer for her mum