A caring nurse eased my distress

Christine Bryden

I am a person living well with dementia, supported by my husband. About a year ago, I became very ill with severe gastro-type pain and passing out. (Later this was identified as diverticulitis, so nothing to do with my dementia.) I was taken by ambulance to the ‘resus bay’ of the emergency department, as I had very low blood pressure and a troubling heart rate. My husband was following, so got there later, and couldn’t come in to see me until I had been stabilised. He must have been very worried to find I was in the resuscitation area. 

Issues and problems faced

By the time my husband arrived, after insertion of catheter and those lines into the veins (I can’t recall what they are called), I was very distressed. No one was telling me much, or even listening to me. By the time I was admitted to the ward, I was even more confused and distressed. The first day or so was a blur of faces – doctors, nurses, registrars, and specialists. There were people in the other beds talking to each other and to visitors, sounds from the TVs, an endless bustle of curtains pulled to and fro, bedpans and so on.

My husband did his best to get there first thing in the morning before the ward rounds, and the nurses allowed him to stay all day, as this settled me. But even so, the doctors would come around before my husband could get there, asking me questions, and telling me things. I was even asked for my signature on a consent form, but had no idea what it was for, and later could not recall having signed it. I could not take it all in, and my level of pain was adding greatly to my confusion and distress.

Strategies that made (or could have made) a difference

Finally one of the senior nurses realised that I needed a single room so that I would not be as distressed by surrounding noises and actions. She also did her utmost to attend the doctors’ rounds, telling them what had or hadn’t been done (as I couldn’t remember), and reassuring me by her presence.


This was a great example of person-centred care, where a busy nurse found time to make sure my care was appropriate to my needs given my level of memory loss and confusion, as well as pain and distress.

Tips for others

  • Having my support person, my husband, with me as much as possible helped to calm me
  • A quiet environment reduced my confusion
  • A nurse with the right attitude and actions was so reassuring.

Watch the video here.