I took a step back in time this week – back to the time of the Festival of Britain and A line dresses – when I photographed a small corner of Sidcup; the newly refurbished Dementia Unit in the Holbrook ward at Queen Mary’s Hospital. The ward has been transformed using the sights, sounds and even smells that are evocative of the 1950s times as a way of making the lives of those afflicted with dementia and alzheimer’s disease a little easier while in hospital. I was commissioned by Oxleas NHS Trust to photograph the event, showing the enormous support, effort, energy and funds devoted to a much needed area of care.
Given that many that suffer with these conditions are 65 plus and many regress to their early years , making the unit look like they are spending time when ‘Muffin the Mule’ and The Good Old Days’ were first on TV reduces the confusion they feel when out of their home environment.
Holbrook Ward was reopened by James Brokenshire MP (Old Bexley & Sidcup) to a packed reception and although patients were not part of the proceedings, their families were. All agreed that the unit will make things so much better for their loved ones.
So what makes Holbrook such a lovely place for patients ? A kitchen area decked out with items that look as if they have come straight from the 1950s, complete with a retro style ‘radio’ that plays hits from the 50s first heard on ‘Jukebox Jury’; a hair salon – the original social media space from half a century ago; a dining area decorated with 50 memorabilia (to us, but contemporary to the patients of course) and lest you think these seem rather female-centric, there is an area for the men folk – a veritable man-cave or ‘workshop shed’ as it would have been at the time.