THREE years ago Judith Smith’s husband David was diagnosed with dementia.

“At first we thought it was just old age, but he steadily declined,” she says. “He could still live a happy life with me at home and I cared for him. We had a good routine in place.”

His condition became worse and 16 weeks ago he was admitted to the Dementia Assessment Unit at Bradford’s Lynfield Mount Hospital.

To Judith*, who has been married to David* for more than 50 years, it was very important to be able to regularly see her husband and not be restricted by visiting times.

She was heartened to learn that, thanks to a special campaign which has led to changes across the country, she was able to do this.

In August 2016 Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust launched John’s Campaign, a national initiative which aims to give carers of people with dementia the right to stay with them in hospital, unrestricted by visiting hours, in the same way that parents can remain alongside poorly children.

It enables Judith to visit the trust’s Dementia Assessment Unit - which provides 24 hour care - at times convenient for both her and her husband.

Says Judith: “It’s important that we spend time together. I want to be with my husband to support him and comfort him. We are in the illness together.

“Every day I come to see him, usually from 2pm until 8pm. I can stay as long as I want to and am not restricted by visiting times. If I want to stay with him overnight I can.”

She adds: “Each day I get a train to Bradford then a taxi to the unit, taking around an hour, depending on traffic. If visiting times were in place it would be difficult for me to make the journey four times a day for a short time in the afternoon and again at night.

“My son works full-time and visits his dad after work at 7pm. We are welcomed on the ward and know we can stay as long as we want. I’m offered drinks and lunch or tea if I want it. I can come and go as I please. The more I and our son are with my husband the better we all feel. The staff are amazing and I can’t fault the care myself and John receive.”

John’s Campaign was launched in November 2014 by London-based carer Nicci Gerrard after the death of her father, Dr John Gerrard, who had been living with dementia and declined rapidly after a stay in a hospital, where visiting times were restricted. Nicci campaigns for the rights of carers of patients with dementia and similar conditions to stay with their loved ones, and be involved with their care if they would like to be.

Its aim is that carers should be welcomed, and believes that collaboration between patients and those connected with them is crucial to their health and their well-being.

John’s Campaign applies to all hospital settings including acute, community and mental health, and its principles could extend to other caring institutions where people are living away from those closest to them. Since the campaign was founded more than 1000 institutions have pledged support.

Jacquie Edwards, Ward Manager at the Dementia Assessment Unit, said: “Carers provide company for loved ones, they know them the best and we value their important role. We do everything we can to make patients and carers feel as comfortable as possible.

“We have always tried to be flexible with our visiting times on the dementia ward and through backing John’s campaign it has helped us to further raise awareness that carers can visit when they want.”

Carers are invited to ask for a ‘Carers Passport’ which entitles them to visit outside of normal visiting hours and identifies their agreed individual needs in supporting their loved ones.

“Some people work shifts so want to visit at different times. Some partners, family members and friends work full-time so if they prefer they can call before or after work,” says Jacquie.

“One carer who lived in a rural area and didn’t want to drive in the dark - they asked if they could stay longer during daylight hours. As people’s circumstances change we can accommodate them.”

Allison Bingham, Deputy Director of Specialist In-Patient Services at the Care Trust, added: “We value the important role of carers in supporting their loved ones. Our staff have full training in how to support patients but we have the utmost respect for carers as experts in the care of individuals.”

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*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.