Dementia Care in Hospitals Program (DCHP)

Caring for Cognitive Impairment

Cognitive impairment (difficulty with memory and thinking) is common among older people admitted to hospital. At any given time, over one third of hospital patients will have difficulty with their memory and thinking.  This may due to dementia, delirium or other reasons.

Hospitals are unfamiliar environments which can be confusing to many people; and even more confusing for people with memory and thinking difficulties.   

Cognitive impairment is currently under-recognised in Australian hospitals, leading to significant safety and quality issues. However, if cognitive impairment is recognised and care is tailored to the needs of the patient, there is opportunity to improve the safety and quality of care.

Canberra Hospital has implemented the Dementia Care in Hospitals Program to address this need. This Program has provided hospital staff with extra training to recognise cognitive impairment and promote effective communication with patients and families.

As part of the Dementia Care in Hospital Program, Canberra Hospital uses the Cognitive Impairment Identifier.  This is a sign placed above the patient’s bed.  It is used to alert staff when a patient has memory and/or thinking difficulties such as delirium, cognitive impairment and dementia. It prompts staff to communicate appropriately with the patient and family/carers.

The Cognitive Impairment Identifier looks like this:


People living with dementia, their family/carers, and organisations like  Alzheimer’s Australia, have provided feedback that the use of the sign is beneficial for patients in hospital. 

Further information: ACT Health Aged Care Nurse Practitioner 6244 4037