DEMENTIA patients can remain as independent as possible at Darent Valley Hospital after the launch of a 'buddy' project.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Services (ADSS) - a charity based in Northfleet - was awarded £30,000 by Kent Adult Social Services to run the Dementia Buddy Scheme until the end of March.

The project sees 10 volunteer 'buddies' visit patients on the Ebony Ward from 10am until 2pm, Monday to Friday.

The role of the buddy is to ensure people with dementia receive increased social interaction and are escorted to appointments.

Activities also include music and singing, games, arts and crafts, reading a newspaper and history books as well as quizzes, walking and help during meal times.

Senior sister on the ward, Linda Fissenden, said: "I've noticed a big difference.

"The patients are calmer a lot of the time and they are not so agitated.

"They are not deteriorating so much in their functions."

She added: "We have had a lot of good feedback from relatives.

"Having got the buddies there it makes me wonder how we actually managed beforehand."

Volunteers undergo an enhanced CRB check and training before becoming a buddy.

Liseby Napaul, from Greenhithe, volunteers four hours each week.

The 65-year-old said: "Every week is different, you come in and use your instincts and your training.

"My dad had a mild form of dementia.

"He didn't recognise any of us and that was the worst part of it.

"There were people worse than him and I always thought I wanted to help."

Janice Vicary, from Dartford, is training to be a buddy.

The 62-year-old said: "My dad had dementia and was in a home for the last two years of his life.

"It frightened the life out of me that he could end up in hospital and there would be no one there for him as he couldn't communicate.

"As soon as I heard about this scheme it was something I wanted to do.

"It gives more support to the people who need it."

Last week health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged £50 million to help hospitals and care homes create more dementia-friendly environments.