For 40 years Ian Fell was a newspaperman and while he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease six years ago, he never forgets his daily newspaper.
In fact, the former general manager of the Illawarra Mercury becomes quite anxious if the paper is not delivered on time, according to his carer and wife of 57 years, Val.
That's why Mrs Fell has put her support behind a new personalised program for dementia patients introduced at Shellharbour and Kiama hospitals to coincide with this week's Dementia Awareness Week.
The Top 5 project encourages carers and family members to list five things that are significant to their loved ones - be it their nickname, a favourite item of clothing, or even the daily paper.
Director of nursing Narelle Gleeson said the program could help staff identify why patients might be feeling anxious or were not responding to their questions - and make them feel more at home.
"People with dementia can get quite unsettled or anxious when they are left in a hospital environment," Ms Gleeson said.
"The Top 5 project allows carers to contribute to tailoring specific care plans for their loved ones, by answering some questions about their daily routines, their likes and dislikes.
"For instance a patient might be registered as 'John' as that's their actual name, but they may have been called 'Jack' their whole life.
"Identifying simple things like that can have a big impact on the care staff can provide, and in turn it can lessen the anxiety felt by the patient and their carers."
Mrs Fell, from Figtree, said hospital stays could be confusing for dementia patients, for whom routine was very important.
"When a person goes into long-term residential care you usually are asked to provide information about them, to help staff relate to them better," she said.
"Providing that sort of information is equally important when a dementia patient goes into hospital, even if it's just for a short time.
"It shows the patient, and the carer, that the hospital is taking an interest in them personally - that they're not just a number."
Ms Gleeson said Shellharbour and Kiama were among 20 hospitals in NSW which had successfully bid to take part in the Top 5 project, part of the Clinical Excellence Commission's Partnering with Patients program.
"This sharing of information has been done informally in the past, but this program ensures it is documented and displayed," she said.
As part of Dementia Awareness Week, Sue Pieters-Hawke - the daughter of Alzheimer's sufferer Hazel Hawke - will speak at the Unravelling the Myths About Dementia public seminar at the Illawarra Master Builders Club today from 10am.