VIDEO: University Hospital of North Staffordshire staff try out an OAP suit
ACCIDENT unit doctors and nurses transformed themselves into old folk for the day – to experience life as frail pensioners.
They pulled on a specialised suit which simulates the common conditions, aches and pains suffered by OAPs.
The training suit – loaned from a London company – was brought in to give staff at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire a glimpse of how difficult older people find everyday tasks which younger people take for granted.
It came complete with weights on the arms and legs to reproduce muscle wastage, goggles to give instant cataracts, earplugs to cause deafness and a stiff backboard to create a curvature of the spine.
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Staff wearing the suit were then told to do basic tasks such as taking pills from a table top, climbing onto an examination table and pulling on a surgical gown.
After wearing the suit, senior sister Alison Hopwood, said: "We all do our best to treat elderly patients with respect and dignity but it is not until you spend a few minutes being old yourself that you know what their true needs are.
"I have attended many lectures on the subject and we all try to put into practice what we learn in the classroom but this really brought it home to me how hard it is to be old.
"I am sure the many staff who tried it will now change the way they go about their business."
Around 300 staff work at the hospital's accident unit which sees up to 130,000 patients every year. Around 50,000 of the patients are over-60s.
The training day was set up after pensioners taking part in a month-long survey called for staff to be more aware of their limitations.
A&E consultant Alice Holt, who has a special interest in elderly care, said: "Being at the accident unit is traumatic enough for younger patients so just how much worse must it be for the old, when they are lacking in movement, confused, scared, often alone and extremely vulnerable?
"This is a simple way of getting the message across to staff who may take it for granted that patients can easily do simple things asked of them. "We've even brought in Tic-Tac mints to act as pills to show how hard it is for them to take them if you are in the suit."
The hospital spent £200 hiring the suit for yesterday's training session.