‘Her memories of Norfolk were some of the last she held on to’ - Jennie Bond speaks about her mother’s dementia as new home opens
17:50 13 August 2014
Â© Archant 2014
Broadcaster and journalist Jennie Bond performed a duty of royal proportions today when she officially opened a new £6.9m dementia care home in Gorleston.
Chiming with her former role as BBC royal correspondent Ms Bond sent ripples of laughter through assembled guests and civic dignitaries as she unveiled a plaque at Lydia Eva Court.
Brimming with stories about royal run-ins she also spoke movingly about her Norwich-born mother’s own descent into dementia and the “fug of confusion and memory” that clouded every action.
The 88-bed care home in Peterhouse Avenue has been especially designed to meet the needs of people with dementia and was proclaimed “the best in Norfolk.”
Karen Knight, managing director of NorseCare which has brought the project forward, said the aim was to help people to live as independently as possible.
Within the home people live in friendships group of around 15, sharing a dining room, lounge and quiet area. They also have access to sensory gardens with “wandering loops”, bold colours and good signs helping residents to walk with purpose around the complex.
While some of the innovations are high tech like night-time motion sensors in bedrooms others came down to simple common-sense - like colour coding and art work designed to aid reminiscence and stimulate conversation.
Leading the proceedings and admitting to feeling “a little bit royal” Ms Bond said she was delighted to travel to Norfolk to open the home.
She spoke of her deep connection to the county adding that her mother’s affinity with the area was one of the last strands of memory to unravel as dementia took hold.
“I have so many memories of Norfolk,” she said. “We used to holiday at Cromer and Walcott and it has a real place in my heart. My mother is a real Norfolk girl and just adored this fine, fine county. She is 93 and is a long way along the sad voyage to dementia but her memories of Norfolk were some of the last she held on to. Until quite recently she would say that she wanted to go home and I know she meant Norfolk.”
Ms Bond said she loved the idea of people living within smaller units helping residents to feel safe.
“It is a world in which you feel very insecure and even questions about where your handbag is or if you want a cup of tea can be frightening. To have this small family of friendly faces is absolutely where it is at,” she added.
“But there are wonderful things to learn - we found out that frozen crisps are delicious. The frozen door stop was not quite as welcome. We used to find things everywhere. If you do not laugh about it you would spend your life crying about it. It will be a brilliant future for everyone here.
“It is all about dignity and self esteem because it is so horrendous to lose your marbles. Your brain cells are dying and you cannot function any more. The stage when you know you cannot function is the worst stage. It is the saddest condition and it seems to follow an inevitable pattern. My mother has no memory at all now.”
Colleen Walker, Norse board member whose county council ward includes the home described it as a stunning care home and a fantastic addition to Gorleston.
Willie Cruikshank, director of the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance said the new home was an oasis of calm in a “rush-about world” which needed to take a more helpful slow-lane approach to people with dementia.
“It is all about making things nice and simple, but not clinical. It is their home and it needs to feel like it - it is a difficult balance and they have done it really well.
“The way they have handled the transfer and looked after the residents has been exemplary. You can tell that the residents are all contented and happy to be somewhere like this which is beautiful and magical and the staff will love working here. It sets the standard.”
Around 60 to 80pc of people in care homes have dementia. One in three people over 65 develop dementia. Norfolk’s high proportion of over 65s (25pc compared to 16pc nationally) makes meeting their needs a particular challenge. Currently around 16,000 people in the county have dementia, only a third of whom are in residential care and many of the remainder living alone.
There are still rooms available at Lydia Eva Court. For more information visit www.norsecare.co.uk or call the home on 01493 666300.