'Very distressing': Dementia sufferer moved three times as hundreds of care beds lost
PUBLISHED: 08:04 22 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:17 22 January 2020
A family's anguish at moving their vulnerable mother three times in four months has laid bare the grim reality of care home closures.
Norfolk and Waveney lost 227 beds last year with the closure of nine care services, leaving some rural areas without a nursing home for dozens of miles.
With the number of over 75s to grow by 35,000 in the next ten years, Norfolk County Council has pledged to provide thousands of more homes.
But recent closures have raised questions about what the future of care in the county will look like.
Jon Nobbs, 68, and his sister Susan Nobbs, 61, had to move their mother Doreen Wakefield to four different care homes between August and December last year.
She had been a resident at Mead Lodge in Buxton before its sudden closure in August.
The 86-year old moved to Cawston Lodge before it closed in November, just six months after it opened.
Mr Nobbs, from Wymondham, said the family were only given two days to move her to another care home and she was placed in St Mary's Care Home in Crostwick at short notice.
But she had to be moved once more as the care home was not suitable for her needs.
Mr Nobbs said: "We had so little time to research, St Mary's agreed to take mum but she was a bit too much for them to handle.
"It was very distressing."
He said that while the carers at both Mead Lodge and Cawston Lodge took care of his mother well, his biggest complaint was being given little notice of the homes closing down.
"It has affected mum's condition," he said. "She got used to the staff, but then she had to get used to more people every time she moved."
While care homes seek to provide round-the-clock care, some families are opting for carers to visit their loved ones in the comfort of their own homes.
Domiciliary care is becoming more popular, said field care supervisor Charlotte Dorman, of Norwich-based live-in care provider Better Healthcare Services.
"A lot of people want to keep their independence," she said. "Some people find it difficult to let go of their homes where they have memories and family.
"With end of life care people would rather have their last days at home."
She said carers at Better Healthcare Services, which received a good rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), supported clients with day-to-day activities such as personal care, food preparation and hospital appointments.
A benefit to this type of care, she said, is that carers would spend time with clients to help them feel less isolated.
Ms Dorman said: "With social services, carers are allocated a certain amount of time and some people might want them to stay a bit longer.
"I have had some of our carers stay an extra couple of hours with clients with dementia."
Last year saw progress in bringing back a disused care home back into use to help cope with rise in dementia cases.
Mountfield Care Home, in Millcroft, north Norwich, is due to re-open nearly four years after it closed for a £2.7m revamp.
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Carers will be using tablet technology and Amazon Echo devices as part of the support package in the 46-bed home for people with dementia.
It was one of four council care homes which closed when the £19m Bowthorpe Care Village opened in 2016.
More than 100 people from Mountfield, as well as Norwich care homes Heathfield, Somerley and Philadelphia House, moved into the 80-bed specialist dementia care home and 92-apartment housing with care scheme.
But Steve Dorrington, owner of Norfolk care provider Dorrington House, said there were more care homes closing down and being sold off than being built as it was more "financially viable" for property owners.
"Some of these owners are reaching retirement age, and some of these older properties don't meet the requirements of increasingly complex health needs," he said.
Hilary MacDonald, chief executive at Age UK Norfolk, said care home closures can be extremely upsetting for families, especially in rural areas where care homes can be many miles apart.
She said: "We know of one couple who had been married for 65 years and were at risk of being moved to separate care homes after their care home closed, which was understandably distressing."
Closed care homes
Eight care services rated inadequate cancelled their registration with CQC in 2019 and no longer run as care homes, while one service rated as 'requires improvement' also closed.
- Mead Lodge, Crown Road, Buxton
- Cawston Lodge, Paul Engelhard Way, Cawston
- Felmingham Old Rectory, Aylsham Road, Felmingham
- Seahorses Nursing Home, Park Road, Gorleston
- Northgate House, Links Avenue, Hellesdon
- Clarence Lodge, Clarence Road, Gorleston
- Highfield Residential Care Home, St Mary's Road, Cromer
- Austhorpe House Nursing Home, Norwich Road, Forncett St Peter
- The Lodge, Acle New Road, Great Yarmouth
The total number of beds lost from the closures is 227, with the majority - around 18pc - coming from Felmingham Old Rectory which had 41 beds.
More care homes coming
Norfolk County Council spends £280m a year on adult social care services.
But a council report last year raised concerns about a shortage of nursing homes in large rural areas where the population of over 75s are the highest.
There are no nursing homes in one area which is 470 miles square between north and mid Norfolk.
A county council spokesman said care home providers are encouraged to seek help before reaching crisis point.
He said: "It is only where care providers fail to evidence the ability to make necessary improvements that the council considers terminating our contract with them."
To meet future demand, the council said it will provide 3,000 extra homes by 2028 as part of a £29m investment.
The first of these housing developments is being built in Fakenham, which will provide 66 apartments for people needing occassional care, due to finish in January 2021.