By Leon A Smith
September 1, 2011
An attraction to me of the blogasphere is the facility to opine on issues of both general and very specific interest to myself. In the main on a week to week basis (or sometimes a fortnight to fortnight basis) these are issues in the news that have some bearing on the wellbeing and quality of life of older people in our community. In this regard – and as usual – I wish to write today about a matter which falls into that category. However, this particular Blog entry has unashamedly far more of a self indulgent flavour. Nightingale has just opened – ie the paint is still wet – a tremendous new facility. This is a two storey purpose built unit for some 40 of our residents who are living with dementia. The building has been specifically designed by architects with considerable experience in dementia design who have an awareness of the effects of the built environment on those living with this illness. Very particular care has been taken regarding the physical layout of the building with interesting walking routes throughout. Bedrooms are light and airy and the latest research has been used in designing and selecting furniture, fabrics, artwork, lighting, technology – and more.
The exceptional garden has been designed again by a landscape gardener with extensive experience in dementia design. The garden offers residents a “journey” from a seating area to a reminiscence area, to a garden club area, to a sensory area, through to another reminiscence area and then to a pagola. There are walk through features – sound effects and a variety of interesting reminiscence items such as a red telephone box, a post box, a bus stop and shelter, a Morris Minor car and much more. Residents are being transferred this week from another part of the Nightingale complex into this new facility.
The standard of finishes and the feeling of spaciousness coupled with the design of the facility has, we believe, created what must be one of the leading dementia bulldings in the UK and beyond. Each floor consists of a large open space which is the lounge, a reminiscence kitchen, an activities area, and then as we progress through the building there are other smaller sitting areas including an enclosed “quiet lounge” – the one on the Ground Floor has been filled with items of Judaica and on the 1st Floor items relating to a 50s/60s kitchen and dining room. Each of the residents rooms has a scanned photograph on their door. This may be a photograph chosen by our residents and their families which has some particular meaning to them. In other cases it is an item which will resonate with our residents – a pair of shoes for one lady, a stethoscope for another, scissors and razor for a resident who is a retired barber. In addition to this each of the rooms has a “memory box” where residents, their families, and staff are able to place items which, again, will have a meaning and it is hoped will aid recognition by a resident of their room.
We are very proud of our new building – which as I mention above is probably one of the best of its kind. However, we are also very aware that care and particularly dementia care is not just about buildings. It’s about people. And it is for that reason we have embarked upon a major training project with the Dementia Centre at Bradford University – recognised nationally and internationally as one of the leading centres of dementia research. Staff from Bradford are working alongside Nightingale staff to make sure that the very best practice in dementia care is used at all times. Much of this relates to ensuring that residents own choices, preferences, interests and abilities are understood and acted upon.
Sadly dementia is a growth area and as more and more live to a much greater age, more and more of us are going to survive to an age where we may well ourselves suffer from symptoms of dementia. Yet it is incumbent upon us all to ensure that those who do have dementia feel enabled to lead the highest possible quality of life at all times. And this is exactly what we hope we have achieved in the creation of our new building. Please don’t take my word for it – contact me and come and have a look!