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Very individual care at Allonsfield House

When you walk through the door at Allonsfield Care Home, you might be surprised to see one of the residents ironing and another one neatly folding the clothes.   It is not an image that fits the vision of a ‘rest home’, but modern care homes are very different places to those out-dated institutions where residents did little other than sit in a line.   Allonsfield manager Jill Harris, who has worked at the home in Campsea Ashe near Woodbridge for 25 years, explained that the transformation was down to a much greater understanding of dementia and the best way to look after people with the condition affecting their memory and cognitive ability.   She said: “Years ago, people with dementia were simply regarded as confused.   “We used to look after their physical needs but did not really delve into their past to try to understand their behaviour. “They were still well cared for, but it is only in recent times that people’s emotional wellbeing has been considered as much a priority as their physical health.”   Understanding dementia has become all the more imperative in an age when the condition has become described as a ticking health time bomb.   While 850,000 people are living with the condition in the UK today, the projected number for 2050 is 2.1million. Many of the residents at Allonsfield, a sprawling former country farmhouse dating back to the 17th century, are living with dementia.   Jill said that even though their memory of earlier years might be fading, their behaviour and emotions were still intimately connected to their life history – and that was why emotional support and care needed to be tailored to the individual.   Jill, who started at Allonsfield as a night carer, is proud to have played a part in shaping home owner Kingsley Healthcare’s own person-centred care programme called WINGS. “The culture change started about four years ago and now Kingsley is at the cutting edge of what is happening in the sector,” she said.   “It is about staff being aware of people’s likes and dislikes and their family history – and it about us all giving a bit of ourselves to help meet people’s emotional needs.”   Jill and her deputy manager Anne Wysocka agree that staff sometimes need to be quite creative in supporting people living with dementia.   need to be quite creative in supporting people living with dementia. Anne said: “One of our former residents, Jeff, had been a journalist and was obviously passionate about his job.   “He was frustrated at no longer being able to work so we set him up with a desk and papers and pens. It made him much happier, although he still got cross when he said he had not met his deadlines.” Jill recalled that another resident, Eric, had been a gamekeeper used to being outdoors all his life.   She said: “He was often frustrated at being indoors so we encouraged him to go out in the garden and he liked to help our gardener.” Another resident, Barbara, had been a secretary all her life and she was happiest when she had papers to shuffle. “She would come into the office and sit with us and organise the desk,” said Jill.   She added that the focus on person-centred care meant residents’ families played a key role in piecing together the jigsaw of an individual’s past. “It has brought us closer to families. They come in now and treat it more like their home,” she said.   The sight of two cats, both called Mollie, curled up on residents’ beds, might be something many people would not associate with a care home.   However, Jill said: “Pets are an important part of many people’s lives and there is no reason that should not carry on when they move into a care home.   “We have had other pets in the past, including rabbits and a dog. In fact, we would like a dog in the home again and I would be interested to hear from the RSPCA locally to see if they have a suitable pet for rehoming.”   She said they were also investigating the possibility of keeping chickens at Allonsfield. “There is research to show that chickens can have a positive impact on people living with dementia because they bring back memories of chickens running around from their childhood,” she said.   Summing up what has been a revolution in care, she said: “We have moved away from clinical care homes. Allonsfield is a real home from home with a family friendly feel.”     Source: LaterLifeCare Magazine  Author: Stephen Pullinger  


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