As we approach the end of Week 9 of our “in my shoes” guest blog series, looking at dementia from different perspectives , some people are asking where the various posts originate from. I am always on the look out for new angles and it has been a very organic (posh name for random!) process. A lot of the posts have been personal contacts, / Twitter pals. Some have been suggested to me; others have been a case of just spotting a good idea or an interesting person and asking if they’d like to contribute.
In this case it originated with a tweet from @clarkmike, one of the BEST spotters and sharers of cutting-edge developments on Twitter The link took me to a scheme called Beatrix House. I am a big Beatrix Potter fan (I told you it was a bit random) and I really liked what I saw. We waited until the scheme actually opened so that Lynn Sandelance could tell us more…
New Charter, a housing association in Tameside, Greater Manchester, has just opened the doors to its new extra-care scheme for older people including those with dementia.
Beatrix, as the scheme has fondly become known to us, is our first venture into extra-care housing and has been built in partnership with money from New Charter Housing Trust Group, Tameside council (our local authority) and a Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) grant – a total cost of £3.5 million.
It has been three years in the making from instructing the architects to handover from the builders. At times it has been a very fraught journey indeed. However, we have reached the end of the first stage of our journey, and are now eagerly embarking on the second part – welcoming residents into our scheme.
Named after the author Beatrix Potter, whose family once lived in the area, the scheme has 31 self-contained apartments. Each one has its own lounge, bedroom, kitchen and wet room. Four of the apartments have an additional bedroom. There are communal lounges and an assisted bathroom, as well as extensive views from the scheme. On a clear day you can see to the Welsh hills in one direction and up to the Lancashire hills and moorlands from another. There is a self-contained sensory garden to the front of the scheme with raised planters and seating areas.
As a social landlord, New Charter is offering the properties out to social rent, and the allocations to the scheme are done through a panel of members from Tameside’s adult services team, New Charter’s care services team and Creative Support, the on-site care provider. As a sheltered housing scheme, allocations are made to those aged 60+ (or 55+ if there is a medical need) and, as an extra-care scheme, there also has to be a care need as care providers are based on site 24 hours a day. The agreement is that, where possible, there will be a fair 1/3rd split of care needs based on low, medium and high needs.
As an extra-care scheme, it was decided from the start that Beatrix House would be able to accommodate up to a third of its residents with dementia – an area we knew very little about at the start, and an area we are still learning about every hour of every day. There have been times when it has been difficult due to our naivety of just what would be expected from such a scheme, but we have called upon others to help in times of need, and have been very grateful when they have pointed us in the right direction.
What became very apparent once we started to show potential tenants and their families around the building, was the fact that we had not got everything right with regards to catering for dementia. However, and a big one at that, was that this was never meant to be a building that would only house people with dementia, and what has been highlighted to us is the growing need for a special type of housing to meet all kinds of needs.
With dementia in mind, we have painted corridors and landings different colours, with themed artwork on the walls and we have specialist dementia signage in place. There is a bistro and a hairdressing salon on the ground floor and a communal lounge which we hope will attract neighbouring residents, many of whom are over 55, to join in activities at the scheme.
There is a residents’ only lounge on the first floor, and a reminiscence room, complete with a range of 1950’s styled lounge furniture which has been designed to stimulate memory.
Along with 24 hour care staff, New Charter is providing a scheme manager who will be on site 36 hours a week to ensure the residents’ health and well being needs are catered for and to co-ordinate services and activities for the residents outside of their already identified care needs.
As we enter this new phase we are both excited and anxious about how it will all pan out. We know that there is the support out there that will help us to achieve what we set out to build – a housing scheme we can be proud of, at an affordable cost to its residents and one which will cater for individual needs.
If we were asked if we’d do it again? Yes, I’d like to think so.
New Charter formed in 2000 as the new landlords to own and manage homes transferred from Tameside council in Greater Manchester. With a turnover of £90 million a year and a workforce of 800, New Charter is one of the region’s largest registered providers of social housing. By incorporating Gedling Homes and Aksa Homes the Group owns around 18,600 homes. It came seventh in the 2012 Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Companies To Work For survey.