Closure of dementia unit will have ‘catastrophic’ impact

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Families of residents of Slievemore Nursing Unit, which is facing closure, have hit out at the Western Trust’s decision to close the only dedicated NHS dementia unit in the city, describing it as “an insult” which has “piled agony upon agony” on them.

Families of residents of Slievemore Nursing Unit, which is facing closure, have hit out at the Western Trust’s decision to close the only dedicated NHS dementia unit in the city, describing it as “an insult” which has “piled agony upon agony” on them.

A decision was made by the Western Health and Social Services Trust to close the unit earlier this month. The decision has prompted an emotional and angry response from the families of four of the current residents who say they feel “powerless” and “bullied” by the Trust to make impossible choices about the future care of their loved ones.

“It has come to us to speak up for our loved ones as they can no longer speak up for themselves,” said Jane Dunton, whose husband, former teacher Tony Dunton, is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and has been resident at Slievemore for three years.

“We have grave concerns that private care facilities are simply not equipped to deal with someone in the advanced stages of dementia,” Jane told the ‘Journal’ yesterday.

“And we feel angry. Private care homes, in our experience, do not have the facilities to deal with people who are in such advanced stages of the illness. To move people who are at this stage in their lives - where we thought they would live out their days receiving the specialist care they require - is cruel.”

There are currently eight residents remaining at Slievemore Nursing Unit. Among them is Violet McConnell who, like Tony, is in the advanced stages of the illness.

Her son Paul spoke of his anger at the decision he now faces. “My family have considered Slievemore a centre of excellence when it comes to dementia care. We have never faulted my mother’s care and now we are facing sending her to a private care home where, in our view, she will receive no such specialist care.”

Andrea Kerlin’s father Andrew, who is just 64, is also a resident at Slievemore.

Andrea said: “Continuity of care is so important for patients with dementia. They are talking about moving these people to completely unfamiliar surroundings, with different carers, different patients - it’s just not right.

If they can’t find a bed now, they will move them to a temporary placement - it could have a catastrophic impact on his health.”

The Trust made the decision to close Slievemore Nursing Unit following an inspection from RQIA in January. A spokesperson for the Trust said: “Options are still being considered on how and where the service will be provided from in future.

“The Trust will continue to keep relatives and staff informed of any developments in the first instance.”

A spokesperson for the Western Trust said: “The Trust refutes any assertion that it is involved in bullying families of patients in Slievemore Nursing Unit.

“Slievemore is not a nursing home and if a patient as part of their care review now requires long term nursing care, it is appropriate and necessary to engage with patients where possible and relatives to discuss the options for moving to a nursing home as part of that next step to meeting their needs in the longer term.

“The Trust understands it is difficult for families to discuss options for their family member and staff are working with the relatives to support them through such a transition.

“If a patient or their relative has any issue in relation to their treatment we would encourage them to raise these issues through the Trust’s comments and complaints system - the Patients’ Advocate Office. All complaints received are investigated promptly and a response issued to the person making the complaint as soon as possible. The Patients’ Advocate Office can be contacted on 02871 611226.”

For more coverage of this story, also see the Sunday Journal this weekend.