Five Years On
Vale House is the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to me and my husband.
I remember everything about my first visit on a dark, damp day in January 2014. The beautifully designed building with enormous windows and wide corridors, the cleanliness, the gardens and the sense of calm and then the kindness and professionalism of Tricia O'Leary. Then of course the awful following weeks...……………….would they take a strong 56 yr old man, who could be pretty challenging, smoked obsessively and had never even lasted for more than 5 minutes at any Day Centre? How would I manage all the admin? How would the SS assessment go, even if I could get us to the appointment? How would the home visit go? How could I possibly leave him there, even for the initial one night trial? But it all happened!
Vale House is not a sad place it's serene and smiley. The rooms are lovely and can be 'personalised' however you want. It is very well staffed with super well trained carers and nurses and an excellent visiting doctor. There is a kind and caring ethos, nothing fazes them and they listen, they've seen and heard it all before, but they make you feel unique and special. Regular meetings with the Directors and Trustees are there to inform and for anyone to raise any issues or concerns, they are patient and understanding. There are organised activities, beautiful music therapy, cinema afternoons, keep fit, massage, ice creams in the garden...……..none of which my husband has any interest in. But it's the other things that I notice that I think are special. Taking someone for a walk, sitting and playing a board game, painting and drawing, simply listening and giving someone time and treating everyone as an individual and sometimes just smiling and holding someone's hand.
I don't know how patients are funded...………people with advanced dementia are all in the same sad boat and at Vale House everyone is treated the same. It doesn't matter your race or background, what job you did or what you achieved before arriving, the care is exactly the same. Everyone can go to the hairdressers, see the podiatrist and have their nails painted and wear clean, daily laundered clothes and eat the same well prepared food. There's no 'fine dining' or Bistro here, it's not something my husband was bothered about when he was well why would he be interested now?
Unusually there are two family support workers who are hugely important to families and friends. As well as individual support, they run a regular club, which is both comforting and informative. They continue support long after someone has died, they, 'get it'.
To sum up, I wish I'd never even heard of Vale House, but given the circumstances, I so happy that I did and that it exists, it's made life bearable for the both of us.