Preparing for dementia care

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A secure dementia unit will be opened at Iona Rest Home & Hospital in August in response to expected future demand.

Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO), which runs the rest-home, announced yesterday it would be converting a hospital-care section of Iona into a secure dementia unit with 14 rooms and an enclosed courtyard.

Iona manager Steph Leith said it would be exciting to be able to offer a wider spectrum of care.

“It’s just responding to the future needs of older people.”

Oamaru had an ageing population and people were living longer, therefore, more would need this type of care, she said.

Residents in the unit that is slated for conversion had been consulted and would be moved to other parts of the rest-home before work starts.

The rooms would need to be refurbished, security increased and the courtyard upgraded but no major renovations would need to be done, Mrs Leith said.

PSO board chairman David Richardson said the proposed changes would be a positive move that would better meet the needs of the community.

“We will convert 14 rooms from hospital level care to rest-home level dementia care, which means the increasing number of Oamaru residents needing such support will no longer have to leave the district.

“It also means Iona, which is one of the very few homes in New Zealand to hold top-level certification from the Ministry of Health, will be able to offer continuum of care to its residents.”

The number of people in New Zealand requiring dementia care is expected to be around 75,000 within the next 10 years and PSO are experiencing pressure to provide dementia care not only in Oamaru but throughout Otago, he said.

“However, because of Oamaru’s more urgent needs we will meet that demand here before expanding services elsewhere.”

PSO chief executive Gillian Bremner said the unit would be spacious and the courtyard would provide residents with a safe outdoor environment.

“PSO experience in caring for those with dementia has proven that when residents are given plenty of well-lit space to walk around, their anxiety levels drop and they tend to interact more with others.”

The unit would provide a range of suitable activities including memory books that would be able to be referred to by residents, staff members and visitors.

“Residents find comfort in certain memories and the responses triggered enable us to engage in a more meaningful way with the resident,” she said.

Work on the new unit is due to start in the next four to six weeks and the first of the new residents are expected to be in by mid-August.

PHOTO: RUBY HARFIELD  – Iona Rest Home & Hospital staff, from left, Robyn Hayes, Liz Stanford, Steph Leith, Rachel Rankin and Anne Sutherland in the courtyard that will be part of the secure dementia unit.