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Nursing home's closure will leave us devastated... we need to value people like my dad

By Stephanie Bell

The family of an elderly man who is in the advanced stages of dementia has spoken of their despair at the closure of his purpose-built care home at a time when levels of the illness are rising.

It took almost six months for 82-year-old retired Holywood businessman Michael Grainger to settle when he was moved to a care home earlier this year after being nursed by his family for five years.

His daughter Jenny Grainger (47), from Crossgar, said the family was devastated to learn this week that Oakridge Care Home where their father now lives is to close along with six other homes run by Four Seasons Health Care.

The thought of disrupting their elderly and frail father again so soon is a huge worry for his family, who chose Oakridge because it had the facility to care for him until the end of his life.

Jenny, who runs Freshstart Coaching, said: "I'm a business person and I understand a business has to be viable to run it, so I can sympathise with Four Seasons, but it is just so upsetting that our system is so poor that we are allowing facilities like this to close down.

"With the ever-increasing and very rapid rise of dementia and Alzheimer's - and it's going to get worse and worse - we should be looking at how to provide extra facilities, rather than take away what few we have.

"Oakridge is a purpose-built care home with 60 beds and is all geared up for elderly people, especially those with dementia, and to think the building will be left empty either for a developer to tear down or to go to rack and ruin like so many other buildings we have is a waste of money, energy and resources.

"I just wanted to speak out for the resource itself and not just for us as a family." Although she laments the loss of such an excellent facility there are real concerns now about not only finding a suitable place for their father, but also the impact on him when forced to move from a place where he feels safe and is well cared for.

The family - Jenny, her sister and brother - cared for their father for five years at home but his condition was deteriorating so rapidly that earlier this year they realised he needed professional care.

They chose Oakridge in the knowledge that as their father's condition continued to decline he could be given the nursing care and the end-of-life care he needed.

Jenny said: "We cared for dad at home and it was very challenging and difficult, but we held on as long as we could before putting him into care.

"Oakridge was perfect and dad has received amazing care there. Dad is quite easygoing, but because of his illness it did take a long time for him to settle and get used to it and to relax and trust the staff. Very few homes have end-of-life care and we believed dad was settled until he died.

"I also feel so sorry for the staff in the home. They are like angels. They have built up such close bonds with the residents and are so good to them that I really feel for all of them. It is terrible.

"Dad's condition is getting worse; he was always an outdoor person and I would take him for walks, but now just getting him dressed and taking him outside is a major stress for him and we no longer go for walks together.

"The thought of taking him out of a place where he feels safe and secure breaks my heart and the way dad's illness is progressing we think it is only a matter of months before he will need nursing care and we will have to move him again."

Jenny said her hope was that someone would step in and save Oakridge and take over what she described as a "fabulous facility".

She added: "We need to value our elderly people and make sure they are safe and cared for in their old age. What is happening is so unnecessary."

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