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Joy and tears after vulnerable elderly spared trauma of moving

By Lisa Smyth

Tears and Champagne flowed in equal measure yesterday after it emerged that Oakridge Care Home in Ballynahinch would be staying open.

Staff and relatives were called to a meeting at the home yesterday morning where they were informed the much-loved facility would stay open because a buyer had been found who was willing to purchase it as a going concern.

Fighting back tears outside the home after the announcement, a visibly relieved Norma Shields from Dromore said that she was delighted to hear the news.

Both her parents, 89-year-old Norman and 85-year-old Kitty Russell, live at Oakridge.

Norma said: "It is difficult enough to find one place that provides elderly mental infirm care, but finding two places was proving almost impossible.

"I actually only found out the day after the announcement that Oakridge was going to close, and I've spent the past 10 days trying to find suitable alternative accommodation.

"My parents have been at Oakridge for two-and-a-half years and they are well looked after. This really is a home from home (for them), so I'm so happy that it's going to stay open. I'm numb, really."

Iris Walker, the wife of 77-year-old Jimmy Walker, also expressed her joy that her husband of 41 years would now not have to go through the trauma of a forced move.

"He's been here for nearly three years, so I was devastated when we were told the home was going to close," she said.

"Jimmy is so frail at the moment that the thought of moving him was very distressing. It was even worse news coming just before Christmas for the staff, the residents, for everyone."

Deborah Anderson from Lisburn was also at yesterday's meeting and spoke to the assembled media afterwards to welcome the development.

"My mother-in-law (is in the) advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease, so this is a huge relief," she said.

"It's really important that we know what is going to happen to her.

"The staff are so good. They know her and know when she is having a bad day, so we didn't want to have to move her.

"Change can really speed up the progression of the disease, and it's really upsetting because my mother-in-law doesn't know who she is, but she feels safe at Oakridge, and the staff know when she is being normal and when she isn't.

"We knew that if she had to move, she would be lost. But now we have peace of mind."

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