New Cork dementia care village will be 'home away from home'

A new Memory Care Village in East Cork will provide a haven and a home away from home for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, reports CHRIS DUNNE
New Cork dementia care village will be 'home away from home'

HAVEN: Artist’s impression of how the completed Memory Care Village in East Cork will look.

IMAGINE having your own front door and your very own private gardens overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, with stunning views of the Galtees, Knockmealdown and Comeragh Mountain ranges.

Residents with dementia, living in the new family-owned, multi-million euro Memory Care Village, set to open in East Cork in 2020, will have that plus access to a spa, gym, hair salon, and an art studio in the 10 acre ‘home away from home’.

The project, an expansion of Oaklodge in Churchtown South, was launched recently by Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly.

“Eight to ten houses will each provide shared accommodation and a garden for about seven residents, each with individual, private bedrooms, while sharing communal areas, explained Diarmuid O Dálaigh, who is the proprietor of Oaklodge.

“Residents can enjoy activities together such as baking in the kitchen and gardening outside,”

“The care home’s expansion is due to an increase in demand, with a rise in the number of older people living with dementia in Ireland,” says Diarmuid.

“And it is also in response to the Government’s call earlier this year to develop more independent living spaces for older people in care.”

Opened in 2015, Oaklodge nursing home recently received a 100% full compliance rating from HIQA. It comprises a general care unit and a specialised Alzheimer’s/dementia programme and unit.

“Everyone will have a role to play in the village, interacting and connecting with the people around them, having a reason to get up in the morning,” says Diarmuid.

The Memory Care Village is modeled on overseas enterprises such as the Greenhouse Model and the Eden Alternative in the USA, and also on Amsterdam’s Hogeweyk dementia village, all of which have proven to be highly successful.

“Community-based living, connecting with each other and helping each other cannot be over-valued,” says Diarmuid, who lives in Carrigtwohill.

The Oaklodge Memory Care Village was partly inspired by a community support culture on the Blasket Islands. Islanders in decades past supported and depended on each other while remaining close to nature and to God.

Construction of the village, adjacent to Oaklodge Nursing Home, which is 6km from Cloyne, will start later this year with a 15- month time-scale.

“Our staff will be on hand to help residents with everything from cooking to bathing, to personal care, medication requirements and for exercise programmes, as well as other activities,” says Diarmuid.

Diarmuid Ó Dálaigh, proprietor of Oaklodge Nursing Home. with his family, Naoise, Breanainn, Siun, Julie and Finin at the announcement of the new Memory Care Village. 
Diarmuid Ó Dálaigh, proprietor of Oaklodge Nursing Home. with his family, Naoise, Breanainn, Siun, Julie and Finin at the announcement of the new Memory Care Village. 

“We envisage the care village as a high quality place to live, and already we are receiving significant interest in the project.”

The scheme marks the first major nursing home project in Ireland to be built in accordance with the Minister’s new 40-point policy on ‘Housing Options for our Ageing Population’.

The policy seeks to re-align care for Alzheimer’s and dementia away from a clinical, institution-led approach to a more person-centred option that recognises greater independence and empowerment for those in care.

“The residents will have their own front door and their own garden,” says Diarmuid. “Giving them a greater sense of independence.

“And every resident can enjoy living in a village environment, whilst having the comfort of full nursing home care.

“There is proven research that such a setting will reduce stress and enhance dignity and happiness.”

Diarmuid says residents living in the care village will enjoy a homely atmosphere.

“The seven to ten planned bungalows will have a homely manner, offering wonderful care in the right environment.

“We want to create the warm ambience of village life as much as possible,” adds Diarmuid. “The project has been very well received.”

Oaklodge will double in size and it will increase its capacity from 24,000 square feet to 56,000 square feet, increasing from 65 beds to 120 beds.

The care village, designed by Irish architects, Scott Tallon Walker, will also feature a chapel, and will embrace a circular design.

“Dead-end designs can cause confusion and trauma to dementia sufferers,” explains Diarmuid. Clearly, no stone has been left unturned in the plans.

Additionally, staff workers in the various village businesses will also be trained in dementia care to help those with Alzheimer’s and with dementia, go about their day in a more positive and stimulating way. Day-care and community out-reach facilities will also be available.

“We all want the best care possible for our loved ones in the future,” says Diarmuid.

“This whole development will enable us to offer the best service for a variety of needs for those with Alzheimer’s or with dementia. There is nothing of this scale in Ireland.”

The innovative and award-winning care home also works with local and international dieticians and nutritionists like Jane Clarke, from Nourish, and Ballymaloe to create the best foods and diet for older people to prevent and slow down the ageing process.

Minister Daly hailed the Memory Care Village scheme, which will provide 55 new jobs in the area, as re-imagining care for the elderly.

“I look forward to witnessing the development of more state-of- the art homely style living units that will meet the needs of residents and enable them to live with the care and dignity they require and deserve while maximising their independence.

“I hope this is replicated elsewhere in the country.”

Ireland has an estimated 55,000 people living with dementia, with 11 new cases reported every day.

Oaklodge specialises in care for persons living with memory loss.

“We wanted to lead the way in offering new person-centred care options to empower people with this condition,” says Diarmuid.

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