Colten Care provides the ultimate in specialist care for our loved ones with dementia
If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia there will come a stage when you may have to face a very difficult step, when you realise or acknowledge that you can no longer cope.
Update and Introduction - January 2016
This article has been written for families who might find it hard to discuss the dreaded subject of care homes. It might also help some people who think everything about care homes must be negative, to read another perspective!
This is a true story and well worth a read. It is a very positive story about the incredible level of care provided by Colten Care staff in all Colten Care homes.
Alzheimers and the care home decision
My own story is probably fairly typical: mother diagnosed with Alzheimers in her very late 70’s, elderly father gradually finding it harder to cope but somehow managing to keep the struggle to himself, both of them initially "in denial", 3 of us daughters of whom only one local all with children of our own to care for, not really understanding what’s happening and all only able to help to a limited extent.
And then suddenly our father was too frail, the choices were stark and had to be made.
First they tried a live in carer but it is hard to adapt to a stranger in your home and it’s hard on one carer, on whom such a burden of responsibility falls. So both our parents moved to a local dementia care home which had a respite room available.
The basics of care: cleanliness, friendliness and kindness
To be fair the staff were kind, all the basics you’d expect were in place: cleanliness, friendliness and kindness. And there were activities which both our parents in their different ways could enjoy.
Already our mother seemed visibly to relax. It had been so hard at home – although Dad seemed to want to maintain independence and tried to keep upappearances, his stress had transferred to her. And people with Alzheimers especially at that relatively early stage, become very sensitive to mood.
Also new friends were made. That’s what people don’t realise – the move from own home to care home brings all sorts of unforeseen benefits!
But later on after our father died, we realised the local home we’d initially chosen simply wasn’t good enough for our mum all alone most of the time apart from a visit a couple of times a week from one or other of us daughters.
Residents seemed to be left alone for a long time especially when they were in their own rooms. There were occasional lapses in personal care too – one of which my sister discovered on arriving to visit, and was horrified. All the staff were busy. The answer was probably quite simple – in that home, at that time, the ratio of staff to residents just wasn’t high enough.
Colten Care specialist dementia care home
So still in the time before Linden House was built in Lymington we did our research, discovered Colten Care and moved Mum to St Catherines View specialist dementia care home in Winchester - on which Linden House was in many ways subsequently modelled.
More than 3 years on she is cocooned from danger and effectively wrapped in cotton wool since a fall last year when she broke her leg, surrounded by gentle voices and cared for by superhumanly kind people, she’s been in what they call the final stage of Alzheimers for some time now, and exists in a kind of in between world of her own.
For a long while she was still mobile, still able to converse with others, and I witnessed and shared many happy occasions and interactions, with the most amazingly caring kind staff you can imagine.
A veritable army of kind people at Colten Care, all devoted to the care of our vulnerable loved ones
And this is when you truly realise the benefit of a really good specialist dementia care home. First there is a well structured care team in each of the “houses” within the care home (maximum 11 residents share living and dining room and care team). Whatever their age and nationality they all speak clearly in English and have wonderful caring personalities as well as a very high level of training in care. The main house team is supported by an army of other staff from nursing to activities to catering to domestic. And they are all, to a person, kind and caring people.
And everything is so well organised with rotas and breaks, that everybody has enough care to go around, all the time they’re on duty!
And when occasionally a very special one leaves, to our relief and actually, sometimes our amazement, his or her role is immediately replaced by an equally caring loving team member.
I could say far more about all the amazing things these wonderful people do day and night to ensure that the residents in their charge are cared for and given companionship and love. Please feel free to ask me for specific information if it's relevant to you.
Our mum now spends most of her days as well as her nights in bed because she is very sleepy. In fact she’s always loved being in her bed. And what a comfy safe cot bed this is which can be raised in all sorts of different ways and with a brilliant mattress– I know because I frequently climb in and have a little doze next to her, I’m usually exhausted when I visit and it’s lovely for us both, to have that physical contact.
(She’s never had any discomfort, bedsores don’t exist in a Colten Care home – the turning routines and the quality of the mattresses makes sure of that.)
Contented and happy – cosseted and cared for in every way imaginable
When I visit I’m normally there through a mealtime and will personally spoon feed the liquid food and thickened drink (for reasons of safety to avoid choking). These would otherwise be patiently administered on a very regular basis by one of the carers, to the accompaniment of gentle chatter. The process takes quite a long time as you can imagine. But Mum could still enjoy this year's birthday cake - mixed with cream!
And thanks to the superhuman level of care provided by the wonderful Colten Care team with their gentle voices and the loving kindness they display every minute of every day towards our precious relatives – our mum is happy. Her mysterious conversations with the wall next to her bed are comfortable chats with her own parents, old friends and lovers from long ago, who knows, sometimes the names mentioned ring no bells with us. In fact many of the words are nonsense now but occasionally a whole sentence is crystal clear and sometimes, it’s directed towards you - and it’s a joy even if short lived, to experience real communication once again.
If you can see your loved one is content, it goes a long way to assuage the guilt that you can’t do it yourself. But this is much more than that.
An extension of life itself, a blessing
It’s like an extension of life – literally thanks to the level of care. If our mum had remained in the first care home my sisters and I are convinced she would have left us a long time ago. And this is a strange subject, which you have to consider carefully. A good care home is expensive, it will potentially eat up ALL the inheritance. And you might think you would not want to be there yourself, you want a pill for when that time comes – I know I say I do. But when it comes to it, when it’s your mum still looking elegant and speaking with her beautiful voice even if the words make no sense to us (they do to her), and she’s so clearly content in her little cocooned world, you can start to believe that it was meant to be, that she should have this special period of life when everybody is geared to HER comfort and joy rather than her having to attend to everybody else’s.
So there we are.
Peace of mind with Colten Care specialist dementia care
If you want the peace of mind knowing your loved one is the best cared for that he or she could possibly be, I simply cannot recommend Colten Care highly enough. Quality care comes at a price for sure, and we’re fortunate that our father had savings and pension sufficient to meet the cost so far. But I’m confident that when this phase is past and we have only our memories of our mum, we will have no regrets about the choices we eventually made for her.
Jane Porter, December 2015