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Fears for "exceptional" care home
As Durham County Council prepares to debate the future of five of its remaining care homes, STUART ARNOLD talks to the daughter of one elderly resident who has a very personal plea.
BORN in Australia before moving to the UK with her family when she was young, Doris Ayre spent 50 years living in the same home in Frosterley, County Durham.
A strong independent woman, the 93-year-old entered service at an early age and when her life was interrupted by the Second World War she became a sergeant in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Service (WAAF), the female auxiliary of the Royal Air Force.
In later life she was a lunchtime school supervisor and cared for her husband and own mother on a full-time basis when they became unable to care for themselves.
Like many elderly people, Mrs Ayre eventually succumbed to ill health and the decision was taken to move her into Newtown House, in Stanhope, the most remote of the five care homes for whom options are being considered by the council.
Daughter Pauline Robinson, who lives in Wearhead, County Durham, said: “It wasn’t easy for her to come to the decision to go in there.
“But it [the home] is exceptional. The staff are very helpful and caring and mam is finally settling there, 18 months after she moved in.
“It’s also a lovely setting and a lot of the rooms have just been newly decorated.
“We’d be very concerned if it closed.”
Mrs Robinson explained her mother’s numerous health problems.
She said: “She has problems with her sight, cataracts, she has got glaucoma and macular degeneration which means she can’t recognise faces until they are very close to her.
“She also has a real problem with her balance and has had a heart attack and several falls.
“She needs help to get around, help getting washed and dressed and help with her medication, which is given to her in the home.”
Mrs Robinson says she doesn’t drive and uses the bus to travel the near-ten mile journey from her home to Newtown House to visit her mother.
“I would find it very difficult to visit mam if she was moved anywhere else and there are other people in the same position with parents in Newtown House,” she said.
“I’d prefer it if the home stayed in the hands of the council. When people get to that age they don’t like change. This will be detrimental to my mother’s health.
“We would not have the freedom we now have if it was not for that generation and we need to do our best by them.”
Newtown House, which provides residential and respite care, was spared from the axe in 2010 – when seven other homes were closed – because of what the council said was a “lack of alternative provision in the area”.
However, a report to be considered by councillors next week claims there is “adequate provision” within a 15-mile radius of Stanhope – something of a U-turn in the council’s stance.
It admits that given the significant financial reductions the authority is now facing - £222m in savings need to be found by 2017 - it needs to re-consider the feasibility of continuing to provide residential care there.
The report cites the difference in costs between housing the elderly in council run homes and those in the private sector – £440 more expensive per resident per week in Newtown’s case – which does not represent value for money for the authority.
Nick Whitton, Durham County Council’s head of commissioning for children and adult services, said that while the authority appreciated Mrs Robinson’s concerns, “no decisions had yet been made”.
He said during any consultation great care would be taken to understand the views of service users, their families and carers and all the responses received would be taken into full consideration as part of the decision-making process.
Those who live and work at Newtown House can only hope that is the case.
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