A CARE home is opening the region’s first specialist unit for residents suffering from memory loss caused by alcohol abuse.

The 17-bed unit has been set up within the existing Kingsway Care Home in Langley Park, near Durham City.

One of the main aims is to rehabilitate relatively young heavy drinkers and prevent as many as possible from spending the rest of their lives in old people’s homes.

Residents, who are expected to be aged 40 and over, will have access to modern facilities such as elearning and Nintento Wii, as well as table football and pool.

The owners of the care home – Advinia Health Care – already run similar units in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. It is understood to be the first unit of its kind to open in the North-East.

While there is no guarantee the unit will be fully occupied, it is anticipated that patients will be referred from the NHS, by local authorities and privately.

Heavy drinking is a major health problem in the North-East, which has some of the largest alcohol consumption rates in the country.

The new, nurse-led unit will care for residents diagnosed with a condition known as Korsakoff’s syndrome, or wet brain.

This is mainly caused by a combination of heavy drinking and a poor diet.

The main symptom is memory loss and the condition has been compared with dementia.

Memory loss can be halted by cutting out alcohol and adopting a healthy diet but this can take up to two years for any noticeable improvements to take place.

Jude Goode, general manager at Kingsway, said: “It is my passion to see that people who have alcohol- related brain damage don’t just get admitted to an ordinary care home and end up spending 40 years living with much older people, if they have some potential to be rehabilitated.

“We know that with enough rehabilitation about 25 per cent of people with alcohol-related brain damage can go back into the community, even if it is with a level of care.

“We are very pleased with our new facilities and are looking forward to welcoming our first residents from mid-April.”