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Bridge House Care Home, Abingdon

Sarah Heyworth talks about her father's depression and dementia, and the journey the family have been on for the right care
We didn’t like the idea of a fulltime carer at home. It would mean him seeing so few people, getting so little stimulation...

My happy, contented father Richard, slipped into depression in 2012. 

My brother and I made a real effort to see him as much as possible and we engaged  a part-time carer.

It worked for a few months, but it became clear that my father’s absent mindedness was turning into something more difficult – and his safety was in doubt. Most worryingly, he stopped taking medication for his diabetes and blood pressure.  Once he was convinced that he must take them, it was impossible to work out if he had taken too many pills or none at all.

Then his dementia was confirmed and he could no longer live alone.

My brother and I had assumed  that he would one day live with one of us – but we hadn’t realised how difficult it would be for our families with someone who needed fulltime care. We felt really dreadful that we couldn’t take this on – but we didn’t like the idea of a fulltime carer at home. It would mean him seeing so few people, getting so little stimulation.

We had heard that care homes were expensive, but having a fulltime carer seemed only a little cheaper, so we set out to look at homes.

We saw nine, some had a real sense of caring, others lovely surroundings, but no apparent ‘heart’.

We loved Bridge House straight away. June, the manager had a good understanding of dementia and great empathy with the residents. Whilst she showed us the airy, bright, well-kept rooms, all the residents’ eyes lit up as they saw her passing! I was convinced that my dad would love the ambiance – surroundings really matter to him and Bridge House is elegant and spacious. He moved in.

I had thought that he would love all the activities on offer, but his confidence was low and he wasn’t sure how to communicate. Now really confused – his dementia seemed to set in. His past became the here and now.

All the staff were first class – endlessly patient and calm but it was the outstanding activities co-ordinator Chantelle, who made the breakthrough. She took the time to read an autobiography my father had written. She found the triggers – music and sport – to win him over. She arranged a trip to watch a cricket game (with a pint of beer added in!) and one day I received a photo showing him on a Bournemouth beach enjoying an ice cream – a broad grin on his face!

My dad has been at Bridge House for a year. He has dementia, but he is living a full, happy life.  There is no sign of the depression that had gripped him before.


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