A NEW £7 million flagship dementia centre in Caernarfon has set the standard in the UK for others to follow.
That was the verdict of leading experts in the field of social care who gave the seal of approval to Bryn Seiont Newydd following a guided tour.
The ground-breaking centre of excellence, which is fully bilingual, has just been opened on the site of a former Ysbty Bryn Seiont community hospital in the town’s Pant Road by the award-winning Pendine Park care organisation.
Sixty local people have been employed already and a further 40 will be recruited next year.
There are also plans to create 16 companion living apartments aimed at enabling people to stay independent, thanks to the support available on their doorstep.
It is the brainchild of Pendine Park proprietors Mario Kreft MBE and his wife, Gill, who invited three of Wales’s leading authorities in social care to visit the home just days after it welcomed its first residents.
The top trio of experts included Professor Tony Bayer, who heads up the Department of Geriatric Medicine at Cardiff University, Steve Milsom, former Deputy Director of Older People and Long-Term Care at the Welsh Government, and Gabe Conlon, a consultant with more than 35 years of experience in health and social care who has worked with local authorities and health providers across the UK.
Professor Bayer, who is also Director of the Memory Team at University Hospital Llandough and has a longstanding clinical and research interest in cognitive impairment and dementia, said after being shown around Bryn Seiont Newydd: “I believe this centre is setting the standard which should be the norm for this kind of care.
“The level of care provided here is very high but seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
“I have been struck by the fact that it has staff who are actually smiling and also by the very relaxed atmosphere. In fact, it has the sort of atmosphere I would personally like to have if I came into care.
Professor Bayer, who initiated one of the earliest memory clinics in the UK in 1986 and has continuing research interests in assessment and delivery of quality care to older people, added: “I have also been impressed by the non-clinical, homely atmosphere along with the bilingual nature of Bryn Seiont Newydd and the way this seems to be working so well in practice.”
Professor Bayer’s view of the centre as a benchmark for dementia care was shared by Steve Milsom, who has worked in the social care field for almost 20 years and completed a review on Pendine’s training and enrichment programme for his post-retirement PhD earlier this year.
He said: “The centre could set the standard for dementia care across Wales.
“It has been a pleasure to come here to see how it has been purpose built for the people it is going to care for.
“It provides a fabulous environment which aims to give people a good quality of life.
“A place like this is all about living and not dying and thought has obviously gone into meeting its residents’ needs.
“With dementia growing so rapidly in the population we have got to be planning for the future. This centre is a step ahead in anticipating what we need for the future.”
Mr Milsom, who played a central national role in the development and implementation of the groundbreaking Strategy for Older People in Wales and Commissioner for Older People, added: “We can’t claim to be an advanced society unless we treat people with dementia in a compassionate way and I’d be happy to have my own parents cared for here.
“Bryn Seiont Newydd is down to vision and leadership as is apparent from the other Pendine Park homes I have evaluated.”
Also impressed by what he was shown on the visit was Gabe Conlon, who served as assistant director and then acting director of social services in Cardiff in the late 1990s and was also business manager with the Association of Directors of Social Services to the Welsh Government before setting up his own social care consultancy called Practice Solutions.
He said: “I was struck by the size and space of the home and its welcoming aspect.
“A lot of thought has been given to the layout and the environment.
“Also, a lot of regard has been taken of the sort of clientele it will have.
“This is a value-based organisation committed to the delivery of best quality to a very vulnerable group of people.
“I am impressed that it’s a community based asset and should be of great value to the area.”
Mr Conlon, who is a special advisor to Action on Elder Abuse and an ambassador for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), added: “The challenge is to relate to an increasing number of people in an ageing population who need support and compassion at a time in their life when their abilities may be waning.
“The centre’s capacity to support families is also obvious.
“The vision here to invest in terms of capital and energy is praiseworthy.”
Proprietor Mario Kreft MBE said of the visit: “I was delighted to welcome some very knowledgeable people in the field of social care.
“It was good to see Professor Bayer coming up from Cardiff University. He is a leading figure in Wales and I was very keen to take his view on what we are trying to provide here in Gwynedd and it seems it was very favourable.
“Gabe Conlon has long experience of looking at social care from the local government perspective.
“We have to work very closely with our colleagues in local councils, so having the views of someone like him was very important to us.
“It’s always a great pleasure to welcome Steve Milsom to Pendine as he has been involved in evaluating our enrichment programme with Swansea University and I hope that work is going to continue.
“The arts will play an important part of life in Bryn Seiont as they do at all our other homes and we are keen to support community based arts initiatives like the Tonic concerts at Galeri in Caernarfon which will continue next year.
“We are particularly proud that we were named as Arts and Business Cymru Business of the Year 2015 in recognition of our commitment to the arts as a means of improving the quality of life for the people for whom we provide care.”