One in three people in Wales will end their lives with some form of dementia.
The comment from Sarah Rochira, the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, followed a tour of a new centre of excellence for dementia care that’s being built on the site of the former Bryn Seiont community hospital in Caernarfon, in Gwynedd.
The centre, Bryn Seiont Newydd (New Bryn Seiont), will provide 72 residential places, day care and outreach services as well as creating 100 new jobs in the area.
There are also plans for 16 companion living apartments as part of the £7 million development by the Pendine Park care organisation.
After visiting the site, Ms Rochira officially opened Pendine Park’s new recruitment and information office in High Street in the town centre.
Ms Rochira said: “The reality is that one in three of us will end our lives with some form of dementia.
“Dementia really is a game changer for us as individuals but also for our public services and others across Wales. We need to quickly wake up and realise that.
“Dementia is one of the biggest challenges that we face. But it’s really important to remember as well that, challenging as dementia is and I don’t underestimate that, the real thing we need to focus on alongside how we can prevent dementia better, is how we live lives with dementia because of course life is for living.
“Life is precious regardless of what health problems you face, and we need to ensure as a society that yes, safeguards and protects people with dementia, but more than that, upholds their rights.
“People with dementia have a right to live in a place that meets their needs but they have a right to life and laughter and love as well. All the things that matter to us, we should hold dear to those with dementia.
“The big challenge for us in Wales is how we ensure that people are supported to live well, as well as they can with dementia, and that those and this is really important, that there is care for people with dementia, that they get the support they need, so actually the price they pay doesn’t feel too high.
“I’ve just published a formal review into the quality of life and care of older people in care homes in Wales, published last year ‘A Place to Call Home’.
“Yes, a physical building is crucially important and the building I saw today, not yet complete but already looking superb. What a great example of what older people should have a right to.
“But it’s more than that isn’t it? It’s the people in the buildings, the training and support they have and one of the things
“What I’ve been so impressed with at Pendine Park is the enrichment programme and particularly the focus on arts, still ensuring that people with dementia are engaging, using their skills and their talents.
“Enrichment is an active based approach, seeing someone with dementia as a huge asset, still with knowledge and personality.
“What I saw and heard today about the enrichment programme was a great example of that.
“Bryn Seiont Newydd will be a huge asset to Wales and make a big difference to the lives of older people with dementia. It’s a place that people would actually call home.
“Fundamentally, that is what any of us would want when we grow older. We might not own the bricks and mortar but we all want to live in a place we can call home, where the people care about us, where we feel loved and we feel valued.
“It was a real privilege to come today. It might be half built but I can absolutely see the aspiration and the values behind it and I’m very much looking forward to coming back when it opens.”
Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE was grateful to Ms Rochira for sparing the time to visit Bryn Seiont Newydd which is due to open in the Autumn.
Mr Kreft, who is also the chair of Care Forum Wales, was awarded the MBE in 2010 for his contribution to social care in Wales and earlier this year he received a St David Award from the Welsh Government.
He said: “We really value the Commissioner’s input in championing the rights of older people who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
“We are committed to enhancing the quality of life for our residents through our enrichment programme which wholeheartedly embraces the arts as means of reaching out to people.
“Providing care and support to the growing number of people living with dementia in Wales and ensuring that they have the best possible quality of life, both now and in the future, will bring many challenges.
“We can only meet those challenges if we work together in partnership to tackle the situation head on in a spirit of collaboration.”