THE ALZHEIMER SERVICE AT ST MICHEAL’S HOUSE

Fidelma McManus and Vicky Blomfield describe one service’s response to the specific needs of service users with Alzheimer Disease. Fidelma McManus and Vicky Blomfield, St Michael’s House Services, Belcamp Dublin 15

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An exciting new service opened in Belcamp, Dublin, on the Malahide Road Extension as part of St Michael’s House Residential Services this February. The 10-bedded unit and attached day service will meet the needs of people with intellectual disability who develop Alzheimer Disease during their lives. The unit was formally opened by An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on the 25 March 2002. He paid tribute to the innovative design and thoughtful planning which had gone into the development of this unit.

The new unit is a state of the art building designed by Michael Mohan Architects and built by Halton Construction and funded through St Michael’s House and the Eastern Regional Health Authority. The building is based around two beautiful courtyards which provide safe but stimulating multisensory gardens for residents and those who attend the day service. There are ten individual bedrooms with shared bathrooms between the rooms. As well as sitting rooms and a large dining area, there is a family room and a jacussi/Parker bath facility. In the day service area there are two activity rooms, a sitting room and a multisensory room. For clinical use there are offices and a meeting room.

This unit is part of a three-stage development. The residential and respite beds are already fully in use. The day service is still in the process of development, although it is already used by those living in the unit. A third arm of service is being designed by the multidisciplinary team to support families and staff of service users in the early stages of dementia by providing education, information and some home care.

The service has been developed following two years of research carried out by St Michael’s House clinicians. Nowadays, people with intellectual disabilities generally live longer and healthier lives than in previous generations. However, some people may be at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Thus it has become imperative for an organisation like St Michael’s House to plan a response to meet the needs for people who do develop the illness. The design, building and staffing of the unit, with its further stages of development still to come, are the results of a number of years of research and planning.

The residential unit is staffed by a combination of nurses and care staff, with a housekeeper. There is a Person in Charge who is also part-time clinical nurse specialist, another innovation for St Michael’s House. The staff team work hard to provide a high-quality service individually tailored to meet the needs of each resident or respite user. Care plans are based on a multidisciplinary assessment of each resident and are regularly reviewed. There is a full multidisciplinary team composed of consultant psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, physician, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, and speech and language therapist. St Michael’s House is engaged in a process of quality accreditation in conjunction with the Council on Quality and Leadership in Supports for People with Disabilities—the Alzheimer Service works within that framework.

The unit’s partnership with the families and friends of its residents and service users is crucial to its success. There is close and regular communication with family members who call whenever they wish to visit their relative. Family members are involved in all decision making for their relatives and are consulted with at every stage of the illness. There are formal reviews as well as telephone and other contacts. There is a family room in the centre, with a limited facility for overnight stays if required. St Michael’s House is committed to working in close partnership with families to meet the needs of people with disabilities to the highest possible standard of care.

The Alzheimer Service is still in a development stage, but the building of the day and residential unit marks a real milestone in the journey towards providing a service for people with Alzheimer’s and intellectual disability. Revenue funding was obtained as part of a wider expansion process of residential services in St Michael’s House. It has been a great achievement to build and open this building, but there is still further work to be done. Many people with intellectual disability still languish on waiting lists or in inappropriate accommodation. St Michael’s House has taken the first step in addressing the very specialised requirements of some of their service users.

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