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A lifeline for dementia patients in the community

TEAMWORK: Staff and residents of Bruce House in Duncairn Avenue, which provides a supportive and stimulating environment for people living with dementia TEAMWORK: Staff and residents of Bruce House in Duncairn Avenue, which provides a supportive and stimulating environment for people living with dementia
By Conor McParland

LOCATED in Duncairn Avenue, Bruce House is a residential home for people living with dementia run by Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
The home provides a bedroom for each resident, which is decorated to their personal taste. There are also homely communal areas and facilities such as a garden and hairdresser.
Staff members provide 24-hour care and support according to each resident’s assessed needs. Staff are trained in highly compassionate care and know how to communicate with a person with dementia.
One such staff member is Nuala Creaney, a Senior Support Worker at Bruce House, who explained more about the facility.
“Bruce House is an EMI unit for people who primarily have a diagnosis of dementia,” she said. “We currently have 25 residents who come from a wide range of backgrounds.
“Some have a lot of contact with family while some don’t for one reason or another.
“Our role is to provide care and support to provide them with a better quality of life.
“Bruce House is a respite for families and relatives of the patients. Our residents are permanent and they stay here until their needs change to needing nursing care.”
Bruce House also provides a range of social activities, thanks to the work of a voluntary activity coordinator with everything from group outings to memory exercises and arts and crafts. These activities aim to improve quality of life and allow social interaction between residents.
This week, the North Belfast News provided free copies of the newspaper for residents which Nuala says will go a long way to providing stimulation for dementia patients.
“Activities are very meaningful for residents to occupy their day and enrich their life while they are here,” she added.
“Dementia is a diminishing neurological disease. Reminiscence is a big thing, relating things to your own life.
“We take it for granted that we can sit down and read a newspaper. These people would have done that too.
“Newspapers can stimulate memories as a way of knowing what is going on in their own community back when they were growing up. It is a way of keeping them actively involved in their own community today.”
As for the disease itself, Nuala thinks there needs to be more information about dementia available to the public with diagnosis of the disease on the increase.
“Dementia can present itself in a number of different ways. It can be very difficult for their families. Patients hope is that they live at home for as long as possible but sometimes it is not possible for them to live at home any more. Dementia is very much on the rise and statistically is increasing to the rate of cancer. Within the next few years, it is estimated that one in four people will be affected by dementia in some capacity. It won’t be long before we all know someone affected by dementia.
“Not a lot of people know about dementia. It is often considered to be an older generational disease which is not true. It can affect people of all ages.
“Dementia also provides us with a major challenge which is the constraints of time. We have a large number of residents in a busy unit. The daily administration tasks that we have take up a huge amount of time.
“For people with dementia, it is about taking that extra time with the residents. Dementia patients need patience and time and cannot be rushed. It is a very cruel disease.
“It changes people and unfortunately a patient will not be who they once were.
“But there is help out there. Help and support is available from a number of organisations who specialise in dementia.
For the public, we need to educate ourselves more on dementia to allow us to help those affected by it.”

Bruce House,
Duncairn Avenue,
Belfast, BT14 6BP.
Tel: 028 9504 0570

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