Families fight back over Bield care home closures

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The Scottish Government should intervene to stop 167 vulnerable elderly people being moved from closure threatened care homes, say relatives

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23rd November 2017 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

Families of around 167 vulnerable old people who are being evicted from their care homes have launched a campaign calling for them to remain open.

The Keep Bield Care Homes Open campaign has attracted more than 4,000 signatures on a 38 Degrees petition created by Laura Owens.

It follows the announcement from third sector housing provider Bield Housing that it will close 12 homes across Scotland the next 18 months.

Owens, whose grandmother will be forced to leave her Falkirk home, says many of the vulnerable residents will have nowhere else to go because of a shortage of care home places.

Another relative has posted a video on Facebook of her grandmother who has dementia (see right). The 81-year-old has lived in Bo’ness her whole life. As the town doesn’t have any other care homes, she would have to move to one further from her family or try to manage living independently again.

When asked how it makes her feel that the care home she’s lived in for the last three years is to close in March, she says: “It makes me feel kind of useless. There’s nothing I can do.”

Under the post her granddaugther Ashley Ann Holleran says: “Sadly, my Nana's mental state got to a point where she was no longer able to live on her own. She was hallucinating and petrified and I vividly remember having her in my bed with me and rocking her to sleep.

“After an initial settling in period [at Woodlands Residential Care in Bo’ness, run by Bield] she has gone from strength to strength and over time, and on occasion, we see that wee spark that we know the 'old yin' is still in there. She has bonded with other residents and has a comfortable room, decorated with some of her home comforts, looking out to the woods and often has little squirrels coming to visit at the window.

“It is the perfect place for her in these circumstances, and as a family we can rest easy knowing she is well looked after, just along the road.”

Owens and Holleran are part of a team of 16 families of people living in homes across central Scotland who have written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asking her to intervene.

They argue that moving vulnerable elderly people against their will is in violation of their human rights. The campaigners are calling on the Scottish Government to step in and keep the care homes open until a new provider can be found.

“We are all just ordinary citizens who are appalled that in a modern progressive Scotland, which has a government that promotes the ideas of social justice, that this situation can be allowed to occur,” said Owens.

“Moving home is one of life’s most stressful events; even for those who are young, in good health and the move in question is out of choice. Imagine the stress it will put these residents under who are elderly, frail, totally dependent on outside agencies and are being forced to do so against their will.

"We know that patient with dementia, for example, will find this particularly stressful as they must re-orientate themselves to a new and strange environment and they do not have the cognitive processes to understand what has happened to them. Even those with physical illness such as asthma and heart disease can have these conditions worsen due to the stress of the forced move.”

The group has also submitted a report to the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee, which is due to discuss the closures at its meeting on Tuesday, 12 December.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This will be an unsettling time for all residents, families and employees affected by Bield’s announcement.

“We’re working with the relevant agencies to ensure that plans are put in place to ensure residents’ care needs continue to be met in an appropriate setting."

The group has also started a dedicated Facebook page called Help Keep Bield Care Homes Open.

Charlie Dickson, director of Housing and Care Services at Bield, said: “The decision to close our care homes was not one that was taken lightly and was very much a last resort option for Bield.

“We understand people’s concerns and how stressful a time it will be for many residents and their families, and therefore the reasoning behind the 38 Degrees petition.

“The wellbeing of our residents remains of the paramount importance to us. We are working hard to ensure that all residents are prepared as best as possible ahead of the closure.

“Those impacted by the changes have been advised and in the coming weeks and months we will be holding consultation meetings to communicate the reasons for the decision and discuss what options are available to those affected – with the aim of minimising the impact as far as possible.

“We would urge any family member or tenant who is not already speaking with our team to get in contact to discuss the process and the various options available to them.”