With its bright and airy corridors, soft colours and cosy rooms the new council-run care centre at Montfield is a world away from the hospital ward it once was.
The new “residential support centre” is now up and running and in the fortnight since it opened it has already attracted 10 residents, or “service users”.
The centre is a joint venture between NHS Shetland, which still owns the building and the SIC, and has been designed very much with the needs of the elderly in mind, although it is open to anyone over the age of 16 with an “assessed need”.
It is housed on the ground floor where a six-bedded ward used to be and will focus, said manager Ann Robertson, on “short stays and respite packages”.
The 15-bedroom centre is “less about permanent care” and more about “re-ablement and support” after a period of illness, helping people to feel confident about doing things for themselves prior to returning home or moving into sheltered accommodation. However longer-term stays are possible too and the service also offers palliative care, in common with other care centres. Hospital-level treatment is not provided, although there are close links with community and occupational therapy teams. The day hospital is still upstairs.
The centre can take up to 17 people – there are 13 single and two twin-bedded rooms to accommodate couples or people who want to be together, all ensuite – and helps them “see what they can recover to”.
To that end the atmosphere is made as homely as possible with no institutional feel whatsoever. There are pictures on the walls, throughout the centre, many from Shetland’s archives, to increase the welcoming atmosphere.
The pastel-painted bedrooms are spacious and airy, with different patterned duvet covers and blinds for the rooms, and pale beech wardrobes, chests of drawers and bedside cabinets to remind service users of home. Yet there is more to them than is immediately apparent – the furniture has rounded corners for safety and the large handles are designed to be easy to wipe clean.
There are also “memory boxes” outside the rooms, glass-fronted cabinets set into the walls in which residents can place their ornaments or photographs. These will help them identify their rooms – a high proportion of residents many have memory problems – and give “ownership” of the space.
Other aids, developed in conjunction with Stirling University’s dementia study, include wide painted lilac bands along the skirting boards which indicate various spaces. The bands stop in front of public areas and continues across areas for staff. Toning colours in reds and purples can also be seen above doors, as memory aids for service users.
More colours from a similar palette feature in the sitting room and dining areas, which have warm deep red walls and are smaller and more intimate spaces than is often the case – the dining room here has been likened by a visitor to a cafe.
Glass-fronted kitchen units show the contents of the various cupboards, and service users are invited to help themselves or make a cup of tea, either here or in a purpose-built smaller kitchen, whenever they feel like it.
“Everything is designed to keep a person independent as far as possible,” said service manager Ruby Whelan. Regimentation is clearly out, according to Ms Robertson, who said anyone staying at the centre can “get up when they’re ready, eat when they are hungry and maintain their norm”. In this way service users can keep their skills and ability to make decisions (with the 30-plus social care staff always at hand if needed).
Ms Whelan said: “Empowering service users is central to everything we do. There is a whole shift in health care from institution to [helping] individuals [stay] at home.”
Ms Robertson said the new centre forms the first part of the 120 extra care beds that will be needed over the next 20 years. “We’ve got to find new ways of [empowering] service users. We’re piloting that here.”