Derry girls campaign to transform Alzheimers care through Dementia villages

A Derry woman is on a mission to transform Alzheimer's care through the opening of Dementia Villages in Derry and throughout Northern Ireland. 

Kerri Connolly, who is from the Whitehouse area, said she started the campaign after her grandfather Johnny Connolly was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia.

The former care worker also said that after working in the sector, there was "no doubt" those in need of the care are "well-looked after" but often time they are left "feeling alone and isolated".

Inspired by a Dutch ‘household’ care model, dementia villages are long-term care homes that resemble villages and are designed for people with advanced dementia.

Living in small households, residents can continue day-to-day activities in a safe and social environment.

An Action Storm petition which was started earlier this week already has over 1,500 signatures so far.

Ms Connolly plans on sending the petition with a letter to Health Minister Robin Swann in the coming weeks.

"I am not trying to say that people with dementia in care homes are not getting the care they deserve, they are," Kerri told MyDerry .

"People do a brilliant job looking after people who have been diagnosed with dementia but for a lot of them they are put into these facilities and essentially they're ending their life with their brains just rotting away.

"That doesn't sound like something nice to say, and it isn't, but what I am trying to say is that we can give these people a better life."

She added: "In the Netherlands, there is a dementia village which was opened in 2009 after 14 years of planning, why can't we do something similar here?

"It would be a gated community where dementia patients and healthcare professionals live.

It has things like a cinema, restaurants, shops, launderettes and basically like any other village it has apartments looking onto the pond’s courtyards, flowers and fountains.

"Whenever you pictured that your mind, it is just beautiful.

"It would also allow for health care professionals to dress in their street clothes and blend in with the patients and cook and clean and look after everyone.

"When I worked in a care home, there was one resident who had gone for hip surgery. When they were in the hospital, they were using walking aids with two carers or nurses to walk around but as soon as they came out of the hospital into the care home again, they were sat in their room, where they wanted to be, and only ever walked to the bathroom or their bed.

"This was because of the high demand of other residents on carers."

"This would be why it would be such a good idea for a dementia village. Patients can go and do what they want and if they do need help, they can get help from trained professionals."

The 20-year-old said the challenges presented through her grandfather's illness made her want to research more about the idea.

"My grandfather suffers from dementia and there are times whenever he likes to get out and go to the post office or credit union and because of his illness, he can no longer go himself.

"My granny isn’t well enough to walk him there herself she has to call one of her children to take him which means she has to try to distract him whilst waiting on them. This can make him confused and agitated.

"There was one day where he went wondering and he got all confused. He didn't know where he was or where he lived. Two children from the area noticed that and they notified a neighbour who told them where he lived.

"This is happening all across the country in families who need support or maybe they don't want to put their loved one into a care home.

"That's why I am putting forward this idea. I fear putting my grandparents into a nursing home due to a lack of resources and rehabilitation there.

"We can demand better for the older generations and something like this I believe would be worthwhile."