Residential home closures spark upset in the elderly

ELDERLY residents have been left in tears over plans which could mean the closure of their residential home and the “tearing apart” of their community in their final days, the staff who care for them have revealed.

Despite a happy history at the council-run Caemaen residential care home in Llanelli, the announcement that the home could be axed is said to have upset pensioners in the twilight of their lives.

Extra emotional and psychological support has had to be given to the residents.

Care home staff spoke exclusively to the Star this week about the emotional upset caused by the controversial move.

The move has sparked a 10,000 name petition opposing the closure of a number of care homes in the county, including St Paul’s in Llanelli.

Carmarthenshire Council says that, in response to changing needs and wishes, it wants to change the way it cares for the elderly, putting more emphasis on helping to people live independently.

It claims to have “an excellent record in minimising the effects to residents moving care homes”.

But in the last years of their lives, some residents at Caemaen have been hit hard by the uncertainty over where they are going to end up, say staff.

Senior support worker, Rosalind Pitt, said before closure was first suggested towards the end of last year, the atmosphere at the home was good.

“It has been a very happy place to work, that’s shown in the turnover of staff.

“There has been a very low turnover of staff. Many staff have been here 20 years and many staff 15 years.

“Residents have been very happy. We very rarely have anybody who has wanted to move somewhere else,” she said.

“It came as quite a shock last November because that’s the first we heard of it.

“Up until then we were on the investment programme. At what point that changed we don’t know.

“They (the residents) are all very concerned.

“They speak to the staff about their concerns and worry about where they will go and where they will land up.

“And they say that they don’t want to go. They keep saying that constantly.

“Some of them do get visibly upset. We try and allay their fears as best we can.

“They are definitely united with the staff and the support group. They have been the backbone, fantastic.”

Care home manager Pippa Wheel said: “There is a big time gap from hearing in November this home is possibly up for closure to now.

“The amount of distress, that continuing fear in the back of your mind, that you might lose your home again, has been devastating for these elderly people.

“We have noticed that we are giving extra support to people emotionally and psychologically because people have been very distressed and it is the fear of the unknown — what’s going to happen to me? Where are we going if this home closes? Are we going to go with people we have known for X number of years or are we going to go on our own?”

In a statement issued by the council, social care director Bruce McLernon, said: “The authority has an excellent record in minimising the effects to residents moving care homes and works closely with residents and their relatives to support them when such a move is necessary.

“In all cases, a closure plan and protocol programme is drawn up, ensuring all are consulted and advised of the options available throughout the process.

“The council is committed to providing first class care for people in Carmarthenshire and we will continue to work to provide better standards and facilities.”