Opinion: Commitment to pioneering initiative at redeveloped Osborne Grove is great news

Mary Langan (SCALD) says it is vital the Osborne House redevelopment is guided by rigorous academic

Mary Langan (SCALD) says it is vital the Osborne House redevelopment is guided by rigorous academic research. - Credit: Archant

In her widely acclaimed new book, What Dementia Teaches Us About Love, author Nicci Gerrard observes that dementia is “a disease that progresses out of sight” – in kitchens and bedrooms, hospitals and care homes.

She notes that the "unravelling of self" in dementia can be devastating to individuals and their families, resulting in loneliness and desolation extending beyond the affected person, causing increasing vulnerability and dependency.

Dementia associated with ageing is a special concern for people with learning disabilities and autism and other complex conditions, who are already a vulnerable group.

In Haringey we have both an ageing population and an increasing number of adults with a range of disabilities and complex needs.

This is why I am delighted to be involved in a pioneering initiative to include specialist nursing accommodation, intermediate care and support for older people with learning disabilities at the redeveloped Osborne Grove Nursing Home.

The council is planning to make significant investment in renovating the building and to learn from best practice in terms both of design and of care and support.

The aim is also to develop a social and community space which will be available to the wider community to reduce social isolation, offer meaningful activities and help people to remain living in their own homes where this is appropriate.

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We particularly welcome Haringey Council's commitment to this project, in partnership with local NHS services, because only two years ago, under the former council leadership, Osborne Grove, in Stroud Green, was threatened with closure.

As chairwoman of the Haringey Severe and Complex Autism and Learning Disabilities reference group (SCALD), which supports and represents families with a member with challenging behaviour, I am also delighted that the council is supporting a proposal for research into the particular needs of this group in the borough.

We recognise that ageing people with complex needs may experience increasing debility and deteriorating health and mobility - as well as dementia - in conditions of social isolation, causing distress to them and their carers. We are also acutely aware of the facts that around half of adults with learning disabilities and autism in Haringey depend on family carers and that 60 per cent of family carers are over the age of 70.

It is vital that the redevelopment of Osborne Grove is guided by rigorous academic research to ensure that the new services meet the requirements of this community and have the flexibility to adjust to changing needs.

Nicci Gerrard insists that people with dementia can "live well" but emphasises that ensuring that old people avoid "loneliness, loss and desolation" is a "collective responsibility".

This is all the more true for those who may have experienced many years of cognitive impairment, before the onset of dementia in old age. Let's hope that the spirit of collective responsibility continues to thrive in Haringey.