Just typing those words seems wrong. A ‘care home’ makes me thinks of old people sitting around in mis-matched armchairs gazing blankly into space. I know that’s not what all care homes are like – I visited half a dozen not so long ago when looking for accommodation for an elderly great-aunt – but that is the image that is conjured up in my mind.
In reality, of course, the care home is not like that at all. Far from it. After a drive of 45 minutes on a bright, sunny day I found myself at a large, detached Edwardian villa on the outskirts of a seaside town. It had been adapted to provide accommodation for up to 7 young adults on the autistic spectrum.
My overall impression was of a light, spacious house which consisted of: a communal lounge containing comfy sofas and armchairs for watching TV; an adjoining dining area equipped with several small tables and chairs where guests (or – as they have to be referred to by council staff – ‘service users’) could take their meals; a sensory room; a computer room; a communal kitchen where guests are encouraged to make their own drinks and join in with the preparation of meals; a wetroom and 3 ground floor bedrooms suitable for use by those with mobility issues. Upstairs were a further 4 bedrooms all with their own washbasins; a separate shower room and a bathroom.
Outside the garden was large with lawned areas, a pond, a summerhouse, seating areas, mature trees and flowerbeds: perfect for Harry’s obsession with sticks! I could easily envisage him pottering around quite happily in the sunshine.
We spent a great deal of time discussing Harry’s individual likes and dislikes, routines and behaviour. It seemed to me that staff would endeavour to accommodate Harry’s interests wherever possible. Activities available included Wii, computer games, DVDs, jenga, jigsaws, board games and barbecues. The home is located within walking distance of several pubs and shops and Harry would be able to go to the cinema if he wished.
At several points during the discussion I found myself getting quite emotional as staff commented on how lovely Harry sounded and that they were looking forward to meeting him. They expressed surprise that we hadn’t accessed respite care for him before. As I explained how easy-going and laid back Harry was I found myself wondering the same thing.
Although there were seven rooms these were not all occupied all the time so the mix of people would change over the course of the fortnght. In August, when Harry would be staying, we discovered that he would know several of the other guests who had been recent leavers from his current school. It was good to know that he would see some familiar faces whilst ‘on holiday’.
In my research I had found that the weekly cost of a stay at the home in 2009 was £233 so when we finally discussed costs it was with some relief that I learned Harry’s funding package from Adult Services would easily cover his stay.
By the end of my visit 2 hours later my mind had been put at ease. We agreed on a series of familiarisation visits starting with a Sunday afternoon trip in a few weeks’ time. In short, I was so taken with the place I’d have happily booked myself in and you can’t say better than that!