New respite service to give carers a much-needed break

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SOUTH Tyneside’s growing army of dementia carers can have a much-needed break after a patient champion took up their cause with council chiefs.

A new pre-bookable respite care service has been launched at three care homes in the borough after Healthwatch South Tyneside highlighted the plight of hard-pressed carers struggling to find facilities offering suitable support.

Six new beds have been allocated at the St Thomas Complex, South Shields, The White House Nursing Home, Jarrow and Willowdene Nursing Home, Hebburn, both for dementia sufferers and people with other debilitating illnesses.

A study released by the The Alzheimer’s Society in September revealed that 2,128 people in South Tyneside suffer from the degenerative brain disease – one in 80 people.

There are 16,700 official carers in the borough, but it is believed the number could be double or even triple this.

After the issue of poor respite care provision was raised by carers at South Tyneside Alzheimer’s Association, watchdog group Healthwatch South Tyneside commissioned a report which surveyed all 29 care homes in the borough.

It found that only seven could offer respite care beds bookable more than a week in advance, and even these beds could not be guaranteed as they could be called on for last minute admissions.

The findings were taken to South Tyneside’s Health and Wellbeing Board and the Local Quality Surveillance Group and South Tyneside Council has now commissioned the new beds. Paul Cuskin, chairman of Healthwatch South Tyneside, said: “Respite care is absolutely essential for carers, to enable them to take a break to recharge their batteries or even, as we found, to attend to their own health issues.

“We are delighted South Tyneside Council has responded to our report and commissioned this new pre-bookable respite care service, which should hopefully offer carers the chance of a much needed break when required.”

The new provision has been welcomed by carers.

Charlie Cragg, 84, of Fraser Close, South Shields, who cares for his wife Joan, 83, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, and has had difficulties booking respite care said: “If you can book up in advance now and they can guarantee that place is there, that’s fantastic.”

“It’s very difficult knowing what it is like being a carer until you actually have to do it.

“Housework, cleaning, cooking, shopping, banking – even getting sleep at night. I tell people my life is like a rollercoaster – you are up and down.

“Alzheimer’s is a condition where the carer has to develop the skills. With respite care you can go away and forget about the ironing, washing, cooking for a few days.”

Coun Mary Butler, lead member for adult social care at South Tyneside Council, added: “We are pleased to be able to secure these respite beds. The role of Healthwatch was invaluable in providing the intelligence to enable this provision to be developed

n Anyone who would like to book a respite bed is advised to contact the South Tyneside Council Initial Contact Team on 0845 130 4959.

An assessment will then be carried out to confirm eligibility is confirmed.