Dementia care home launches £2.5m campaign

A specialist dementia care home which prides itself on putting the patient at the heart of everything it does.

9:30am Saturday 14th April 2012 in News By Amanda Williams

 Respite resident Peggy Done and Tricia O’Leary in the Cotswold garden at Vale House

IF SHE could have, Alice Beck would have nursed husband Peter ‘until the bitter end’.

The couple met and fell in love more than 40 years ago when they discovered a shared passion for music and art while at a wedding.

But when helping Mr Beck, 90, who has acute dementia, eventually became too much for Mrs Beck, she took the heartbreaking decision to put him in a home.

Mrs Beck chose Vale House, a specialist dementia care home which prides itself on putting the patient at the heart of everything it does.

And now a £2.5m fundraising drive has been launched to secure the future of the much-loved centre.

The not-for-profit home was set up in 1990 in Botley by a group of a volunteers.

They wanted to provide psychological, physical and palliative nursing care for people profoundly affected by dementia – a relatively unknown disease at the time.

But over the past 20 years, the number of people living with the dementia in Oxfordshire has soared and the 20-bed home had to move to a purpose-built 40-bed, £5m centre in Sandford-on-Thames, which opened in February.

Home manager Tricia O’Leary has been with Vale House, where famous novelist Iris Murdoch died, for 21 years.

She said: “Twenty-five years ago dementia was barely spoken about. It tended to be divided into well-off people, who went to care homes, and everyone else who went to mental institutes.

“It was never seen as an actual disorder, just ‘granny’s going a bit ga ga’.”

Ms O’Leary now ‘shares’ her office with resident ‘Mary’ who at one point was refusing to eat.

Now most days, Mary can be found sharing Ms O’Leary’s desk, merrily munching on a slice of cake.

Ms O’Leary said: “We found that Mary felt most comfortable when she was close to us and that is when she eats.”

Mrs Beck has been visiting Peter from her home in Sutton Courtenay for the past nine months, first at Botley, now at Sandford.

She said: “It was difficult when I found I could no longer look after Peter. I wasn’t strong enough. I would’ve nursed him right until the bitter end, but I couldn’t.

“From the moment I walked into Vale House, the care and love they showed people spoke to me. It’s amazing. Pete still tells me he’s lonely without me. But he says to me that it’s nice here and I know he’s happy.”

NHS Oxfordshire, the county’s primary care trust, believes more than 8,000 Oxfordshire people will have been diagnosed with dementia by 2016 – a 20 per cent increase from 2010. To donate go to

* Vale House was designed by an architect whose mother also had dementia. As a result the home has special touches which make life for residents more comfortable. The corridors are wide and set out in a loop so residents who like to pace, which is linked to dementia, can do so easily, and the layout of the rooms and bathrooms makes it easier for residents who may be incontinent to be reminded to use the bathroom. The home includes a dedicated beauty and treatment salon, a special open-hatched kitchen so residents can see and smell the food cooking, and memory boxes so they can store their precious keepsakes. The house has an activity co-ordinator who finds appropriate activities for every individual, and introduces ‘special occasions’ such as birthday celebrations, music sessions and visits from Pets as Therapy.


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