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Dementia Action Week: New project to support people with learning disabilities and dementia

Angela RobinsonHello. My name’s Angela and I want to tell you about a new project in Cornwall that I’m excited to be involved with.

I’m the team leader at Zion House, a service which, when finished, will offer a complete support package for people who have a learning disability and also dementia. The service plans to combine state of the art accommodation with lots of assistive technology and added extras.

It has turned out to be an incredible journey that I won’t forget and I’d love to share some of it with you.

A building site

I joined the team at the end of December 2020, wondering what I would be doing with no one yet living at Zion House. The builders were buzzing about the first day I arrived, diggers in and out of the courtyard, scaffolding holding up the old shed, and the garage had wires hanging from the ceiling.

The four properties in the development were referred to as building 1, 2, 3, and 4, and at the time, resembled a building site.

The garden was piled high with mounds of rubble and building materials, and the car park was in the process of being prepared for paving.

Hard to imagine

Project in progress - sensory walkwayI stood back, looking around, finding it hard to imagine that this was going to become anyone’s forever home, yet after six months of hard work, that is exactly what it has become.

We’ve worked hard with the builders and the housing provider to create a calm and relaxing space linking together the four properties – Zion House, Beech Corner, Willow Haven, and Maple Lodge – with sea-themed colour schemes.

Practical advice

We worked alongside various professionals to get advice on things like what colours work well for people who have dementia. We’ve incorporated these ideas across the project, for example, using bright colours on hand rails, toilet seats, and architrave on the door frames.

Meaningful activities

We’ve created an activity hub that will be used to provide stimulating activities such as music therapy, which has been proven to have a powerful connection with memory and can also help to reduce anxiety and depression. We’ve done a lot of research on how to provide meaningful activities for people with dementia.

We have a sensory room that is calm and relaxing with sensory lights and equipment. There are special projectors which can help people connect with their memories, and it is a place where people can have time alone should they want it.

Sensory walkway

Sensory garden plansThe garden is a safe, enclosed space that is landscaped with mature trees and has a large paddock area complete with a summer house. Leading up to this is a sensory walkway that we are starting to create, which has been part-funded by local Rotary clubs and supermarkets.

Bespoke training

Over the past four months, I have worked with many professionals including the Speech and Language Therapy team and they provided bespoke training on effective communication for people with dementia, along with dysphagia and intensive interaction training.

As this is going to be a forever home, we will support people to have a good life as well as a good death – we are currently arranging palliative care training for the staff so that they will have the knowledge to support people in a person-centred way through their final days.

We will pride ourselves on being person-centred through the whole of a person’s life journey.

A wonderful day

Before I leave you, I just wanted to share one of my favourite quotes with you:

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”
Maya Angelou

Angela Robinson 
Team Leader

Zion House tour

Due to COVID restrictions, Angela also turned filmmaker to provide a series of video updates. Watch this short video to find out how the project has developed over the past six months.

Interested in working with us?

We’re currently recruiting support workers for Zion House. If Angela’s blog has inspired you, you can find out more about this role, and other roles in the Cornwall area, on our careers portal.