Sycamore Hall case study

Sycamore_Hall.jpgJane Cairns, Housing Manager at Sycamore Hall, an Extra Care scheme set in the Yorkshire Dales, talks about the importance of community support and the right environment when caring for a loved one.

Carers’ Week is all about building carer-friendly communities, and I feel privileged to work in an environment where I can see each and every day just how much difference being part of a supportive community and receiving some neighbourly support can make to people caring for their loved ones. 

It was really brought home to me last year when Jack and Mary* a couple in their 80s moved to my court, Sycamore Hall. Mary was living with dementia and, as her sole carer, Jack was finding it harder to cope as her needs increased.  

While they were part of a close family, most of their relatives were in the south of England, so regular visits to help with providing care were difficult. Jack decided that, while he wanted to carry on as Mary's carer, he needed a little more help. 

While there are care services based on site, that was not what made him decide that Sycamore Hall would be the right move for them. Rather than a formal care package, he wanted to be with Mary in a more supportive environment where he could continue to provide care himself, knowing help was close by if he needed it.

The couple both got fully involved in the community, mixing with other residents, getting to know the staff and taking part in activities and social events. They already had some friends at the court when they moved in, and quickly made more. Jack had a great sense of community and would regularly drop round to see other residents, or invite them to their flat for a chat and a glass of wine. 

Jack was a keen artist and used to run an art class in their home village. With the support provided by a day centre based at the court, their neighbours and the court staff, he was able to continue to enjoy his interests and hobbies, knowing that Mary was safe and happy in the company of friends.

I believe that the friendship and support they enjoyed as part of the community here helped Jack to continue to provide loving care to Mary without it becoming too much to cope with, and allowed them both to enjoy some good times in an otherwise difficult period.

Sadly, Mary has since passed away, and Jack has left the court to live with his family. But they stay in my thoughts as a very moving example of the importance and power of carer-friendly communities – having people around who understand what it means to care for a loved one and who can provide practical and emotional support. While this is a professional care environment, it was the community here and the support from friends and neighbours that really made a difference to them.

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity