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Care home closure will ‘break families and people’s lives’

Families in Failsworth are "gutted" and "heartbroken" after a care home informed them their vulnerable relatives are "losing their home".

Distraught supporters of the 68 residents at Acorn Lodge were told last week the nursing home would be closing down following the owner’s decision to sell the property.

Oldham Property Investments, which owns Acorn, is selling the grounds to another care company, Exemplar Health Care, which wants to renovate the building into a specialist care unit for those suffering from brain injuries.

Residents were originally given ten weeks to leave the home, with the closure date set for July 31. But working together with the council, the owners have since promised to keep the home open for up to six months until all the residents have been moved out.

A spokesperson for the business said: “Funding for the health and social care system in recent years has not kept pace with the rate of inflation and the other costs of day-to-day living. These will, as is evidenced from the large number of other closures in the area, start to have an impact in the future.

“It was for this reason that we had made the difficult decision to sell the home, before any financial struggles started.”

Many of those currently living in the home are receiving specialist care for dementia or end-of-life care. Families and friends are worried their loved one "might not survive" a move to another home.

“We’ve no idea what to do,” Failsworth local Linda Walsh told the Local Democracy Reporting Service. “My mum’s been here for five years. She has dementia.

“When she went in she was talking, dancing, singing, but over the last years her dementia has declined.

“She’s non-verbal but the staff know my mum’s every move. They recognise the signs when she wants to go to the toilet. They know what every gesture means. Because over the five years, they’ve seen it all develop. She’s not going to get that anywhere else.

“If they move her – she’ll die. And there are residents in there who are in a worse state than mum. Moving them is just going to kill them.”

The home is one of just a handful in the area and is considered a close-knit community with close ties with the neighbourhood. Many families are devastated by its loss.

“I wish it was a bad dream,” Erin Rowan, one of the residents’ granddaughters, said. “To say my grandma is heartbroken about the move is an understatement. She’s being ripped from her home.”

Seventy-nine-year-old Carole Thackwell has lived at the home for just over a year.

Erin said: “We struggled to get my gran somewhere for a while. She’s always been an independent woman and her worst nightmare was going into a care home.

“But at Acorn Lodge, it’s more like one big family – each and every staff member has a close relationship with the residents and families. One of the staff even took my mum to my daughter’s christening on her day off.”

Jakki, who only found out about the closure after the news was circulated on social media, was also devastated by the news.

Her mum Kath, now 84, went viral on TikTok in 2022 because of her infectious laugh and lovable personality. But Kath contracted pneumonia last year and had to be moved to the nursing unit.

“The effect of moving from one move to another has declined her mental health terribly,” Jakki said. “If she’s moved again, it will kill her.”

Many relatives are simply at a loss as to where to move their loved ones to, with most homes in the area already oversubscribed or only accepting private residents.

“Both my nana and grandad are here,” one relative, who worked in care, said. “They came in six weeks apart and now they’re going to be split up. I know they’re not going to stay together because one is funded [by the council] and one’s not. It’s going to be devastating.

“It’s going to break a lot of families and destroy the lives of a lot of people with dementia.”

She said her grandparents didn’t know about the situation yet and they were waiting to hear from social services. But she wasn’t very hopeful about the outcome.

“It’s just really unfair on families. Most of us are local and come here every day to check in. Now they’ll have to be put miles away.”

Sisters Alison Simkiss and Caroline Walsh said they’ve been losing sleep over where to rehome their mother, Sandra Patten, who suffers from dementia.

Alison said: “I own a local business, and I was even thinking of shutting down and selling it and taking her in to look after her. But I can’t do that because she’s past that point. She needs specialist care.”

Both her parents lived at the nursing home until her dad David passed away last year. Though they lived in different wards due to her mum’s specialist care, staff supported the couple, who were married for 59 years, to see each other every day, even arranging afternoon teas for the two of them, Alison said.

The sisters pay for their mum’s care privately, at a cost of around £800 a week. But all the other care homes in the area are ‘astronomical’ they say, quoting costs upwards of £1,400 a week.

“We simply can’t afford that. It feels terrible. What are we going to do?” Alison said.

The care home’s director called a meeting with residents last week to dispel rumours that had been circulated online about the care home’s future. The LDRS understands that local councillors, who attended the meetings, were surprised that the council had not been offered the chance to intervene before the sale.

“He’s left a big black hole here,” councillor Peter Davies told the LDRS. “He knows what effect this will have on people.”

Ex-PCI John Piekos, who supports his friend in the care home, said: “Maybe his financial decisions are absolutely right. But this isn’t a financial decision – it’s a care home. These elderly citizens, who’ve given many, many years of hard work to this country, do deserve better.”

But in a comment the care homes’ director argued that the way the company had acted was "entirely consistent with what is required under the terms of our agreement with Oldham Council". He claimed that due to rising costs that were not in line with funding provisions for care services, he thought closing the home down was the best decision "before any financial struggles started and whilst we could still ensure the highest quality of service and care".

He added that "ultimately, the care home is being sold to a new operator" who would re-open as a specialist home after "extensively upgrading and refurbishing" the current building.

Exemplar Health Care, which runs 50 care homes specialising in brain injuries, neurological conditions, dementia and physical disabilities, wanted to clarify that they were not involved in the decision to close Acorn Lodge.

A spokesperson said: “While we cannot comment on the current operator’s decision to list the property for sale, we do know that bringing our vital services to Oldham means that more people with complex needs will be able to benefit from high-quality nursing care in a supportive community-based environment.”

A number of residents have formed the Acorn Lodge Action Group and are trying to oppose the care home’s closure.

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