It is a rare day indeed that I do not go outside. I relish fresh air and open space and cannot abide being cooped up for too long. Yesterday's experience of trying to help a family find a home for someone with advanced dementia highlighted the fact that there may be many people with dementia out there, who through no fault of their own, are denied what, in my personal view, is a basic right.
In Devon there are care homes and then nursing homes for people with dementia with the latter providing for those with greater need because their illness means that they are a risk to themselves and sometimes other people as well. Due to the age demographic of the people affected by the illness many of those with this type of illness have restricted mobility. Yet there are others who who maintain high levels of physical fitness. Access to outside space is important for all, however bad their disability. It seems particularly crucial for this group of people who remain physically active. Yet nursing homes for people with dementia do not provide this routinely. The list of homes that I compiled that had this facility in Devon was scant. What's more if people are unable to fund the placement themselves their choices are very limited indeed. The implication is that people can be locked inside for the remainder of their lives with no 'Get out of jail free' card at their disposal. No wonder they are climbing the walls, sometimes literally. Behaviour and mood has to suffer as a consequence. I'm pretty certain that I'd play up and demonstrate extreme agitation if I was locked up against my will without the hope of getting out.
There are facilities, including NHS hospitals, where ill conceived physical environment means that however good staff are, the care needs of those use them cannot be met fully. This is a problem that can't be solved overnight. This is a call however for the designers of new homes to incorporate unhindered access to outside space. Yet this still isn't being done in new builds routinely and must be viewed as essential for people where medication is frequently not the answer to their problems. Maybe it's time that this should be enshrined in legislation?