Blue Haven Bonaira hopes to give dementia sufferers freedom

Clare Rogers and Michael Preston at the Blue Haven Bonaira opening.

Clare Rogers and Michael Preston at the Blue Haven Bonaira opening.

If the phrase "aged care" makes you think of being locked away, you haven't seen Blue Haven Bonaira.

Kiama Council officially opened the complex, on the site of the Old Kiama Hospital, on Friday, November 22.

It is the largest single building project undertaken by an Australian council in recent years. The council, with the support of the Australian and NSW governments, spent more than $106 million to build it.

The new complex includes an aged care home for 134 residents and 58 independent living units.

There are two dedicated dementia homes, designed to help people with dementia maintain their dignity and independence.

Director of Blue Haven, Clare Rogers, said living in a purpose-built complex made an immense difference for people with dementia.

"There's a lot of physical things that occur for people with dementia, like depth perception," she said.

"The colour of the floor can help them keep their balance."

She said beyond that, the facility aimed to make residents feel at home.

"Yes they need additional care, but this is still their space," she said.

"You wouldn't entertain in your bedroom at home, so there are lots of communal spaces to entertain friends and family.

"Then there's a coffee shop and gardens. If people want to be in their room by themselves and shut the door, that's ok, but it's about not locking people away."

Other special features include "memory boxes" outside resident's rooms, so they can easily identify where they live, without having to remember a room number.

Barroul House, the original homestead, and part of the Old Kiama Hospital has been restored as a café for residents and visitors.

There's also a community hall, wellness centre, hairdressing salon, specialist consulting rooms and meeting rooms for residents and Blue Haven community services programs and activities.

Dementia-friendly project officer, Michael Preston, said he believed the facility would improve the quality of life for people with dementia, because it provided a sense of community rather than being institutionalised.

"It doesn't just make a difference to the person, it makes a difference to their family and friends," he said.

"To know they're cared for professionally, have a good quality of life and sense of community ... hopefully it improves their journey."

The community hall was named after Tony Matterson, the Town Clerk for Kiama who was instrumental in setting up Blue Haven in 1979.

An open day is being held on Saturday, November 23, from 10am to 1pm, at the Bonaira complex.

The community can inspect the facility and learn more about Blue Haven services. There will also be a barbecue and family activities.

This story New facility hopes to give dementia sufferers freedom first appeared on South Coast Register.