The Princess meeting CarolineHRH The Princess Royal has paid a visit to a new service in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire which will specialise in dementia and complex needs for people with learning disabilities.

The development, run by the national learning disabilities charity Hft, has seen the former public house, The Ryeford Arms, remodelled and three new properties built in its grounds.  The new accommodation includes a mix of self-contained flats, private bedrooms, specialist bathrooms and communal areas across three buildings with 24 hour care and support for up to 12 people.

HRH planting a treeThe purpose of Ryeford Court will be to provide specialist care in more personalised settings within the local community for people with learning disabilities who have dementia, complex needs or who may require end of life care.

The project has cost more than £3 million which has been funded by donations.  The largest of which include £2m from The Maxwell Family Foundation set up by Bristol-based entrepreneur, Eric Maxwell, and £150,000 from charitable trust, The Garfield Weston Foundation.

On Monday 18 July The Princess, a dedicated Hft Patron, had the opportunity to meet some of the residents and their families and was given a tour of property.  The new accommodation has been carefully designed to meet the needs of the people who will be moving in.  It will be equipped with the latest safety systems and assistive technology personalised to the needs of the individual, including solutions specifically focusing around dementia.  These include sensors to alert staff if someone has fallen or spent longer than usual out of bed at night. Sensors can also be set up to ensure bedside lights switch on automatically when someone gets up.  Other solutions include talking photograph albums and cordless picture phones to enable people to make calls without having to wait for staff.  Some individuals may also have clocks programmed with reminders in the form of photos, videos or text messages which can be set to specific times and dates to help people maintain a daily routine and reduce anxiety around forgetting to do key tasks.

Saki Hartas giving a presentationAs part of the celebrations, The Princess was also invited to plant a commemorative tree at the front of the property before heading to a reception at Stonehouse Court Hotel for the second part of the event.

On arrival The Princess was greeted by more than 70 guests including people supported by the charity, their families, employees and donors. During the reception, Specialist Skills Practitioner, Saki Hartas gave a speech about the dementia friendly elements of Ryeford Court and a person supported by Hft recited a poem she had written about her experiences of moving into a new home.

Chief Executive Robert Longley-Cook said: 

“We were delighted to welcome The Princess Royal, who has been a dedicated Hft Patron for many years, to our new service in Stonehouse.  People with learning disabilities have an increased risk of developing dementia as they grow older, and it’s important that we address this in the design of our services to ensure we continue to provide the best possible support.

HRH meeting Sheila“This new service will offer people a greater level of choice in more personalised settings, enabling them to actively participate in community life.  This has been made possible by the generosity of donors like Mr Maxell and The Maxwell Family Foundation and The Garfield Weston Foundation.  We thank them for their support and hope to continue working together in the future so we can provide more opportunities for people with learning disabilities to live the best life possible.”

Hft currently supports more than 2,500 people with learning disabilities across the country.  Locally Hft, supports more than 70 people in Gloucestershire.  This includes supporting people with learning disabilities to live independently in their own homes, providing residential and domiciliary care and offering day services to help people pursue their interests, make new friends and become more involved in their local communities.

To find out more about Hft and the services they offer, visit the website on