The Waterman’s Lodge in Ballina. PHOTO: SADIE SCANLAN

Closure of respite centre in Ballina

Low occupancy levels have been cited among the reasons for closing the Waterman's Lodge respite centre in Ballina.

Operated by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland as a short-term service centre for people in the Mid West with dementia, as well as respite for carers, the facility has been closed since the end of January last. It is presently occupied in part by Birdhill company Axon Rehab; this is a temporary arrangement pending refurbishment of the neuro-rehab company's premises.

A former country house and restaurant, the Waterman's Lodge was purchased by Limerick financier JP McManus in 2006. It was set up for the Alzheimer Society at a cost in excess of €2 million, around half of which came from the HSE.

The JP McManus Pro-Am Fund and a local fundraising drive helped to establish the centre; the Alzheimer Society founded a ‘Friends of Waterman’s Lodge’ network for people throughout the region wishing to support the project.

The respite centre initially opened with a day room, therapy room, dining room and comfortable residential accommodation for 10 clients, with scope to cater for a further 20. It opened as a short-term facility, operating three nights and four days a week.

One of only two facilities of its kind in the country - the other opening in Blackrock, Co Dublin - the Ballina centre was to offer stimulation and activity to the 4,000 people affected by dementia in the Mid West region. It was officially opened by President Michael D Higgins - in his capacity as Patron of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland - on June 6, 2012, the same day that he opened Nenagh Castle as a new visitor attraction.

In a statement, the Alzheimer Society said the decision to close the facility was taken following a recommendation by a review group set up to evaluate the daycare and respite services that are delivered at Waterman’s Lodge.

“The changes we have seen occur in the deliverance of person-centred care have impacted Waterman’s to such an extent that it was no longer financially viable to operate a small respite centre with low occupancy levels,” the Alzheimer Society stated. “The ASI and the HSE determined that all options for care and support will be made available to people living with dementia and their family carers in the Mid West region.

“Clients previously attending daycare services in Waterman's were offered alternative ASI daycare services and daycare at home service. As we move forward with our plans for dementia care in the region, the priority for both the ASI and the HSE is to ensure that people with dementia are supported in living well with the condition.”

It is understood that some services at the Waterman's Lodge were suspended during the pandemic and this provided an opportunity for Axon Rehab to rent space at the centre on a temporary basis. This had no impact on the Alzheimer Society services at Waterman's, and the day centre was fully operational while Axon Rehab was on the premises. A substantial renovation is underway of Axon-Rehab's facility at Shannonside Business Park, Birdhill, to where the company plans to return this summer.

The Alzheimer Society owns the Waterman's Lodge and is currently reviewing options with regard to the future of the site. “When our plans are decided and agreed upon in relation to Waterman's Lodge, we will inform all the relevant stakeholders at that time,” it stated. “The Alzheimer Society of Ireland continues to deliver dementia services across the Mid West region.”