On 4th August 1892 Queen Victoria’s daughter-in-law, HRH the Duchess of Albany, officiated at the dedication ceremony at Westbrook Manor, Godalming, of a caring home for women and girls affected by epilepsy. This neurological condition (which can affect a person at any age) results, in simple terms, in unprovoked recurrent seizures. There are about 40 different types of seizure. It affects approximately 1 in 100 people in the UK, and about 87 people are diagnosed with the condition every day. A third of that number will continue to have seizures despite medication or surgery.
130 years after that dedication, the manor and its site have been developed considerably. It is now a specialist care home for male and female residents who come from across the UK. There are 82 residents at present aged 19+, who have complex epilepsy, severe physical and learning disabilities. In addition, supported living accommodation is provided for 9 adults and there are 30 Day Centre users. It also has links with a Young Epilepsy centre in Lingfield in Surrey.
Some of those supported are the most vulnerable in our society. 80% of the residents have movement issues, from moderate to severe and mild to severe learning difficulties. 40% have autism. 228,000 doses of medication are dispensed at the home each year, but residents nonetheless suffered over 7,000 seizures combined last year. Each individual has needs which are closely monitored and the services they receive are tailored specifically. They have to be because epilepsy comes in many forms and there are many triggers for a seizure. Some have many seizures a day, or at night, and 24 hour care is given with night support workers monitoring a person’s well-being. The abilities and interests of each person are supported so as to enable he or she to live as full a life as independently as possible, even though they cannot live at home.
On 11th January, the High Sheriff and his wife visited The Meath. The site is recorded in the Domesday Book and it has a most distinguished history, which include links to the creation of the State of Georgia, as well as with the Jacobites in the eighteenth century. Helen Jackson, the Head of Marketing, warmly welcomed the visitors and showed them some residents making their own coasters. They were then kindly guided around the premises by Lucy Miguda, the Head of Fundraising for the charity. It costs £7.6m pa to keep the Meath operational, which is over £20,000 per day. There is funding of £6.3m pa received from the NHS or SCC or other packages of support, for the costs of housing, heating and food. All of those outgoings have recently risen considerably.
There are facilities for art with rooms full of creative works, drawings, paintings, collages, and clothing. Many pictures and photographs produced or taken by residents line the corridor walls. The choir was watched in rehearsal. It is very popular, and each Christmas performs at St Clement Danes. There’s a good gym for supervised exercise. Lounge areas and kitchens are attractive. Sensory areas can help calm residents. There are several Units, arranged according to the severity of a person’s needs. State of the art baths make bathing safe, and hoists and other equipment assist the carers. There are around 200 members of staff and 100 volunteers.
There is a remarkable atmosphere of calm about the Meath, despite all that may be happening to individuals, and all the person-centred activities that take place. It takes a talented and dedicated team of Skills Centre staff and volunteers to achieve that. It is an inspirational place to visit, because of the wonderful work being done for those who need so much skilled assistance. The Health Care Team, the therapists, the management team, the volunteers: indeed everyone who works for the Meath, deserves the highest praise for what they do.
Wendy and I thank you all for your welcome, your time and your hospitality.