Back in 2014, Mark Cordiner was a quiet lad who enjoyed socialising with his friends, going shopping, watching football, and climbing on his bike and soaring off into the blue yonder. He was just 27 when he was involved in a devastating road accident while cycling in his home town of Aberdeen.
Mark was thrown several metres from his bike during the incident, suffered extensive head injuries and subsequently spent many months in hospital. And, as a result of his accident, he sustained a long-term traumatic brain injury that changed his life forever.
He can’t walk, he can’t feed himself, and he struggles to talk. He has made progress, but he needs help with every aspect of everyday living.
Our Sue Ryder Dee View Court facility is Scotland’s only specialist neurological care centre, providing round-the-clock care to 24 residents including Mark.
Nobody is pretending there are any easy answers to the obstacles that lie in front of him, but at least he is now in an environment that enables him to make strides forward. His mind and his body are being exercised – which was not the case in the aftermath of the road collision.
“We even got offered a place at the same care home as his grandmother”
His parents were understandably devastated after learning what had happened to their son three years ago.
“We struggled to find a suitable place for Mark,” says his father Norman. “We spent a long time researching and visiting different care homes and centres, but none of them were appropriate for his needs and his age.
“Most of the places we were offered were in old folks’ homes – not a place for a 27-year-old. Indeed, we even got offered a place at the same care home his grandmother was in!
“We were desperate, so we even considered the possibility of building our own adapted house. But, realistically, it just wasn’t viable and it still wouldn’t have given Mark the care which he needed. We were running out of options…” he recalls.
It was at this point that he came across the incredible work being done at our Dee View Court neurological centre.
“Mark’s mum stumbled across it in her research, and immediately scheduled a visit to the centre,” says Norman. “Straightaway, it felt to us as if it was the right place for Mark. It was much more appropriate for his age.”
And yet Mark’s parents were forced to be patient. This is partly because demand is so high at Sue Ryder Dee View Court and partly due to the stark fact it is a unique facility, dealing with a wide range of people from across Scotland, aged 18 and above, who have motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and acquired brain injuries.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for these conditions, and the residents require constant care, which is why we have launched our £3.9m appeal to expand our facilities and help another 20 people.
People with neurological conditions deserve specialist care
A recent Freedom of Information submission has revealed to us that there are an estimated 1,000 people “living in older people’s care homes” because there aren’t enough purpose-built specialist homes for them to live in like Dee View Court.
“We suspect this number is an underestimate, because most local authorities do not even record this information,” says Elinor Jayne, our Policy and Public Affairs Manager for Scotland. “Unfortunately, there is no reliable information on how many people in Scotland have neurological conditions like these.
“We’ve been campaigning for the Scottish Government to start collecting this information – and they are now starting to look into how they could do this – because without knowing how many people there are and where they live, there is no way of planning and delivering the care and support they need to live their lives as fully as possible.”
At Sue Ryder, we believe it’s important to create more centres across Scotland to reinforce the positive impact made by Dee View Court.
“There is a definite need for these places,” Elinor states,” because people of any age with neurological conditions should not be placed in older people’s care homes, which do not have the specialist trained staff, facilities and support for people with such complex conditions.
“Without specialist homes like Dee View Court, there is a risk of people ending up in hospital too as there is nowhere for them to go that will meet their needs.
“One of the main reasons there aren’t more places like Dee View Court is there’s not enough known about the number of people with neurological conditions and where they live,” she concludes. “That’s why we want the Scottish Government to find a way to collect this information, and then support Scotland’s health and social care partnerships to put in place the urgently needed specialist services, including residential care where necessary.”
Scottish politicians: “Sue Ryder is remarkable”
Yesterday, politicians across Scotland reacted by calling for greater support for those with neurological conditions.
Richard Lochhead, the Moray SNP MSP, said: “There is more awareness of neurological conditions these days and, hopefully, we can find ways of avoiding a situation where young people are being treated in old people’s homes.
“This is one of the issues that we have to respond to, because there seems to be an increasing number of people with these conditions and the clear preference would be to treat them in specialist centres, rather than places that are designed for people with different needs.”
“The work Sue Ryder does is remarkable,” agrees Conservative MP for Aberdeen South Ross Thomson. “I am hopeful this capital appeal will allow them to extend this world-class service to the many others who need their expertise.
“And perhaps, in the future, the model could be replicated in other parts of Scotland.”
“Mark has come on in leaps and bounds”
Mark’s parents are certainly advocates of that initiative. After all, life has improved significantly for their son since he moved into Sue Ryder Dee View Court.
“Dee View Court is a happy place. It enables Mark to do the things he enjoys and the things a young man in his 20s should be doing,” Norman says. “The staff take him out and about, and they organise trips for him. He is very well looked after at Dee View Court and he is well fed! It’s a weight off our minds, knowing he is cared for so well.”
“Mark has come on in leaps and bounds with the help of the staff,” adds his mother Jennifer. “We have found a big difference in him, especially in his communication skills.”
At 29, Mark is now able to live as full a life as possible. He regularly takes part in daily activities with his fellow residents, including trips to the cinema, playing dominoes and watching Countdown. He especially enjoys visits from his parents, aunt and uncle, and his son Leo, as well as Dee View Court therapet dog Mika, for whom he has a particular soft spot. And he continues to follow his cherished Aberdeen FC and regularly goes to watch them at Pittodrie, with the assistance of our care team.