History. Part 1. Marie Foster Home
In the nineteen sixties adults seriously disabled by neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) were frequently placed in geriatric wards of hospitals, often until they passed away. A group of volunteers decided that this was no way to treat these patients, and they raised money to fund the construction of a purpose built Home to cater for local people living with MS and other neurological conditions. The group was led by Eric Foster whose wife, Marie, had MS. Marie was one of the first residents, and the Home was named after her. The land in Wood Street, Barnet, was donated by the then Barnet General Hospital.
The Marie Foster Home was completed and opened in 1973. It provided a unique (in the UK) model of care for people with these conditions. A typical user often had the most severe form of MS, was wheelchair-bound, possibly quadriplegic, had difficulty dressing, eating and generally coping with things most healthy people take for granted. The 28 beds provided for long term care residents and patients staying for respite care or for rehabilitation. There was a mixture of single, two, four and six bedded rooms. The Home also provided day care and offered all its users occupational and physiotherapy, aromatherapy, activities, outings and sometimes was simply a place to meet friends.
The operation of the Home was funded by Barnet Primary Care Trust, but there has always been a need for equipment and facilities not funded directly by the health service. From the start there was an active League of Friends which was closely associated with the Barnet Branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The League’s many volunteers worked hard to raise the funds needed. Fund raising events were often held in the Home’s large dining area. These events were designed for all participants to have fun and to contribute to the well-being of residents. They also helped to develop a sense of community with family and friends and provided an equally important function of enabling residents to feel part of a wider community.
The International evenings were a great success and gave everyone a flavour of Irish, Scottish, Italian, Greek, Welsh and English culture. Barn dances, race nights, barbeques, quiz and bingo evenings, as well as an annual fete every summer gave residents and carers events to look forward to and a chance to meet with old friends.
Among many other things, funds were raised for the following:-
- Improving the garden facilities including revamping a patio area with the installation of a remotely controlled awning, a water feature, planters, and durable tables and chairs contributing to an inviting environment in which to sit or meet with visitors.
- A sensory room was established providing a relaxing place for reflexology treatments (which were subsidised through fund-raising).
- A rehab kitchen was was established so that patients getting ready for discharge could practice cookery and ensure that they were able to cater for themselves.
The League of Friends also provided regular daytime social activities for the patients, such as bingo, quizes and crossword puzzle sessions.
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