£100,000 donation funds new centre to support dementia care

A new centre dedicated to supporting the recovery and wellbeing of older patients with dementia has opened at Aintree University Hospital today, following a generous donation from a Liverpool family.

The Frances Centre was made possible following a £100,000 charitable donation from Professor Ananda Dulal Sarkar, in memory of his late wife, Frances.

The space aims to promote recovery and wellbeing for patients with delirium and dementia. The centre will offer a dedicated space, away from what can often be a busy ward environment, providing enhanced support and therapies for the hospital’s older inpatients.

From a young age, Frances Sarkar spent most of her life supporting those in her community who often didn’t have family or friends. She would visit care homes, organising trips out and making clothes for the residents.

Her husband, Professor Sarkar, 95, said: “I met Frances when she was 17. She had such an affinity with older people, and was always devoting her time to support them. Once we were married, she decided to convert an annexe of our home into a space where she could welcome people who did not have families of their own. She would cook meals, sing and play the piano – it was a safe space where they could relax and share their stories and memories.”

Professor Sarkar now wants Frances’ legacy of filling people’s twilight years with companionship and happiness to live on at The Frances Centre. Frances herself was diagnosed with vascular dementia and passed away in 2021, so Professor Sarkar personally knows the impact cognitive issues such as dementia can have on loved ones.

He said: “Dementia is a cruel disease. I know that her legacy will live on here in The Frances Centre and the positive impact it will have for older people across Merseyside. It’s my lasting memorial for her.”

Improving dementia care at Liverpool University Hospitals, which runs Aintree University Hospital, is one of the Trust’s priorities. The unit at Aintree has been designed using dementia friendly wall wraps with contrasting colours, and safe, matt flooring to minimise confusion and risk of trips and falls.

Alongside the indoor facility, which provides a range of appropriate therapies and activities, including reminiscence materials, games and relaxation equipment, an outside space has been developed. This sensory garden with raised flower beds and a variety of flowers and herbs will also be influenced by Frances, as plants from her garden at their home in West Derby will be transferred to the hospital. This includes her favourite flowers, rhododendrons.

Dr Aideen Cronin, the Trust’s clinical lead for Delirium and Dementia and a Consultant in the Department of Medicine for Older People and Stroke, said: “Being able to create this dementia-friendly space thanks to the Sarkar family’s generous donation will have such a positive impact for our patients. Ward spaces can sometimes be stressful for older people with cognitive impairment hindering their recovery. Being able to offer a safe space where they can receive cognitive rehabilitation alongside their medical care is amazing.

“It will also be an area for the Trust to host carers cafes, to enable greater support and signposting for local people and our staff who have carers responsibilities. Thanks to the Sarkar family, The Frances Centre is a really positive step in improving dementia care at the Trust and we’re proud to continue Frances’ legacy.”

Photo caption: Frances Sarkar

WATCH: Dr Aideen Cronin talks about the Frances Centre: