Rest Home reality not like websites
30 September 2015
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Gracelands resident Dawn Clapperton with granddaughter Sarah
Napier Courier and Hastings Leader, Hawkes Bay
Google 'retirement living' and you'll find a glut of websites featuring fit looking grey-haired couples strolling hand-in-hand through resort-like settings. The reality is that one-third of women aged 65-74 are widowed.
The figure for the 85-plus age group is four-fifths.
And while our aging population is accelerating the demand for retirement villages, it is aged care, which includes rest home, hospital and dementia level care, where the 'grey tsunami' will be felt the most. The rate of growth in the 85-plus population will triple by 2025 and increase five-fold by 2035, creating enormous demand for aged care.
The average age of entry into aged care is 84 but, of course, everyone ages differently.
"We have residents in hospital care in their 60s while others are well into their 90s and still living independently," says Oceania's Gracelands manager Phil Harman.
"Unfortunately you just can't predict when you might need care or what level of care will be required." Dawn Clapperton knows that only too well. Just six months after the 79-year-old widow moved into her retirement villa at Gracelands, she began experiencing significant weakness in her arms and legs.
She was admitted to Hawke's Bay Hospital, then transferred to Wellington Hospital's neurosurgery department for treatment.
In a space of four weeks, Dawn went from being fully mobile and living independently to being unable to care for herself.
Dawn was released from hospital and returned home to Gracelands but, unable to walk or feed herself without assistance, she was moved from her villa to hospital care on the same property.
Dawn says that she hadn't really given any thought to what her longer-term needs might be when she decided to move to Gracelands - she had a friend living there and liked the closeknit feel of the place, so it seemed like a logical choice. The importance and availability of quality aged care only hit home when her health unexpectedly failed her last year.
Upon her return, an individualised care programme was created for Dawn and she embraced it with her characteristic enthusiasm. Her granddaughter, Sarah, says, "When my Nana has her mind set on something, there's no stopping her." Dawn's determination to get back on her feet was met with huge support from her family and Gracelands' staff. She took advantage of the care on offer, engaging in intensive physiotherapy as part of her treatment plan. Everyone had a part to play, from the activities coordinators and nurses to the caregivers and cleaners.
Sarah manages a local gym and was actively involved in Dawn's recovery.
"The staff that looked after her are really, really good," says Sarah.
"They got her up and put on her makeup and jewellery to make her feel happy and positive. They made her laugh, which is nice to see as well. It's a happy place, very positive." A year after leaving her retirement villa, Dawn is back on her feet and living independently again - a testament to Dawn's resilience and the continuity of care she received. She still gets minimal assistance in her villa as required and makes regular trips to the Gracelands hospital to visit with the staff and friends who helped her regain her quality of life.
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