New Aged Care Facility in Box Hill

Bluecross Box Hill-gardens.jpg

Bluecross opened its newest aged care residence in Box Hill on October 22nd amongst much fanfare and a family open day with radio broadcasts, Mike Brady, games and a sausage sizzle. I had a quieter intro to this facility, being an Aged Care Placement Consultant I was invited before the opening for a preview.

The residence boasts a host of world-class facilities, including several lounges, dining and sitting rooms, activity areas, consultation and treatment rooms,

a library, hairdressing salon, private dining room, as well as a gymnasium and cinema .

I was impressed to learn they have a memory support environment for people living with dementia. With more people developing this condition as the population ages I am often called upon to find a suitable environment for my clients living with dementia.

The residence is designed with an emphasis on a homelike environment for residents, despite its state-of-the-art facilities according to Interim Chief Executive Officer Robert Putamorsi.

Bluecross Box Hill-suite

The different functional spaces like a number of smaller sitting rooms and dining areas make it more homely and a private dining room is available for residents who want to share a family meal with their relatives. The bedroom suites are generous and feature kitchenettes.

Comprising a basement and three levels, stage 1 boasts 173 rooms and another 43 rooms will be added in the stage 2 development in 2019. $64million was spent on the residence as it becomes part of the stable of 33 aged care facilities owned and managed by Blue Cross across Victoria. With a growing demand for high quality aged care homes in Victoria I welcome this new addition as I source suitable aged care residential places for my clients.

 

The Gap For Older People With Behavioural Problems

Arcare lauriston

This week I was asked to assist two sisters to find accommodation for their 67 year old mother, Doreen.  It was one of the most heart wrenching experiences I have had as an Aged Care Placement Consultant for some time. Doreen had recently been diagnosed with dementia, although the sisters were aware she had been in gradual cognitive decline for some time.

One of the daughters, Rosie, and her 3 year old had moved from Queensland 5 months ago to live with her mother and be her carer.  When I went for the initial visit I found that Rosie and her child had been sleeping in the car in the driveway for the past 2 weeks because Doreen had been screaming at them, banging doors and talking to imaginary people every night.

Doreen was not eating or sleeping and was wandering. Rosie was getting calls from local shopkeepers worried about her mother, but she was unable to stop the behaviour and could no longer cope. So the daughters spoke with Doreen’s neurologists and it was decided to initially admit Doreen to a private hospital for a medication review.

I took Rosie and her sister Kate to visit 4 aged care homes that had dementia care.  They chose a home which they felt was the best fit; flexible and in a great location for friends and family to visit.  The plan was to admit Doreen there once her medication had been sorted at the hospital.

Just as they breathed a sigh of relief they got a call from the hospital saying they could not accommodate Doreen’s behavioural needs and suggested that she be admitted to a psycho geriatric hospital.  Despite frantic calls the sisters found there were no beds available for their mother in a pyscho geriatric hospital and Doreen’s condition was worsening.

There has always been a large gap in our system for older people living with dementia and exhibiting difficult behaviours or psychosis. Aged care homes are fearful of danger to current clients and there are very few psycho geriatric hospitals, leaving very few options for an ever increasing number of people suffering this way.

Having heard the desperation in Rosie’s voice when I called to check in on Doreen I decided there might be one more avenue I could try. Drawing on my many years of experience as an Aged Care Placement Consultant and my knowledge of the aged care system, I contacted the aged care facility they had selected and explained to the manager that the hospital medication review was not going to happen and the daughters’ current circumstances.  I asked her to consider admitting Doreen to the facility in the dementia support section and, if she became unmanageable, transfer her to an appropriate hospital.  This type of transfer is easier to arrange by a manager of an aged care facility than for family.

The great news is that management did not dismiss this out of hand and agreed to Doreen moving into the facility immediately.

The Benefit of Pets in Aged Care Homes

The Animal Welfare League of Australia has undertaken a survey of aged care facilities and so far 90% of respondents to the survey have stated that having pets at the facilities is either very or vitally important for residents. As I source appropriate aged care facilities for my clients I sometimes receive requests for pet friendly aged care homes and found this report very relevant.

Directors of successful pet–friendly aged care facilities report that pets contribute to community feeling, encouraging friendships between residents. One of the benefits to the pet owner is the social interaction with other residents and staff as they stop to introduce their pet.

The Directors say that complaints about pets have been minimal where clear guidelines were adopted and expert community volunteers have provided the needed support and advice to pet owners. The overall benefits to residents who are bonded to their pets when they can reside with them in the aged care facility should not be underestimated states the AWLA. Residents who have a strong bond with their pet and are unable to have them stay experience profound grief, which is layered on their sense of sadness and loss when adjusting to moving from their own home into an aged care facility.

Studies on pet ownership have shown very positive outcomes. Researchers in a US study conducted in 2011 found that pet owners experienced greater self-esteem, had healthier personalities, were less fearful, depressed or lonely and were happier than people without pets whilst a German/Australian study in 2017 found that pet owners were physically healthier than those who did not currently own a pet. Some of the health benefits proven for pet owners are lower blood pressure, lower stress and better survival after a heart attack. Compelling reasons for residents in aged care facilities to keep their pets.

 

 

 

 

The Leisure Seeker Film Opens Up a Moral Discussion on Dementia

It was good to read Phillipa Byer’s review of the film The Leisure Seeker on 12th July in the Sydney Morning Herald. She pulled no punches about her opinion of the ending and its message. The story is about a retired teacher who has dementia and his wife who has cancer. They embark on a journey in their motor home. Spoiler alert – the finale involves the wife giving her husband a drink that brings about his demise then she commits suicide. The husband had earlier said to his wife that when the time came for him to go to one of “those places” (meaning an aged care residential facility) she should equip him with a rifle and remind him how to use it (on himself).

Phillipa was furious at this ending and I can understand her emotion. I am an Aged Care Placement Consultant and help elderly people find suitable accommodation, this includes people living with dementia and I take a keen interest in aged care facilities that support those with dementia. Philippa volunteers at a dementia specific residential facility, has a relative with dementia and is a research associate at the Australian Catholic University’s Plunkett Centre for Ethics and is currently working on a dementia project.

She states “The belief that residential aged care facilities are so bad that killing or suicide are reasonable preferences is apathetic and alarming.”  She points out that there are surely alternative moral imperatives, such as advocating for more funding as a minimum. She also has issue with the wife administering the death juice but not informing the husband that’s what it is. Surely, he has the right to decide in that moment. She is concerned, that as people with dementia live amongst us, we can’t loosen the moral bonds of honesty with them just because it may be uncomfortable or difficult. A new village being developed in 2019 in Hobart reflects the philosophy that, after a full life making their own decisions, people with dementia can have a valid opinion on their day to day life. Koongee Village allows people with dementia to live, roam free and have all the facilities they need in a safe setting.

The butterfly model being introduced to many aged care facilities in Australia is a new culture of care for people living with dementia and focuses on emotional intelligence. People live in smaller homes, are not treated as patients and are involved in daily activities in the home and garden and also learn new skills. There are good news stories about people living with dementia and, as an Aged Care Placement Specialist, I’m pleased to share them.

Read Phillipa’s Review.

Jillian Slade Case Studies For Suitable Aged Care Accommodation

Jillian Slade with a happy client.

Looking back on some Case Studies of clients I have been able to successfully place in suitable aged care facilities I am so pleased I was able to help these families. I recall the story of two desperate brothers who were under pressure to move their father into aged care within a week! The brothers had found facilities that were close to them were either too expensive, charged additional service fees, were too depressing or had long waiting lists. Both worked full time and were exhausted from searching. I was able to arrange a tour of 5 facilities which met their criteria and when they favoured one I spoke with my contact there about the urgency; within days they had chosen a room and their father settled in very well.

Another situation concerned a couple who were going along quite well in their own home with the husband as main carer for his wife, who was in the early stages of dementia. Then he had a serious fall resulting in a head injury which left him unable to walk again. The family now needed to find him a place in residential care quickly. They were introduced to me as a Placement Consultant and my brief was to find an aged care facility they could afford, be accommodated together as a couple and move in at the same time.  Not an easy ask in Bayside Melbourne! I secured them a place in a lovely facility where they had a couple’s suite and I was able to negotiate an affordable price.

Two sisters who received a nasty shock when told by medical staff that their father’s condition  made it dangerous for him to go back home and live alone came to me for help to find permanent aged care accommodation for him. He had been living alone but began to have falls due to sudden drops in blood pressure and ended up in hospital after a major fall. The daughters had visited what they thought were all the available facilities in the area but there were no vacancies. I suggested a facility I knew of that provided great care where I had a good relationship with the management.  I was able to secure the next vacancy and reduce ongoing costs by $50K. The sisters were very grateful and told me “We couldn’t ask for a better facility for Dad.  It’s very quiet, light and cheerful and the staff are very friendly”. Stories like these make my role as an Aged Care Placement Consultant very rewarding.

 

 

 

 

Senior Forums on Aged Care in Melbourne

Reporting on an aged care forum held recently with seniors in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne facilitated by Aged Care Minister, Ken Wyatt AM, and Member for Chisholm, Julia Banks MP, Ms Banks said “In the electorate of Chisholm, residents aged 65 and over make up 16 per cent of the population and this is set to grow to more than 25 per cent by 2050.”

She made reference to the Aged Care Diversity Framework that was released by the federal government in December as a perfect example how barriers that may exist to accessing appropriate aged care can be eliminated. She spoke of the diverse backgrounds of her electorate saying
“We have welcomed a large number of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who contribute so much to the fabric of our local community. We are committed to ensuring that all Australians have access to safe, quality and respectful care and that the diversity of race, religion, language, sexuality and gender is reflected in the care options available.”

With three aged care action plans being drafted under the Diversity Framework, designed to help guarantee equity of access to care, Mr. Wyatt once again stated that people are living longer than ever before and his vision for ageing and aged care was unwavering.  He further stated the government’s aim is to consistently deliver quality aged care that is accessible, affordable and sustainable and that forums like this helps the government understand what is working and what needs to be improved.

Aged care is currently somewhat of a mixed bag and, as an Aged Care Consultant,  I constantly seek the best options for my clients moving into aged care facilities.  Thankfully the standards are lifting across the board and the government’s reforms will hopefully enshrine the best possible standards of care for our elderly Australians.

Reference: Department of Health Media Hub

New Laws for Advance Care Directives In Victoria

This month new laws were passed in Victoria which legalise advance care directives under the “The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act”. I highly recommend that my clients and any elderly person take advantage of this new legislation, as it will give them peace of mind should they need health intervention at a time when they are unable to give the decision for treatment themselves.

Under the Act Victorians can:

  • Create a legally binding advance care directive where they can specify treatment they consent to or refuse.
  • Also create a values directive where they state the values they hold that may affect medical treatment, for example, religious views.
  • Also appoint a medical treatment decision maker, a trusted person who can make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unable to make decisions, adhering to the values stated in the values directive.
  • To help a person make decisions they can also appoint a support person who can assist by gathering and interpreting information and help in communicating decisions.

The advance care directive and values directive are to be made whilst the person is able to make decisions and requires two witnesses, one of which must be a medical practitioner. A person cannot refuse palliative care as part of an instructional directive but can include statements about palliative care in their values directive, such as it is more important for them to remain lucid than completely pain-free at the end of their life. A treating physician must adhere to the advance care directive or gain a decision from the appointed medical treatment decision maker prior to treatment if their patient is unable to make decisions. This applies whether it is a temporary situation or permanent. There are some extenuating circumstances, such as an emergency, where this may not be required.

More information is available here.

You can read more about my services as an Aged Care Placement Specialist on my website.