Adjusting to a new beginning
Every journey into aged care is a little different from the next.
Some people have the opportunity to plan in advance, research a number of communities and make a considered decision on where they’d like to make their new beginning.
Others must make a swift decision on their new home following an unexpected medical incident like a fall, heart attack or stroke. In some cases, a key decision that must be made is whether to enter care in their own town or relocate to be closer to family.
For Coral Hartley, the move to aged care involved a relocation from Bundaberg to Brisbane.
After a period of ill-health and hospitalisation, Coral and her son Stephen faced the reality that living at home was no longer practical for Coral. This was particularly so given that Stephen lives in Brisbane while Coral was living in Bundaberg.
Following an extended stay in Bundaberg to care for his Mum, Stephen recognised that the time had come to shift to aged care. After hearing about Carinity Kepnock Grove through friends in Bundaberg, Stephen began making enquiries.
However, he was delighted to find that Carinity also offered another community far closer to his home in Brisbane – Kelvin Grove’s Hilltop.
For Stephen, being just down the road from Hilltop means he can pop up to see Coral every few days – along with her beloved Yorkshire Terrier, Coco, who is now an in-demand Hilltop celebrity. Coral found the need to move a little harder to accept.
“Being born and bred in Bundaberg, I didn’t want to leave,” says Coral. “When Stephen said he was shifting me, I kept thinking, ‘can’t I just stay in the house?’ But I wasn’t well enough. It took a while to accept.”
It’s normal to feel this reluctance to leave and reticence to make such a significant life change, particularly when the decision can feel out of our hands. This is why Carinity’s aged care teams have a strong focus on helping new residents make the move into care as smooth as possible.
Ramandeep Gill, Residential Manager at Hilltop, says her team focuses on supporting new residents to help them become at ease in their new home.
“We are always popping in and talking to our new residents, reassuring them, and helping them to settle into our community,” Ramandeep says.
Her tips for helping loved ones settle include trying to establish new friendships and personalising the room.
“Making their room homely, such as putting up photos of family, friends and life before their move can be very reassuring. Visiting regularly, if you can, is also important while your loved one settles in,” Ramandeep says.
At Carinity, new residents also receive a beautiful hamper designed to help them feel welcomed into the community, alongside the steady stream of staff who like to drop in and introduce themselves. As Coral notes, “there’s always someone popping their head in or waving from the corridor.”
“Our staff are the heart of our Hilltop community,” Ramandeep explains, “and they genuinely care about our residents, their health and their happiness.”
Her best advice for those making the move to aged care is to give it time.
“There’s always a settling in period. Give them time, and make the effort to join in the activities to help make new friends.”
Five months in, Coral says she’s feeling at home. “It’s wonderful here,” she says. “The smiles and waves as people walk by, it’s better than medicine.”
Coral has particularly enjoyed some of the concerts, including a rock singer who got all the residents tapping along. She’s even managed to adjust to some of the new experiences relating to her care such as occasionally having a male carer.
“At first, I thought ‘oh I don’t like this, I want to get out of here’, but now when another carer comes in I sometimes think ‘oh, why isn’t Charlie here?’. They’re more a family than staff here. We have jokes … the laughter!”
Stephen, having made the difficult decision to move his mother, is pleased to see her enjoying life – receiving daily physio and enjoying delicious meals. For him, he’s thrilled that the Carinity team are supporting his mother’s goal of getting up and about again.
“Once your body feels better your mind feels better and you feel happier. Getting up will help enormously with that.”
When asked what advice he would give to other families mulling over the need for aged care, Stephen said, “It’s great. I know Mum’s getting the care she needs.”
“One thing is it’s never too early to get organised. Go and have a look, see what (the community) is like, talk to people. Do it earlier, so you can get in and enjoy it.”
Read more stories from Belong: Summer 2023 | Edition 28