What can we do when our parents can no longer completely look after themselves?
So many of us in the Starts at 60 community have struggled with this question; many more will have to face it in the years ahead. It’s hard not to feel uncomfortable at the thought of a traditional nursing home.
Thankfully, there is a very compassionate alternative out there; a warm, welcoming, family-friendly community where they can maintain that vital sense of independence – and stay out of aged care until absolutely necessary.
Barbara, 82, is just six weeks into her new life at Bartonvale Gardens Retirement Village in Enfield, SA. From her supported living apartment, she can get the exact level of assistance she needs while still feeling “at home”.
The move has brought enormous peace of mind to Barbara and her family alike. She had been increasingly burdened by health complications in recent years, and it finally hit her that she couldn’t do it alone. “I was hanging out the washing and I could hardly do that. I thought ‘this is it’.”
“I have worked in nursing homes myself for 11 years as a volunteer,” she says, “so I had some idea what I might be in for”.
This has given Barbara a very clear perspective of just how lucky she is in this next phase of her life. “I’ve got the most marvellous accommodation in my apartment. In regards to civility, kindness, meals, you name it, it’s 100%. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
While many aged care facilities use staff from an agency, the carers at Bartonvale Gardens are an established and consistent part of the community. They frequently go above and beyond to make Barbara feel truly welcome, whether it’s supplying homemade cookies for afternoon tea or simply popping by for a friendly chat before bed.
“I have never seen eight girls who have worked so hard, and who are so devoted to their work. They really make the time to talk to you.”
“I don’t do meals. I don’t do washing. That kind of thing is all done for you.”
Daughter-in-law Angela was just as impressed by the warm and welcoming atmosphere.
“It felt comfortable when we first walked in,” she says. “It was done beautifully and we loved the apartment. It had a very good feel about it, and we knew she would be happy there.”
Like her mother-in-law, Angela had seen enough of conventional nursing homes to know it wasn’t a desirable outcome.
“A lot of people don’t realise there are retirement villages that simply aren’t like that. She feels at home there. The carers are wonderful.”
“You get everything done for you. You have activities every day. Sometimes I go there and think I’d like to buy a room and move in. I could live there quite happily myself!”
With her meals, cleaning and laundry covered, Barbara now has extra time to enjoy a wide range of social options.
“You can go and play bingo, create craft, play bowls, step out to the pictures… they accommodate everything so marvellously for you.”
Pets are welcome and family visits are warmly encouraged with regular events, creating a lively community atmosphere. “There’s a real camaraderie of people getting to know one another, and really making the time to say hello.”
“You don’t just sit there and discuss your ailments.”
“They have plenty of lovely evenings when families are invited. It might be a fish and chip dinner with live sing-alongs and entertainment. In a fortnight, they’re having a three-course lunch, followed by a movie and afternoon tea.”
“I really couldn’t ask for anything better.”