Life Matters

‘Some kind of wonderful’ moments

We are all in the COVID-19 world together which makes me want to look for ‘some kind of wonderful’ moments. When I look around the world, our COVID-19 world, the ‘some kind of wonderful’ moments are missing in so many lives.

Living in aged Care

Those in aged care are suffering the most when there are COVID-19 community lockdowns. Their ‘some kind of wonderful’ moments are non-existent. I found it very confronting to hear the evidence of Merle Mitchel at the Aged Care Royal Commission. Ms Mitchell is a former president of the Australian Council of Social Services. She knows what she is talking about. In 2019 she told the commission the biggest problem in aged care was the staff to residents ratio. Without this people will have an inferior level of care.

Last week Merle told the commission about her current situation. She can only leave her room four times a week, one hour at a time, for physiotherapy. Merle said that every morning when she wakes up she thinks ‘damn I’ve woken up!’ She would rather be dead. Every older person needs a dignity of care. That means choice and control over their lives and how they live.

My One & Only (O&O) two years ago had an GP Management Plan assessment. He attended on his own. He does not use a walking stick and is cognitively capable. He is active and has a keen interest in history. He is now researching material for his sixth book. When I read the report, it stated that he lived in residential aged care! Was that age discrimination? Did the nurse not think to ask the question? No, she made an assumption.

As we age where do we get our ‘some kind of wonderful’ moments? When living in aged care people spend considerable time on their own. There are insufficient activities and outings. If people do not have visits from family and friends, living in aged care is a very lonely place. My mother lived in aged care for six months before her death. It was a beautiful facility and she received a good standard of care. But she was anxious in her environment even though she made the most of it. Her room was spacious enough for a set of drawers, bed, and recliner chair. She had an ensuite.

My mother always slept with her bedroom door open. She asked for the door to remain open at night, but she would wake up in the middle of the night and find it shut. She found it distressing. She lost control over this small area of her life. She felt shut in.

My mother had five adult children to take an interest in her care. My sister Debbie organised her favourite paintings and ornaments for her new place. We bought her a fridge for her mars bars, paddle pops, small bottles of champagne and Toohey’s Old beer. It was my stepfather’s favourite beer. My mother did not drink a lot. But when she opened that Toohey’s Old, it took her back to a ‘some kind of wonderful’ moment she enjoyed in the past.

Some kind of wonderful in aged care

What are ‘some kind of wonderful’ moments older people living in residential aged care would prefer? Living in a home, in the community? Choosing who they live with. Living with people who have similar interests. Home cooked meals? Choosing the staff who give them care. Regularly going out for a drive, a picnic, or the theatre in their house vehicle. Having family and friends visit.

Merle said living in residential aged care is not a home, but an institution. The model of support in aged care is like the now defunct segregated and institutionalised disability care model. In the 1970s there was a shift to community-based care. The 1980s saw the closure of large institutionalised buildings.  

Institutionalised aged care should be dismantled. A dignity of care means living in a home like the rest of us but with support.

How then did the institutionalised disability model of care creep back into aged care? Was it due to the ageing population in Australia? A new business opportunity. A way to make money.

It is time for change. This is a lesson from COVID-19? The model of care has to change from institutionalised care to community-based care. A small group of people 4-6 living in a house, their home. Now, that would be a ‘some kind of wonderful’ moment for people like Merle.

What are ‘some kind of wonderful’ moments for you?

What are your ‘some kind of wonderful’ moments? Staring at a starry sky. The sand between your toes. Swimming in the ocean. Remembering that first kiss. The first time you looked into her eyes or his eyes. Getting married. Getting divorced. Your overseas trip. Having a baby. Paying off debt. A meal out with those you love. Laughing at silly things. Watching a movie with popcorn at home. Holding a lover for the first time. A sunset cruise on a yacht. Driving your new car for the first time. Meeting your life partner. Going on a bush hike. Hearing for the first time. Seeing your first orchid flower or bulb bloom. Choosing a pet. Having a grandchild visit. Holding a new born baby. Getting four eggs when you only have three hens. Achieving a goal after much hard work and sacrifice. Celebrating a life milestone.

Many ‘some kind of wonderful’ moments are little things, the inexpensive things. When the ‘some kind of wonderful’ moments are missing I like to close my eyes and connect to a ‘some kind of wonderful’ moment in the past. It keeps me going. It will do the same for you while living with COVID-19.  

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