There was delight and anticipation when Tess, the 86 year old carer of Tom, her 89 year old dementia sufferer husband, learned of the friendly carers’ group activities at a Uniting Care Day Centre for the aged in Hawthorn, Melbourne. Their two daughters were amazed at the discovery, especially as one was already taking her parents to Strength Training classes on the same premises – the classes are part of Victoria’s Council on the Ageing (COTA)’Living Longer Living Stronger’ program.
Although it was their parents’ preference was to stay in the family home, the daughters knew their mother needed a regular break from the 24 hour care regime. The family had travelled down the track of:
1 initial consultation with Tess’s GP;
2 a follow up consultation with Tom’s GP;
3 a Memory Loss Clinic diagnosis of Tom’s condition;
4 social worker / occupational therapist intervention to help Tom and Tess
continue to live in the family home;
5 District Nursing service to supervise Tom’s medication regime;
6 Tom’s negative reaction to a home visit from the Day Centre coordinator.
The fact that Tom had previously happily attended Strength Training at the Hawthorn Centre had percolated through the amazingly complex health support network of community, medical, church, local, state and federal government and commercial support mechanisms with the logical recommendation that Tom could spend a day here to give Tess her ‘day off’. The daughters decided on a ‘field trip’ to convince Tom that a day’s outing might actually be enjoyable!
The end result?
Tess’s interest when she met the friendly staff and heard about the great times and laughter associated with the carer’s group and their outings led to Tom’s acceptance of this new element in his life. He recognised the role he could play in helping those helping him.
The big question:
How can this incredible support network communicate better with new players in the aged parents saga? Tess could have joined the carers’ group 2 years earlier. Perhaps communication is better in regional areas where populations are smaller?