A Day In The Life of An Aged Care Resident

A Day In The Life of An Aged Care Resident

Join Deepa Calais, publisher of the Australian Over 50s Living & Lifestyle Guide as she visits an aged care residence in Tugun to meet some of the residents.

My editor literally threw ten names from the Gold Coast and Tweed into a basket and the name that he picked out for me to visit was Bupa’s Tugun Care Home, who were good enough to arrange interviews with three of their residents. When you walk into this aged care residence, there is a bright feeling about it and one can see real energy in the step of the staff.

According to General Manager Terri Cause, there are 160 residents in the five floors of the residence and 250 staff members. With so many residents and staff it must be difficult to establish a sense of belonging. Sometimes the more people there are around you, the lonelier you can get. How is loneliness in a crowd guarded against and how is a sense of belonging nurtured?

“That sense of belonging is vital and we want residents to really feel that this is their ‘home’. A lot of the things we do and even the way the building has been designed is to encourage this. First, we try to bring a community feeling to each floor. Four of the Communities are mixed in terms of residents who have different levels of care that are needed. The fifth is a community for residents living with dementia.”

“People have friends across communities as well, but the closer ones tend to be in their own community. So we manage the ‘loneliness in a crowd’ syndrome by making smaller groups. We also encourage a range of group activities that provide a shared experience and therefore bonding between the residents as well as between the residents and staff.”


The activities calendar is certainly packed with things such as concerts, exercise groups, and even a breathing class. According to Terri, “We have a dedicated activities team. As far as possible, we try to tie in our organised activities with things that are going on in the general community. So while the Olympics were on we had our own version of the Olympics – everybody enjoyed it. Then when it was show day, we had activities related to that.”

The connection with the outside world, relatives and friends is very important and several of the residents confirmed they do go out not only with the organised tours, but also with their own friends and family. Not every day but once a month or so seems to be a common frequency. “Slightly more formal occasions are also arranged for families to visit, for instance we are currently planning a wine and cheese evening for family and friends.”

Looking at the design of Tugun, it is clear that it had smaller groups in mind, and this seems to be the trend judging from other aged care residences I have visited in the past. There are intimate lounge spaces on each floor and dining areas. So there is choice where you relax and chat with friends and visitors. Visits do not have to be restricted to your room or even an overly public meeting space as older designs would have forced.

The residents’ accommodation type is also mixed and this helps with making people feel comfortable and not regimented. It caters for individual needs and therefore enhances the ‘home’ feeling. According to Terri, “We have private rooms with ensuites or larger companion rooms for people joining us with their partners or if they simply prefer to share.”

Seniors receiving care

Of late, understaffing in aged care has hit the media headlines a few times and it may not be fair, but often everybody gets painted with the same brush. So what is the situation at Tugun? “The staff to resident ratio is based on the needs of our residents. As the needs of our residents increase, staffing levels are adjusted accordingly”

Staffing, however, is not just a matter of numbers. “Every one of our staff members get to know each of the residents in our home. Whilst friendships grow over time, we also have a system called the Map of Life which is documented when a new resident joins us. This provides background knowledge about the resident and their family which each staff member goes over.”

“Every single one of our residents has a fascinating background and a rich life experience. These experiences are greatly interesting in themselves, but when staff know about them they also help the staff member to understand the resident’s likes and dislikes, strengths, interests, and idiosyncrasies. The Map of Life is a method of really getting to know the new resident and it makes for a much more enjoyable and rich life for both the resident and the staff member. This applies for whichever of our communities you live in at Tugun, including the community for people with dementia.”

How about the meals? Both the staff and residents we spoke to are unanimous on this, basically they love the food, and apparently it is not unusual to see a couple sitting and relaxing, watching TV and enjoying a glass of wine over a meal.

Terri puts the happy partnership down to taking the Bupa promise to clients very seriously, “Our promise to our clients is that we will hear them, guide and support them, and we will be there when they need us.”

Irma Ballschmeiter’s Story

90 years old, but looking 70, Irma Ballschmeiter has been at Bupa Tugun since the day it opened. “I was at Bupa Benora Point, and when I heard some of the staff were moving here, I wanted to come too. I like the adventure of starting new things.”

Irma first came into the Bupa fold after she had a stroke. “I was about to sail off on a cruise out of Adelaide. I was 84 and having a great time. I loved line dancing and travelling. I was even teaching. Anyway I had to have open heart surgery and that takes time to recover. On being discharged, I really wanted to be in a place with easy access to medical attention if I needed it. And you get that here. All the nurses know me and what I need, doctors look in on you regularly.”

I have some good friends here and it is my home. I am free to do as I please. I like to eat in my room with Twisty my bird – she has been with me for 6 years now; and I like to stay active. Fridays I have gym, then I also do breathing exercises and oh, yes I went on a whale watching excursion recently. When my daughter and her husband come to visit we usually go out as well. We might go to Seaworld, have a nice meal and I like the pokies!”

Harry Dexter’s Story

Senior looking out a window

85-year-old Harry came to Tugun two years ago after his lungs collapsed and it was just easier to be in a place with constant assistance available. From the medical side of things Harry needs physiotherapy and he is very happy that there is a separate room set aside for the physio.

There are 32 people in Harry’s community at Tugun and he says, “All the people on the floor are my friends and I also know a lot of the other people from other floors. It’s a good feeling and it definitely feels like home. For the staff, I just have one word to describe them – great! They really bend over backwards to help you. That’s not to say there are never any issues you want to improve, but we have a monthly residents’ meeting where we can give feedback and that makes for a really happy atmosphere because we are very much part of it all.”

“I like going on the outings like trips to the country and shopping gives you a good outlet. I am also very computer literate so I can do my banking on the internet and I talk all the time on skype with my sister who is in the UK.”

Val Guise’s Story

94-year-old Val used to be in the Australian army during her working years. She has 4 daughters, 19 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren! When her close friends and family started passing away Val explains that she became very depressed and moving to Tugun gave her a whole new lease of life. “Moving here saved me! I found my life again at Tugun.”

“I have always had a good life and I am thoroughly spoilt here at Tugun as well. I get lots of hugs and kisses from everybody! The nursing staff are terrific and doctors seem to look in on me very often. I do have a lot of arthritis, but I find that exercise helps. I do my own laundry and in fact anything that keeps me moving. In the mornings I get up, have breakfast, and do my exercises. To relax I watch TV and yes I do go to the pokies and what’s more I win!”

“My daughter found this lovely place for me. It looks like a five-star hotel, the staff are lovely, I like it here and I call it home.”

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