Doutta GallaNews – In My Shoes: Scott Chapman

In My Shoes: Scott Chapman

July 11, 2024

Members of Doutta Galla’s Board share their personal journeys in our new series, “In My Shoes.” Through these articles, you’ll get a glimpse into the lives of our Board as they navigate the aged care system as caregivers and family. In this instalment, Doutta Galla Board Chairman Scott Chapman faces the challenge of finding the right aged care for his mother. 

Sharper Than a Tack, But Lonely: Why Community Matters in Aged Care

Doug and Pat Chapman

Dad was supposed to go last. After caring for Mum for over twenty years, he passed peacefully only seven days after a rare complaint of tiredness. ‘Those places are full of old people. We are OK and I have your father,’ was Mum’s standard response to previous discussions on the possibility of moving into care. But while they had each other, there was no way to move them out of their Phillip Island home. At eighty-nine, Dad had carried the load on a big property with us kids visiting and helping when we could. But now, it was impossible for Mum to stay given her very limited physical abilities. The problem was her whip-sharp mind. Still reading Shakespeare and playing Mahjong in her late eighties, she accepted the idea of aged care, but the reality was a long way from the promise!

The first decision was whether she would stay near her friends and community on the island or move back to Melbourne where family was. We opted for community. As the eldest, and given my vast experience in aged care with Doutta Galla, I thought I knew how to navigate the application forms and medical forms etc. It was a ‘revelation’, and I wondered how on earth others wade through such a paper-rich system.

We were happy with the residential facility, but after two to three weeks, the visits from elderly friends soon dried up. Many took their annual three-month sabbatical to warmer climes. Others were just too frail to visit. Mum, a lover of art history and music, tried her best to attend the activities, but found them aimed at the lowest level. While she wanted to compare Degas with Picasso, she found herself cutting out coloured cellophane paper to stick on cut-out cardboard windows! She struggled, and after six weeks we moved her to a facility equidistant from her three sons. In all, over the seventeen months in aged care, Mum moved into five separate homes. Five bonds and refunds. Five application forms. Five contracts. Five systems. She really tried, and it was not until we hit on the magic formula of a country care facility in Wonthaggi with ‘salt of the earth people’ whom she could relate to did she seem happy. A pain for us, but great for her. Three months later she passed.

My learning: it is not the facility or the food, nor the activities – these are important, but it is about finding community. It is the people that make the real difference. The staff. The other residents. The manager of the home.

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