How Aged Care Changed My LIfe

Tom and his family share with what it’s like for them from the sandy shores of Sandringham, Melbourne.

Tom was living alone in Nathalia before moving in with his son and daughter-in-law. During this time Tom’s family had planned to go away for four weeks and therefore arranged for Tom to stay in respite. Tom’s family received email updates whilst they were away informing them that Tom had settled in nicely, providing them with peace of mind. When they returned Tom decided that he had enjoyed respite so much that he wanted to stay there permanently.

Tom is rather modest about his career achievements – but he was happy to share how his career began; ‘I’ve had what I’d call a very interesting life. I’ve done what I wanted to do. From childhood, going to school, picking up the bees and making a business of it later in life (as a bee catcher). Then when I was writing cards in the window where my father worked, a chap said “son, you’re wasting your time doing that – you should become a sign writer”‘. So after the war Tom developed a career in sign-writing, and eventually established his own business in 1956 called ‘Bentleigh Signs’. To this day, the business is still operating and is managed by his son and grandson.

Q. What’s been your experience of transitioning from your own home into aged care?

‘The turning point and beginning of change was when my wife passed away. I was on my own in Echuca and my son and daughter-in-law thought it would be better if I came down here [to the Sandringham aged care facility]. I lived with my family for a while and when they went away I came in here for a short term. I had a look first and came in for three or four weeks. I just went with the flow; I’m very independent and didn’t think I needed it, however I can change my views as I go. It’s one of those things I can settle in and then that’s it. I thought this would be okay. I just treat each day as it goes, everything I eat I enjoy; the meals here are quiet satisfactory. I’m easily pleased when it comes to food, and I’m a lot happier now living closer to family.’

Q. What advice would you give to older Australian’s considering moving into aged care?

‘Well it would be up to the person of course. I just went with the flow. I had time to think about it; came in and had a look, and I’m still here. You need to adapt, that’s one thing. And they’re very good; some things you don’t like and some things you do. I don’t like some of the exercises they do. Availability was a little difficult so you may need to plan early.’

Q.What’s your secret to staying youthful?

‘I don’t smoke and I don’t drink. I used to party! Looking back over the years, my son has been very good to me. He was always in touch with me”.

Q. Now Tom, I believe you’ve met a female companion whilst being at your chosen facility. What does this mean to you?

‘Being in here I have had a couple of friends and they move on. Faye and I get on very well, and she treats me very well. We go down for a coffee and all that type of thing. She is very very good. It’s nice to have a companion.’

Despite his age, Tom has a real spring in his step, bounding down the corridors of the facility to meet his companion Faye every morning at 10 AM for morning tea.

‘We go down the street and mix quiet freely. We can go wherever we want and family can come in.’

This country boy rejects the notion that moving into aged care means it’s time to start slowing down – rather quite the opposite!

Tom’s daughter-in-law gave her perspective of navigating the system and the emotions associated with making the decision to transition Tom into care. She recalls when Tom was living alone he was rather ‘feeble’, requiring a walking stick. ‘Our friends can’t believe how good he looks now.’ Tom’s health has improved so much that he no longer needs a walking stick.

When asked about how they came across the Sandringham aged care facility, Tom’s daughter-in-law said ‘We didn’t really know what services were available initially and looked at multiple facilities’ before finding the right one that ticked all the boxes: nice, clean, and in a suitable location. Tom was initially very reluctant and against the idea to trial respite. Whilst Tom now speaks very positively about entering aged care, his initial introduction into care came with much trepidation and hesitation. Tom’s daughter-in-law remembers ‘feeling dreadful’ and a sense of guilt about putting Tom into aged care.

Luckily for Tom and his family, the transition was a positive one. We understand that this may not be the case for everyone, and sometimes the phase of adjustment can take several months for residents to adapt to their new environment and surroundings.

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