Personal care services from BaptistCare have helped Maureen Fitzgerald to maintain her dignity and to find new energy to get up and face the day. But her daughter Dennise explains that Maureen was initially more than a little reluctant to give them a try.
After a lifetime of good physical and mental health, Maureen Fitzgerald hit some serious health hurdles when she reached her late 70s.
In quick succession, the former stay-at-home mum found herself dealing with the arthritis-like condition polymyalgia rheumatica, heart problems and early onset dementia, all of which were compounded by type 2 diabetes. Once an active daily swimmer, Maureen found her world – and enthusiasm for life – shrinking.
Personal Care Services
Daughter Dennise says by the middle of last year, Maureen was in clear need of help to remain independent. To the concern of her husband Robert, Maureen was struggling with tasks like showering and personal care. “Mum is someone who has been beautifully groomed throughout her entire life,” says Dennise, who lives close by to her parents at Emu Plains. “But both Dad and I noticed things were beginning to change, like her going a week without washing her hair.”
While Maureen seemed a perfect candidate for government-funded support services, Dennise and other family members faced a challenge. Like many older Australians, Maureen simply didn’t think she needed help. “Mum was initially very resistant about the whole idea of getting someone in to help,” says Dennise. “She said ‘give it to someone else who needs it’.”
In the end, a visit from BaptistCare Care Facilitator Michelle Marziano and the encouragement of her family convinced Maureen to give support services a try.
Towards the end of 2018, she began receiving three visits a week under the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP). BaptistCare staff assist Maureen with her grooming and showering, remind her to take her medication, and provide her with extra social contact.
Eight months on and Dennise says the transformation in her mum has been remarkable.
An improved independent life
“She’s really perked up a lot. I think it’s about her mental state – once you’re up and showered, you’re quite open to actually doing things that day. You’ve had that other person in the house to talk to. She has accepted the support and actually looks forward to it.”
Maureen’s BaptistCare visits were initially in the middle of the day. Lately, she and Dennise have recently begun bringing them forward, so the pair can spend a fuller day together. “[On my day off], I’ll say to her, ‘The personal care ladies will be in at 10.30am and I’ll pick you up at 12. We can do some shopping and go to lunch on the way.’”
In addition to the care received through CHSP, Maureen, now 82, receives additional support as a participant in a cognitive reablement program. The program aims to improve the ability of people living with dementia to live well and independently in their own homes. Maureen receives regular visits from BaptistCare occupational therapists and nurses, aimed at helping her better manage everyday activities, and re-engage in activities she may have stopped doing.
Care Facilitator Michelle Marziano says BaptistCare staff help Maureen follow an exercise program drawn up by the BaptistCare specialists. “They encourage her to do her exercises and they take her out to the nice big driveway and yard to walk around,” she says. “They keep her moving to build her strength and mobility.”
Dennise’s advice to other families
Dennise admits the journey hasn’t been without its bumps.
Maureen was initially suspicious of the caregivers. “When you have dementia coupled with someone new in your house it’s a hard combination at first. But it’s all about consistency,” she says. “BaptistCare are really good, and will try and send the same person every time so that they can form a relationship.”
So, what would be Dennise’s message to other families where a parent is reluctant to be supported at home.
“Be persistent,” she says. “When the ladies first started coming, mum would say, ‘I’m not having someone come and watch me shower’. But now she’s said to me a couple of times, ‘It’s absolutely lovely that they’re able to come and help. I really like it. At the end of the day, Mum doesn’t want to go into a home, and I don’t want to see her go into a home. By Baptist care assisting us with all this stuff, she’s hopefully going to be able to stay in her own home for longer.”
Contact the BaptistCare Customer Engagement Centre on 1300 275 227 for advice on accessing CHSP and Home Care packages.