Village Manager Marika Laflamme with some of the fabulous Special Care team
Singing, dancing and laughter are all part of a typical day in the life at Bert Sutcliffe’s special care unit.
Unit Coordinator Snap Venturanza says that while singing talent isn’t a requirement when choosing who works in the team, having the aptitude certainly makes for a lighter, more welcoming environment.
“We’re a happy and caring team – there’s a lot of singing, and a lot of laughing, especially when the residents tell us we should stick to our day job!” says Snap, now laughing herself.
“We do have fun, and we’re very active and of course the care is always there.”
The care in the SCU has an extra dimension compared to say the resthome or the hospital level, says Snap, a Ryman veteran of seven years.
“We are a team of dementia-trained staff, from the caregivers, to the nurses, the activities coordinators, even the housekeeping team who are often our extra eyes and ears.
“We look after special people who happen to have cognitive impairment and that takes extra skills.
“Often we have to cater to their emotional needs. Sometimes they can get anxious or restless so we have to adapt and reassure them. Because we know our residents, we can identify those needs and can usually help them through redirection.”
Bert Sutcliffe is just one of Ryman Healthcare’s 34 New Zealand villages currently working with Alzheimers New Zealand towards achieving dementia-friendly accreditation.
This will in turn complement the bespoke model of dementia care that Ryman is set to roll out in its villages over the next few months.
Karen Lake, Operations Clinical and Quality Manager for Ryman, says the new model is designed to shift the focus towards a more experience-based care.
“The idea is for staff to assist residents to live their own lives fully and realise happiness in the moment.
“Rather than looking at dementia negatively, as something that decreases your possibilities, there are a lot of possibilities still there. People with dementia can life a full and happy life.”
A key factor for this is creating the right environment for the residents, with the unit’s layout and design created with the best care in mind, says Village Manager Marika Laflamme.
“It is home for up to 38 residents but divided into two smaller units of 19 which helps to reduce anxiety.
“Each resident has their own room with private ensuite bathroom and there is a big outdoor garden area with vege gardens, which is great for bbqs in the summer, and then there is an enclosed terrace with amazing views over the kauri trees.
“We offer respite care so caregivers can always bring their loved one for a short stay, which is a nice way for that person to get used to the environment,” says Marika.
And Ryman has developed its own electronic care application, accessible on a tablet located in every resident’s room, which means staff can quickly get up to speed on their latest medical information as well as personal details to enhance that resident’s individual care.
Unit coordinator Snap Venturanza
Snap says a residential care facility is of course a different setting compared to what residents have come from but the emphasis on home is always underlined amongst the staff.
“Technically this is their home and we are just working here.
“We try and make it as homely as possible and we encourage relatives to bring in special items from home like a special chair or family photos so that they have that sense of ‘this is mine’ to make it personal to them.”
Residents are encouraged to get involved with day to day activities that they would have done at home, such as setting the table for meals, helping to bake bread or tending the veges in the garden area.
They are also enabled to remain active in the wider community, either by going on picnic outings in the van, getting their hair done at the village salon or popping into the village café.
“It still gives the resident that spice of life of going out to the café but for their loved ones it is reassuring to know there is assistance from our staff if they need it,” says Snap.
The community is regularly invited into the unit too.
There are several singing groups who come and perform and relatives are invited to bring in their pets from home.
“We do have pet therapy visits as well but we always encourage family members to bring their pets along because pets are A1 in this unit!” smiles Snap.