This is the intriguing response I got from an Elder while I did my daily greeting rounds as a Director of Nursing in aged care. Mr. Rosen Smithfield (pseudo name) was a quiet but smart gentleman who initially preferred to spend most of the time in his room. He preferred to be called Rosen. He was recommended for residential aged care, with terminal cancer. Due to unforeseen circumstances, he was left with no choice but to spend his last path in life in an aged care home.
Whilst I had a few minutes before a meeting, his response to the question, “How are you finding your new home?” made me pull up a chair and I sat comfortably to listen to his explanation.
“What exactly do you mean?” I asked. He said, “it was life-shattering when I received the news that I had stage 4 colon cancer with metastases and nothing much could be done. I lost hope and felt helpless. I was already a loner, living in my home by myself after I lost my beloved wife. A close friend of mine, a fellow Professor, suggested going into care when he visited and found me unkempt, in a dirty dark bedroom in my house. I did not find any more purpose or meaning in life and hoped each day would be my last.
He called my 2 boys who lived interstate and they took me to the hospital the following morning, despite my refusal, and the rest is history. He smiled and then went on to say, “what I really appreciate is that when the doctors recommended nursing home care, my boys looked around and compared a couple of places. They came down to 3 homes they thought I might like and discussed these with me. I asked if they had spoken to any residents or visitors in the home. They went back to the 3 homes and advised that this place had the best feedback. Everyone said we would love it here”.
I smiled and said, “and now your experience after 5 months?”. He smiled back and said, “my prognosis was less than 8 weeks but here I am, going strong. I feel more energetic. The staff are amazing, all of them, and the lifestyle girls keep me busy. There is always something to look forward to daily such as the humor of most staff. They share jokes with you whether carers, nurses, reception, or even the managers. I even look forward to the cleaning lady and the young man who cleans on the weekends. The physiotherapist stays back to play a game of chess with me daily when he is on, and I like the fact that if I do not come out for lunch, one of the girls in my section comes and has afternoon tea with me”.
I said, “thank you, Rosen, I will take this as feedback and share it with the staff”. As I stood up to bid him farewell, he said “to be honest, I was a very busy man all my life and I feel I am having the best time of my life. Death is imminent but I will die happy having spent this time with my beautiful new family.” I smiled, quickly said “bye” and turned towards the door hiding the tear on my cheek, proud of the team once again and the difference they continue to make in our Elders’ lives.