Rick Batchelor, 83 this year, has a distinct gleam in his eye.
When asked if there is any chance he’s considered the troublemaker of this particular MiCare aged home, his answer is immediate. ‘Yes, of course,’ he replies, but then he chuckles. Rick likes to joke, but deep down, he’s grateful to have landed where he’s landed.
Not that he would have chosen this course. Rick and his wife, Barb, lived in a beautiful house overlooking Lilydale Lake before his legs more or less one day stopped working, as a part of his brain decided enough was enough. Rick went from living a healthy retirement life to being at risk of falling, and of needing care.
That was in early 2016 and Barb shakes her head as she thinks about how difficult that year became. She had to find somewhere for her suddenly incapacitated husband, while also working out where she could live to be nearby, as well as packing up and selling their home, and dealing with all the other emotional and administrative aspects of such an unexpected and dramatic change of circumstances.
She found the answer to her dilemma on both sides of Mt Dandenong Road in Kilsyth. On the southern side was MiCare’s aged care facility, where Rick was able to become one of the resident ‘Elders’, cared for by professional staff and nurses, while learning to move around in a motorised wheel chair and enjoy morning coffee with the other residents. Meanwhile, on the northern side of the road, MiCare owned a cluster of units for independent living, and Barb was able to shift into one, meaning she is literally across the street from Rick, and can easily drop by every day. It’s turned out to be the best possible solution.
He’s free to head across the road to see Barb, as long as the MiCare staff know that he’s left the building, and can help him navigate the sometimes busy road.
‘We’d heard about MiCare from Dutch friends,’ Barb explains. ‘The whole thing is fantastic for us, for my situation and for Rick. You just feel so accepted here, from the minute you walk in. You feel like you are part of the family. Their care for Rick has been amazing.’
For straight-talking Rick, a retired plumber who grew up in Northcote, loves his large family and taught himself to read and write in his 50s, the move was initially traumatic.
‘I hate it,’ he admits, of his change in circumstances. ‘I hate not living with my wife. But if I have to be in a place like this – and I do – then I couldn’t be in a better place.’
An important discovery for Rick has been that he still has freedom, while also having great care. He’s free to head across the road to see Barb, as long as the MiCare staff know that he’s left the building, and can help him navigate the sometimes busy road. Recently, Barb organised a dinner for Rick and the whole extended family filled a communal long table in her apartment complex. Rick estimates there were more than 30 people there, and he adored it. He and Barb can also head back to Lilydale, to their favourite cafes, for coffee or to catch up with friends. Or they can sit in the MiCare common area, to chat over coffee with the other residents.
‘I’ve had a brilliant life,’ Rick says. ‘I’ve travelled the world, been to every continent. I’ve just been so blessed.’
It’s at that moment that one of the staff pops her head in to see if Rick needs a cup of tea? He says no, and she smiles and leaves.
Rick smiles again. ‘See that?’ he says. ‘The staff make the place. They are so happy and they are ready to do anything for you.’
Rosemary has been volunteering for twenty three years and counting. Now at the age of seventy-seven she says she has absolutely no plans of stopping any time soon.