My Golden Cage

By George W Rehder

So why do I call it “My golden cage”? Well I am 81 years old and disabled and so I finished up living in a Nursing Home in a town in Western Australia. To me it is a golden cage that I live in because this would be the lovelies Nursing home that anyone could wish to live in. So now let me tell you about my life here and my thoughts & dreams. I live in a modest small room with an ensuite. I have added some extras to make my life a bit more like home. I have added a small desk, a bar-fridge and a small cupboard. For entertainment I have my computer, TV, Samsung Tablet & Phone. So why, golden cage? Golden; because I have everything that a person could desire. A perfect diagonal controlled bed, where the sheets get changed whenever I desire.

 As soon as I take off my clothes, they get picked up by one of the many carers to be washed and returned by the next day. I have morning, afternoon and evening Tea and snacks brought to me three times a day. The main meals are either delivered to your room or you can eat in the dining room. We are lucky to have excellent cooks tha provide us with restaurant quality meals with deserts twice a day. A nurse is there 24/7 to look after your medical needs. We also have two physios and an Occupational Therapist present. But more about the staff later. Now why do I think that I am in a cage? Apart from myself there are 30 odd other residents (They don’t call us patients anymore) living here and most of them are incapacitated and all of us are here for the same reason, we are waiting to die! Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

 But it is true and the staff here make the transition as lovely as possible. So there is my cage! As I am still to a certain degree ambulant, I will go to the shopping centre a couple of times a week on my mobility scooter. I am the only resident that is cable to do so. Sometimes I bring back items from the shops for other residents. At no extra cost we can have things like fresh fruit, Ice-creams, potato chips and even non-alcoholic wines, of which I get 2 bottles per week. The management does not take away your independency or freedom. Except we are somewhat restricted with covid-19 being around.

let’s go back a bit.

Sitting in my big leather chair back at my old home, wondering what to do!

I have just been told that I got one week to get into the Nursing home or loser my place.

I am afraid of the unknown. I have heard so many bad things about nursing homes and how the treat their clients.

My friends encourage me to go, also my doctor wants me to go and so reluctantly I give in and let Juniper know of my decision.

Next, I sell all my furniture, but you never get anyway near what it cost you. Plus, there are so many memories attached to each piece.

My Chair

I pack 15 boxes full of memorabilia that I don’t wish to lose, these will go to my daughter in Fremantle. Until she can pick them up, they will be stored at the Juniper office. The co-ordinator from Juniper was kind enough to offer to keep them at their office until my daughter can pick them up.

Even so I have lived here for the past 11 years I did not make any real friends that I could rely on to help me in this time of need. But all the carers from Juniper who had been looking after me for the past few years were fantastic.

I had never seen so much care in one person until I met the team from Juniper.

But back to my predicament, I asked my neighbours to help themselves to anything that was in my unit. Which they reluctantly did, I think that they were embarrassed as we had been good neighbours for several years.

This still left me with a terrible lot of stuff, all the electrical items in the kitchen were still there, bedsheets, blankets, towels and lots of other things that you use in your daily life.

Then I had a brilliant Idea, I would donate everything to a Opp-shop and so I rang the Opp-shop and told them of my problem. They, of course were thrilled to be given so much stuff and came around the next day to pick everything up. I still had a lot off office equipment which I had been using over the years, also a bag full of First Aid Items. So, one of my carers told me that I should donate these items to the nursing home that I was about to enter that morning. 9.30am came and we had to be at the nursing home by ten o’clock.

Nursing Home

One of the Juniper carer’s had volunteered to take me there in her car as I had no transport of my own except for my “Gopher” another word for my mobility scooter. When my carer took me inside the Nursing home, we were greeted by lots of smiling faces, which made me feel less apprehensive. We were first checked out at their COVID-19 station after which the senior staff made me very welcome and kept remining me that if I had any concerns or needed something that I should just use the call-bell in my room, and someone would come and see me.

Well, we got to room 8, which was going to be my home for the next umpteen years. I thought it was a very nice room. Spotless clean with welcome flowers and card on my bed. Apart from my bed there were build-in wardrobes and a bedside cupboard. After my carer left, I closed the door to my room, sat on my bed and for the first time in many years I cried. I felt so hopelessly alone and forgotten. All I wanted to do was leave and go back to my old life. Shortly after there was a knock on my door and a young lady came in and brought me a cup of coffee and some cake. She saw my tear-stained face and reassured me that I would eventually love my new life in the nursing home. The next day I realised that I had not made any arrangements to have my unit cleaned and so I rang around trying to find someone to do the cleaning. After a couple of frustrating days, I gave up. Nobody I knew could do it as they were too busy living their own lives and I could not afford to get professional cleaners in. As a after thought I should have paid the professionals as 4 weeks later, I got a $1600-00 bill from Homeswest which I am still trying to pay off. So, beware if you are living in government accommodation you can expect a big bill whether you left your place clean or not.

My Room

After settling into my new home, I made some enquiries to see if I could get a small desk so that I could set – up my Computer which I can not live without. Next day the maintenance men brought me a small desk that he had found in his shed. (fantastic) In time I also bought myself a small bar-fridge and my daughter bought me another bedside table.

Yawn! 7am and I am waking up, but just enough so that I go back to sleep. I am thinking “just a half an hour” and so I wake up at 8am. I carefully get my feet out of bed onto the floor and after a drink of stale coffee I grab hold of my walking frame and step into the corridor where about 5 meters from my door is the linen & towel trolly situated. I grab some towels and a face washer, and it is back to my room. Into my ensuite and I turn the water on, lousy pressure! Normally one of the carers must be with you to help you with your shower and getting dressed, but in my case, I told them not to worry about me. So, with being short on staff and having lots of other residents to look after, I now have a shower by myself.

I feel the same then when I was a child and my mum finally let me have a shower by myself. Lol. After getting dressed I check my Email and do a few things on my computer. After this done, I am off to the dining room. There are still a few people sitting there. I sit down at my usual table and observe one of the pretty carers coming over to me. We pass the time for a moment and then she is of to the kitchen to get me my coffee. She knows how I like my coffee and so after a few minutes she comes back with my own cup filled with hot coffee. She also knows that I never have breakfast, a habit that I developed a few years ago.

Every Nursing Home has it’s good and bad and after 3 month here I have not really found any bad. Maybe the one thing is at no fault of the management and that is that we are short on staff. But so are most of the other Care Institutions.

 I just heard that in a Wanneroo Age-Care Unit a resident passed away and the relatives were not told about it for 5 days. How awful and sad, this should never happen and there are NO excuses for this. So sad!

The Nurse

First thing in the morning you will find one of our nurses making her round dispensing tablets and medication. I don’t mind the tablets, but I hate the Movicol.

Next the dayshift carers come around to help with your hygiene (showers etc.) and then make up your beds. Some of the residents will need their hair done and a bit of make-up put on. (makes you feel much more alive)

After this is done breakfast is brought around to the residents that can not go to the dining room. Usually you have a choice of Porridge, scrambled eggs or toast with a drink of your choice (Coffee, Tea, Milo etc.).

Anyone who can not feed themselves has a loving carer assigned to them who will feed them after which they will be moved into the activity lounge where they can rest or watch television on the big screen. Usually after a while they will be joined by other residents.

After breakfast everyone does their own thing or joins in at the games in the Activity room. Today we had Bingo!

Our non walking residents here get moved about in wheelchairs and in princess chairs (see enclosed Picture)

These Chairs fold right back and are so comfortable that a resident can stay in there for most of the day and also be brought into the dining room to eat with the rest of us.

About ten o’clock we have morning-tea served at our room or to where ever we might be. It usually consist of Coffee, Tea etc. and some sort of a snack (Sandwich, Biscuit or Cake) At one time the Chef came around and served everybody with freshly made pancakes and topping!

Lunch is usually a substantial meal of (Today we are having – baked salmon with lemon-pepper sauce and vegetables) also a desert of Fresh Fruits with Ice cream. Yummy!! Also again drinks of your choice!

I must mention that at anytime you can get the following from the Kitchen; Fresh Fruit, Ice cream in Cones, or on a stick, Fruit Drinks etc. and even the occasional Bottle of non-alcoholic wine.

In the Afternoon we have word games, sport games (Cricket etc.) or Movies which we have over a 100 to choose from. At this time I usually have an hour laydown. I forgot to mention that every morning I print-out the daily Northam weather report and the thought for the day, which I put up on 2 notice boards. In time to come I will hope that I can also write a monthly newsletter.

Activity Room

Afternoon tea is usually the same as in the morning, again served with a smiling face.

Five o’clock is dinner. Which begins with a soup being served. I love the mushroom soup! The main meal consist of Italian Meatloaf with Italian sauce. For the dessert we have Mango Mousse with topping and then of course drinks are being served. The kitchen usually have a staff of 2 – 4 persons and have extra helpers to take meals to the Residents that do not eat in the dinning room.

Whiles being here the afternoon Nurse comes around with our (my) tablets

Dinning Room

Well, it is now time for me to watch a movie on Netflix. About nine o’clock I get my sleeping pill and then at 9.30pm it is of to sleep for me.

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