Caring for the elders among us
Teloca House, located in the heart of Narrandera, is one of only two aged care facilities in the town.
In 2015 Teloca’s ownership moved from the local Shire Council to RSL LifeCare, and in-so-doing became one of 29 care homes operated by RSL LifeCare across NSW.
In 2017 refurbishment and extension to the 45 bed care home began to provide additional bedrooms for the elderly of the local community, and to provide the very best comfort and style for all residents.
In 2018 residents and the broader community will be able to make use of the additional 15-bed wing currently being built at Teloca House. Each bedroom has its own bathroom, space for a fridge and are generously apportioned with ample space for a sitting area. Sliding doors open out onto either a balcony or beautifully tended internal courtyard. Teloca House will also undergo a staged refurbishment of several common and service areas in the existing building, including its dining area, outdoor spaces, kitchen and servery. In the future it is envisaged a dementia-specific ward will also be developed.
In 2017 Professor Marie Bashir visited her home town to officially open the War Memorial Wall at Teloca House. RSL LifeCare is committed to the health of ageing Australians right across NSW, currently caring for over 7,500 residents and employing over 3,000 staff to do so.
The organisation’s commitment to the local community of Narrandera is firm as well. With its schedule of extensions and refurbishments, Teloca House will enable more elderly “locals” to remain in their own community as their care needs grow. The extensions will also enable Teloca House to continue to be a strong employer across a number of industries, from nursing to carers, management, administration, catering, cleaning and gardening.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that Narrandera, with a population of just over 6000, is home to 886 people aged 70+; 14 per cent of the population. By 2025 Narrandera’s population aged 70+ is projected to grow to 1390, a rise of 57 per cent. In order for the region’s residents to remain in their home district as they age, services such as Teloca House will continue to be an essential component of the community’s housing strategy.
In recognition of the increasing need for aged care in the region, RSL LifeCare is also growing its Home Care service. LifeCare at Home in Narrandera is in its infancy, but with a strong and experienced organisation behind it, it will be an additional form of assistance to the elderly wanting to stay safe, secure and happy in their own homes until the time comes that more care is required.
Not that living at Teloca House separates residents from the local community. The recreation activities calendar is full of visits to local places for morning tea, shopping, lunches out or visits to see something of interest. As an organisation, RSL LifeCare’s focus is on Enjoying Life as much as clinical care provided to all it’s residents.
Residents enjoy regular visits from many organisations, including the little preschoolers who practice their songs and come in for a chat. Teloca House is a thriving, vibrant part of the local community.
A brief history of care
RSL LifeCare originated on October 18, 1911 at a meeting at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, where a group of men and women formed themselves into a committee to organise a home for ageing ex-soldiers of the British Empire who were living in poverty.
The new home was located in an old fort on Bare Island, Botany Bay, and simply known as “The Veterans Home”. On July 2 1912, on the Parade Ground of the Bare Island Barracks, the Governor-General, Lord Denman, officially opened The Veterans’ Home. Local press gave the event favourable coverage and reported that seven residents had been gradually settled into the Barracks.
In order to gain admittance to the Home, applicants were required to have served in the regular naval or military forces of the British Empire before January 1, 1885 (although special cases might also be admitted). They also had to have been a resident of NSW and to present evidence of their honourable discharge from the service and other references as to their good character and were be expected to help maintain the residence and contribute a weekly sum of five shillings (increased to seven shillings and sixpence by the 1930s) from their pensions. The residents dressed in donated uniforms of a navy blue coat with brass buttons, navy blue pant with a red stripe and a peak cap. They spent time practising their marching and were often in demand as a Guard of Honour on various formal occasions such as ANZAC day, Empire Day and Armistice Day.
In 1912 residents only possessed a communal organ in the dining room (owned by the Superintendent), but in the 1920s a piano was added to provide music for themselves as well as for visiting concert performances. Residents during the 1930s were a mixed group consisting of veterans from the Sudan, North-West India, Boer War and Great War plus some who had simply served in the old NSW permanent forces.
From these small beginnings RSL LifeCare developed over the century to have villages and services throughout NSW and the ACT with retirement living and residential aged care services at Austral (Liverpool), Ballina, Byron Bay, Canberra, Cherrybrook, Condobolin, Dungog, Eden, Galston, Goonellabah, Griffith, Hawks Nest, Lismore, Merimbula, Narrabeen, Narrandera, Nowra, Penrith, Picton, Port Macquarie, Richmond, Tea Gardens, Thirlmere, Toukley, Tura Beach, Wagga Wagga and Yass.
In-home care services are widely available with centres in the far north coast, mid north coast, Sydney, Southern Highlands, Riverina, ACT and the far south coast. In 2014 RSL LifeCare extended its care for older veterans to young veterans in need of accommodation through Homes for Heroes service.
Sadly, on any given night across Australia, there are many young veterans from recent campaigns (Afghanistan, East Timor and Iraq) who are homeless. In many ways the Homes for Heroes program is a reflection on the initial impetus for the creation of “The War Vets” back in 1911, when many vets from the Crimean, Boer and Sudan War were homeless on the streets of Sydney.
Bereft of support and often with nowhere to turn, these young veterans of their day were given accommodation, treatment and support. And so it is today with our current generation of younger veterans, RSL LifeCare sees his program as a return to its roots.
Since then RSL LifeCare has won many awards including:
- Nine “Better Practice in Aged Care” awards from the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency – no other organisation has received this number of awards
- Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency Commendable Accreditation Award – just seven of the 3,000 aged care services in Australia have reached this pinnacle of success
- Minister for Ageing Award – Winner of the Leadership Award
- Minister for Ageing Award – Winner of the Staff Education and Development Award
- Prime Minister’s Employer of the Year Award, Disability – NSW Finalist
- Winner of the Aged Care Association of Australia Building Award
A commitment to excellence
One of the truly admirable things about the Teloca House extension has been RSL LifeCare’s commitment to hiring local tradespeople.
Narrandera Joinery was one of the many local businesses who put their considerable skills to work, creating the beautiful timber work in the extension.
“It’s been a big job. It has worked out well, because Teloca is only a couple of blocks down the road,” said office manager Belinda Buchanan, who is the co-proprietor of the business with her husband, business manager Steve Buchanan.
“When we’ve had things that needed minor adjustments we can duck back and fix things to suit. Because we know all the other trades as well, it makes it a bit easier to co-ordinate with people you know.”
Narrandera Joinery has been responsible for creating the timber work throughout the extension. They built cabinets, kitchen cupboards, vanities and wardrobes.
“Everything was custom-made to suit their space and what their requirements were. That’s what we do, we make everything here. If they needed a space to fit a trolley, that’s what we made.”
Mr and Mrs Buchanan were quick to acknowledge the work of their staff, and wanted to thank them for their incredible efforts in pulling off such a mammoth task.
“We employ qualified tradesmen with a high standard of workmanship, and could never have taken on this job without their skills and support,” Mrs Buchanan said. “We started work in about October, and we were preparing for quite a few months before that, with plans and colours. There’s a lot that goes into it before.”
The most striking part of their work in the new extension is a beautiful timber nurses’ station, which was completely custom made for the needs of the Teloca staff. The company is licensed as a kitchen, bathroom and laundry renovator, as well as timber joinery. Narrandera Joinery also makes a point of hiring locals, and their focus in the community reflects back on the work they specialise in.
“Most of the work we do is renovation; there are not a lot of new homes that go up in this area. So we have to work with the period of the home,” Mrs Buchanan said.
As a result, Mr Buchanan and his team specialise in matching heritage styles, creating moulded timber architraves, picture rails, dado rails, and producing highly specialised bespoke work.
“Everyone has their own individual style, apart from the style of the house. You have to work with what they like and come with a plan.”
With that in mind, the company has a commitment to working with the needs of their clients, and to within their budgets.
“It’s the finer detail; our margin for error might only be one millimetre. It’s more precise, fine detailed work,” Mrs Buchanan said.
Finding a home in Teloca House
Jean Robson is one of many locals who have made Teloca House their home. Born in Narrandera, Jean is the daughter of David Charles who farmed at Grong Grong.
“Dad made his way to Grong Grong on a push bike from Victoria and established a sheep and wheat farm,” Jean said. “I grew up on the farm until I reached high school and then I lived with my uncle and aunt in Narrandera for four years until I commenced training as a nurse at the Narrandera Hospital.
“I graduated as a General Nurse in June 1948 then did further training in Sydney to work as a Theatre Nurse. At the age of 27 I married my best friend and lifelong partner, Fred, from England. Together we had three children, two sons (Robert and Ross) and a beautiful daughter (Jayne) and we also unofficially adopted another daughter Julie. I remained in the original family home until moving into Teloca in 2011.
“I have been blessed with a varied life, not only raising my children and looking after my husband but I was also involved with many different community services including Narrandera Show Committee for 50 years, Health Services for 25 years, Meals on Wheels, Red Cross, Rotary, CWA, Uniting Church delivering services when no Minister was available and I started the Day Care Centre at Narrandera.
“I also found time to undertake cake decorating and am a life member of the World Wide Tea Towel Society. I would not have been able to achieve all these interests without the support of my husband Fred. We have four grand children whom I am very proud of. I have a favourite saying: “There is no such word as can’t”.
“I am very thankful for my life thus far and am so grateful to be here at Teloca House; it has given me the peace and security to live the remainder knowing that I am being well cared for.”
Care extending into the home
‘There’s no place like home’ and there is no argument with that, but when it all gets too hard RSL LifeCare at Home can provide the services needed to ensure local people can stay at home when they want to and it’s practical.
While we all aim for independence and autonomy, there comes a time when we need help with some tasks around the house in order to remain in our homes.
- Having more difficulty doing certain tasks around the house?
- Struggling to maintain yourself and your home? Paying your bills?
- Recuperating after a hospital stay? Feeling fatigued?
- Having concerns about becoming more forgetful than usual?
- Nursing your partner?
- Experiencing the loss of a loved one or carer?
- Wanting to get from A to B but can’t drive anymore?
- Needing to get out to see friends, the doctor, or other usual outings?
RSL LifeCare At Home has a wide range of service options which can be tailored to suit including;
- After-hospital (transition) care
- Alerts and safety devices
- Allied Health Services (such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy, podiatry and others)
- Domestic assistance – cleaning, housework, and laundry
- Errands and shopping
- Meal preparation/diet monitoring
- Medication assistance
- Nursing Support
- Personal hygiene
- Palliative care
- Respite care
- Short term or long term care
- Transport to appointments and social outings
Care and support is tailored specifically based on needs, preferences and circumstances. There are different programs through which it is possible to receive government subsidised care such as Home Care Packages, DVA Community Nursing and Veterans Home Care and depending on the program, an assessment is often required to determine eligibility and service needs.
Home Care Package and DVA nursing services are subsidised by the government, meaning many people get the care they need at little or no cost. Even if they are not entitled to government funding privately-funded care can be provided by RSL LifeCare at Home.