Ageing with style

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My sister-in-law, Lois Hunt, is planning a trip from Perth to Launceston to spend Christmas with one of her sons, her daughter-in-law and three grandsons. She’s just come back from a week’s holiday at the beach in Busselton.

‘I’m ready to go,’ she says. ‘My plane fare is booked. I’ve bought and wrapped Christmas presents for my four sons and their wives, twelve grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.’

Nothing remarkable about that,  you may ask?

Nothing, except that Lois is eighty-four and has impaired vision. As well as that, a cerebro-vascular accident (stroke) seven years ago left her almost completely paralysed on her left side. Oh, and she lives in an aged care facility – in a place we used to call a nursing home.

Sign on a resident's locker

Sign on a resident’s locker

In all my years as an aged-care nurse and later as an advocate for residents in aged care facilities, I never encountered anyone like this woman. She is a model of ageing gracefully, and sometimes not so gracefully, in extremely adverse circumstances.

Enjoying her retirement and holidaying in Sydney, Lois was unconscious when she was found, slumped across the bed in her hotel room. Had her plight been discovered earlier so that she could have received more urgent treatment, she may have made a better recovery. (See below for signs of a stroke.)

Although initially devastated,, when she was sufficiently recovered, she decided not to let a stroke beat her. Always a determined, woman, she made up her mind to live fully, in spite of her disability. Fortunately, she has retained her mental acumen and her speech is unaffected.

A large circle of friends and family (including her grandchildren who adore her) take her to dinner in restaurants and their homes; to the theatre; on shopping excursions and to football games. She organises holidays at the beach and has become an inveterate phone shopper.

Lois and brother David Fleming at Karratha Airport

Lois and brother David Fleming at Karratha Airport

Happy days!

Happy days!

 

 

 

 

 

Every week Lois attends a church service in the chapel of the facility; another day she has her hair done by a visiting hairdresser. When she’s home, she joins the other residents in the dining room for meals and the activities room for whatever is planned by the occupational therapist for the day.

Our visits to the facility are interrupted. Women in wheelchairs stop by Lois’s room to exchange local neighbourly gossip. Other people, visiting relatives, come to say hello and greet Lois and her visitors like friends. Staff members on errands stop to chat.

Room with a view

Room with a view

Seated in a wheelchair, this remarkable woman presides over a pleasant, homely room full of family photos, mementos and flowers.  Residents of aged care facilities have tenure over their room for life. In practice there are restraints relating to housekeeping and safety which dictate what furnishings and belongings are acceptable. But Lois cheerfully ignores requests to tidy her room.

‘This is my home,’ she says. ‘This is where I live.’

 

SIGNS OF A STROKE REQURE URGENT ACTION

Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the   person to smile. Is their smile uneven?
Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both   arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak   or hard to understand? Ask them to repeat a simple sentence, like “The   sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 000 – If someone shows any of these signs, even if the   symptoms go away, call 000 and get the person to the hospital immediately.   Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

 

6 thoughts on “Ageing with style

  1. Exceptional people are role models for all – they show us that life is for living, and strength of character shows in the way we live. A possibly life-changing message regarding signs of stroke, delivered with a glowing, well-deserved tribute – thank you Maureen for your time, kindness and skills.

    • Glad you enjoyed reading the post about a positive role model of living in an aged care facility. Thank you for your comment.

  2. Maureen, it is very difficult to describe just how wonderful a person my sister-in-law is, she never ceases to inspire and amaze us with her willpower and strength. We (David her brother, and I) were with Lois when she had the misfortune to be struck down with a stroke. Never once did she complain or consider she would face adversity. Now along with her close knit family and friends we learn from her example just how strong the human spirit can be.

    • Dear Elizabeth, thank you for your lovely warm response to my post about Lois. We are blessed to know Lois. Thank you again.

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