Cottage respite celebrates 10 years of making a difference

When people living with dementia have overnight respite at HammondCare’s Jean Marion Cottage on the NSW Central Coast its “just like they are visiting friends”, according to manager, Trish Boal.

The cottage celebrated its 10th anniversary on September 1 and new research* has shown that 95 per cent of carers preferred its overnight cottage respite for their family member and that it delays placement in permanent residential care by more than a year.

But for Trish Boal and her team of specially trained care workers, the value of their service is seen on the faces of family carers and in the quality of life of their clients.

“We get to see that we are making a difference – the look on the carers’ faces as they bring their family member to the cottage, the sense of relief they have in knowing their loved one will receive safe, compassionate respite care,” Trish said.

Like extended family

“Many carers have very little support and in their eyes we almost become like extended family. Or some say we are like the holiday home the person with dementia comes to for a few nights stay, which is the benefit of the service being at a normal residential address.

“It is so significant that our staff are really able to get to know each person with dementia, so that they recognise where they are going and aren’t distressed.”

Cottage staff member Christine said, “I recall one client who is no longer able to speak but as her son brings her to the front door, I can see the recognition in her eyes, and she’s happy to come and stay.”

Economic benefits

The very human and personal benefits of cottage respite, such as provided by Jean Marion Cottage, are matched by helpful economic outcomes.

In a 2016 study by Associate Professor Chris Poulos, 93 per cent of carers reported that cottage respite helped them care for their family member at home and 55.7 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that it had a role in delaying the need for permanent residential aged care.

According to A/Prof Poulos’ research, the average extension of care at home was 1.03 years – not only supporting family and client choice, but also reducing aged care costs.

“Looking at the economics of cottage respite… for a government outlay of $2.5 million on cottage respite, plus community care, the Government saves around $4 million in nursing home care, resulting in a net saving to government of around $1.5 million,” A/Prof Poulos said.

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates there are 2.7 million carers in Australia or 11.6 per cent of the population. “The role of caring can be relentless and often done at great personal cost to the carer’s own employment or enjoyment of life. The primary aim of respite care is to assist carers to continue in their caring role.

“Unlike residential aged care nursing homes, residential respite cottages are small community houses which accommodate only a small number of clients.”

Hundreds of families supported

Facts and figures aside, for Trish and her team, the value of Jean Marion Cottage, and other services like it (such as HammondCare’s Lucinda Cottage in Wahroonga), is in the support it has brought to hundreds of families and clients during the past 10 years.

“A need for overnight respite was identified 10 years ago, funding was sought, and Jean Marion began - it’s clear we have been able to meet this need,” Trish said.

“It’s not a big scary institution, it’s just like a family home – secure but with room to move and access to our lovely gardens. Clients meet up with other clients they’ve befriended, and families are able to put their trust in us.

“We are like a comfortable bed and breakfast except we do lunch and dinner as well and all our staff are fully trained!”

10th anniversary celebration

A 10th anniversary celebration for Jean Marion Cottage was held on Thursday, September 1 and was attended by clients, families and staff as well as HammondCare Chief Executive, Dr Stephen Judd and General Manager of HammondAtHome, David Martin.

* The Respite Care Study was conducted by A/Prof Chris Poulos and Mary-Rose Birch between June and October 2015 and involved 136 telephone surveys as well as five in depth interviews with carers. To be eligible, participants had to have used cottage respite on more than one occasion between October 1, 2012 and November 30, 2014.

For further detail on the research, see HammondCare’s annual research report.