Waratah aged care residents eager to re-engage with their beloved Hunter

After months of being locked down, the 232 residents of HammondCare Waratah are queuing up for outings to reconnect with the Newcastle community.

HammondCare Waratah residents Warren Stevenson and Ann Morley sit on grass outside bus talking, Warren is holding a drink and a biscuitAfter months of being locked down, the 232 residents of HammondCare Waratah are queuing up for outings to reconnect with the Newcastle community.

Residents have already been able to be reacquainted with locations like the beautiful Swansea foreshore of Lake Macquarie. But with just one small nine-seater bus available for all residents, offering residents more than a once-weekly trip is almost impossible.

The residents and staff of Waratah have a simple wish Christmas this year: a new, bigger bus for more opportunities to engage in their community.

The HammondCare Foundation’s Christmas Appeal 2021 is raising funds to make their wish come true, to enable the purchase of a 12-seater Mercedes Benz Sprinter minivan with two wheelchair lifts.

Waratah residents, many living with dementia, are reacquainting themselves to the world after being locked down by NSW Public Health Orders from June through to October 2021. They were restricted to visits for essential care only.

Activities Officer Kerry Simpson, the driver on the Swansea trip, said regular bus trips were about much more than just sightseeing outings or a break from routine for residents. “A bus enables residents we care for to go places and engage in and be part of society," said Kerry. “These types of engagement opportunities create a sense of purpose and give residents something to look forward to with adventure beyond their cottage environment."

Favourite locations residents like to visit include Catherine Hill Bay, Georgetown, Nobbys Beach, Morpeth, Raymond Terrace, Tea Garden and Salamander Bay.

On other occasions, the bus takes residents on outings to local churches for lunch, a cup of tea and a concert. Sometimes they go to McDonald’s Drive-Thru for an icecream or assisted trips to the shops.

HammondCare Waratah residents sit outside on the beach watching the boats on the waterThe buses are also helpful to transport residents to medical appointments.

HammondCare’s Executive Director for Research and Dementia Design, Associate Professor Colm Cunningham, said bus trips were essential to relationship-based care. “Having our own bus means residents can move at their own pace and not be rushed and our care staff can control environments,” A/Prof Cunningham said.

“Being able to connect with the wider world keeps their mental health on a higher level and contributing to mobility and wellness.”

He said an important benefit of outings for people living with dementia is that they can bring back important positive memories, a part of reminiscence therapy.

HammondCare Waratah volunteer Lisa Boychuck often accompanies residents on their bus outings. “The residents absolutely adore these trips. It is the focus of their week and gives them something to keep talking about."

But the present bus seats just eight people, has only one wheelchair lift and little space for walkers.

The HammondCare Foundation has a target of $115,000 for the new bus. If you would like to get on board to support this Christmas project, donate online or call direct on 1300 426 666.

Find out more and donate