Retirement only lasted a little over two years for registered nurse Rosemary Newman, 67, before Covid-19 saw her return to work.
Her expertise of more than 20 years is in needs assessment and services coordination for people aged over 65, and last year her colleagues begged her to return as there was a year’s backlog of referrals caused by lockdowns.
Now living in The Botanic in Silverdale, Rosemary went back to work for Waitemata District Health Board (based at the Hibiscus Coast Community Health Centre in Red Beach) to help them clear the backlog.
“I enjoy helping people but it has been challenging as the assessments of the person’s needs must be done remotely now as much as possible,” Rosemary says. “You quickly learn how to listen carefully on the phone, including meetings with family members on speakerphone or Zoom.”
Patients are referred for assessment by their GP, organisations such as Parkinsons NZ, Dementia NZ or Age Concern, and district nurses.
Rosemary and her team assess what the individual needs, and put those services in place.
What comes through clearly from the vast majority of patients, Rosemary says, is the desire to stay as long as possible in their own homes.
Making this work requires various amounts of support to be put in place, depending on the person’s needs. Carers may help get the person up, showered and ready for their day, and (for those with a Community Services Card) help with housework can also be provided.
The call may also go out for support to local community organisations.
Helping an older relative stay at home requires more of family too, especially as services cannot be provided at night because of staffing, but Rosemary says it is important to support anyone who is physically and mentally safe to stay home, when that is their wish.
“I hope one day someone hears my wants and needs,” she says. “A patient might say that their son or daughter is really busy and works fulltime, has children and so on. But families have to take responsibility and more often than not, they are happy to do so.”
Rosemary says as well as assessing an older person’s physical needs, the team asks questions such as “have you felt sad, hopeless, or lonely?”
“With people not being able to get out to their social or sporting activities, or perhaps being separated from loved ones, because of Covid-19, it makes sense that there would be more loneliness.”
The assessment is valid for two years, unless the needs of the person change within that period.
“If someone has deteriorated, and even substantial care is not working, we ask whether they need to consider residential care and discuss that with family. But before that stage is reached, there are definitely options for people who are happiest staying at home.”