Back to News

Putting the patients first

FIRST service location of its kind in Sydney offers respite to families, aims to treat afflicted with care and respect

An aged care service is helping to break down social stigma associated with dementia by providing support for people affected by the condition and their loved ones.

Catholic Healthcare’s Chantal Cottage is a dementia respite service located in McQuoin Park, Waitara. It provides day and overnight respite and is the only facility of its kind in Sydney.

It was opened in 2006 when Joanne Nienhuis saw the need for dementia care in the local area.

Ms Nienhuis is now senior co-ordinator for Catholic Community Services Northern Sydney but still regularly cares at Chantal Cottage.

Dementia is a condition associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and the ability to perform everyday tasks. But Martina Goulden, co-ordinator of Chantal Cottage, said it’s important to know there is life after a diagnosis of dementia.

“It comes down to the attitude, approach and management of treating people living with dementia. We see the person, not the pathology.”

The key to supporting their clients comes down to the domestic and familiar environment of the cottage and promotion of gentle encouragement.

The familiarity, said Ms Goulden, is to promote a home away from home. This come down to even the small details, such as the simple design and decor of the cottage itself. And this includes maintaining a familiar routine.

“It’s homely, not medical. If someone sleeps in until midday on Sundays, then that’s what they’ll do here. There’s no 6am showers or anything,” Ms Goulden said.

Daily care programs at Chantal Cottage include group singing, art and craft, quizzes to keep mental stimulation going, bus outings and daily physical exercise.

Knowing their loved ones are being cared for and enjoying themselves also helps to ease the stress for carers. The temporary respite is what makes Chantal Cottage unique, as their carers are given a break and reassured to alleviate any carer guilt, which Ms Goulden says is quite common with new clients.

Ms Goulden emphasised the importance of preserving dignity, as their clients can get embarrassed, and the need to break down the perception of dementia.

“At the end of the day, it’s about honouring the human first and foremost. They are still human beings. They might not be able to do everything, but they are still being.”

Story and image courtesy of the Hornsby Advocate