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From homeless to thriving

Melbourne aged care home making a difference

As a silent epidemic of homelessness among our older population sweeps across Australia, Melbourne’s Brotherhood of St Laurence is pitching in to make a difference.

With the nation experiencing a housing affordability crisis and the tightest rental market on record, no one knows the true number of homeless Australians – last estimated in the 2021 Census to be more than 122,000 people.

What we do know is that older women are one of the fastest growing groups at risk of becoming homeless and many older men are sleeping rough.

Eighty-three-year-old Ron Anderson counts himself lucky to be making the best of his twilight years in a Melbourne aged care home instead of living in unsuitable temporary housing.

He had been living in temporary accommodation with stairs until he suffered a fall which required a hip replacement.

His GP recommended aged care and helped him with the paperwork.

Ron is now living at Clifton Hill Aged Care, which has been nominated for the Aged and Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) You are ACE! recognition awards, in the ‘Making a Difference’ category.

“I wanted to find a nice place where I can walk to the park and talk to the birds and trees. So, I have this beautiful park here where they do take the residents out. I go out to the park every day if I can,” Ron said.

Ron describes his accommodation as “very good”. He is particularly impressed that his washing and room is cleaned daily. “The staff are very good; they are from all the different countries. I have no complaints,” he said.

Long-time Clifton Hill resident Barry McPhail, 75, who has called Clifton Hill his home for the past eight years, said staff are extremely competent. “They do great work. The food is excellent all round and the place is extremely well run. They are extremely patient and diligent in their work and hardworking, passionate and skilled,” said Barry.

“It’s a very tolerant community and the staff are from all walks of life. A fair percentage of us are from welfare and working class backgrounds and other quite wealthy people come here too. We are all well cared for.”

The men represent the more than 50 per cent of socially disadvantaged, at risk and homeless residents who call Clifton Hill Aged Care their home.

Residents are thriving with the dedicated nursing and medical care, which is invaluable to people who are of limited means.

ACCPA CEO Tom Symondson said homelessness, insecure and unsuitable housing among older Australians could worsen existing health issues, increase the risk of social isolation and compromise wellbeing.

“By securing stable housing arrangements, aged care providers promote better health outcomes for older people,” he said. “Having a safe and comfortable place to call home enables older people to maintain their independence, retain their sense of identity and stay connected.

“We congratulate the Brotherhood of St Laurence team at Clifton Hill for their commitment to helping at-risk older people. “Everyone has the right to a dignified life.”

Clifton Hill uses an innovative nurse-led staffing model that fosters greater connections between carers and residents to improve the quality of care for residents.

Manager Milly Kuranage said individual management plans were developed in consultation with the disadvantaged resident and the medical team.

“This provides continuity of relationships with staff for residents and aligns well with the Royal Commission’s recommendations and age care reforms by placing senior Australians first, improving quality, safety and choice in aged care,” she said.

Debbie Everett, Media Advisor, ACCPA

Clifton Hill Head of Residential Care Milly Kuranage with resident Barry McPhail.

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