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Goats and innovation in aged care

19 March 2012

Goats and innovation in aged care

“‘Recently I watched as one resident took his son and grandchildren out to the animal enclosure. It was a beautiful day and he sat with his son while his grandchildren fed the goats. It was lovely to witness.” Salvation Army Major Steven O’Neill

When he took on the role earlier this year as manager of The Salvation Army Cairns Aged Care Centre (Brisbane) Salvation Army Major Steven O’Neill understood the design philosophy behind the spacious, light and airy rooms, along with the raised garden beds, aviaries and fruit trees. He knew such features were highly conducive to resident wellbeing, adding touches of beauty, and making the centre feel like home, rather thanan institution.

However, he was slightly uncertain about the benefit of a proposed hobby farm, and the first of its residents – five pet goats.

He says: “Initially, when we opened the Cairns Centre in January last year (named after former Salvation Army Commissioner William Cairns OA and his brother Commissioner Alistair Cairns) we weren’t sure whether the farm would have a positive effect on residents, but now we have no doubts.

“Even yesterday afternoon I was sitting in the office and I glanced out the window and I saw a man, his son and grandchildren. The kids were running along and they went straight to the goat enclosure. I think it adds something to the family experience of visiting a nursing home. It is not viewed as a negative thing, or a duty, but as a positive, joyous experience for the grandkids, and canbe a wonderful discussion starterbetween the different generations.”

Officially opened in December 2010, The Salvation Army’s 126 bed centre is state-of-the-art in design and technology, and innovatively designed for light and space.

Accommodation is provided at varying care levels including low-care, high-care, and respite, with single and twin rooms. The centre features a chapel and library, plus a secure Memory Support Unit for residents living with dementia.

Steven says: “What The Salvation Army Aged Care Plus wanted to do was take a whole new approach to the delivery of care, with an uncompromising commitment to our residents.

“For example, for residents struggling with dementia, the secure Memory Support Unit is purposefully located on the ground floor with a landscaped secure garden area which also has an aviary. Memory boxes with items from the residents’ generation are displayed around the unit.”

Les, 82, is one of the 126 new Cairns Centre residents, and says that he really enjoys the centre.

“I find it very caring,” he says. “The staff are very helpful and treat me very well.”

Regularly, Les goes out to help feed the goats and says he thoroughly enjoys the routine.

He says with a cheeky smile and a twinkle in his eye: “We’re just a few old goats together. I enjoy the goats, and they will talk to you if you talk to them!” O

*The Salvation Army Aged Care Plus has also joined healthcare researchers at the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre, University of Technology Queensland, in a study aimed at improving the quality of care for people with dementia and their care givers.

The year-long research project is being conducted at seven key aged care residential facilities, including two Salvation Army Aged Care Plus facilities – the Cairns Aged Care Centre (Brisbane) and Woodport Retirement Village in Erina (NSW).

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