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Keeping seniors healthy

This time last year Kathleen Edwards was in a fragile state. The 88-year-old was receiving respite care in hospital following an operation on a disc in her back and her family was worried about how she would cope returning to live alone at her Ferntree Gully home in Victoria.
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Kathleen Edwards sits holding paintbrush

This time last year Kathleen Edwards was in a fragile state. The 88-year-old was receiving respite care in hospital following an operation on a disc in her back and her family was worried about how she would cope returning to live alone at her Ferntree Gully home in Victoria.

But one year on and things are looking bright for the grandmother of eight. Ms Edwards (pictured) is one of 293 older people living in Melbourne’s east who are still able to participate in activities they love, and remain living independently at home, through community care packages and respite services delivered by notforprofit aged and disability services provider Villa Maria.

Since August last year, Ms Edwards has received weekly visits from a Villa Maria direct care worker through a community care package.

“I really enjoy the visits,” Ms Edwards said.  “We go to the park, have a cup of tea, visit the library or go shopping. It is also some respite for my daughters who can go to work and don’t have to come and see me that day.”

Villa Maria case manager, Amy Yuen, said the change in Ms Edwards over the past year had been “amazing”.

“When I first met Ms Edwards she had difficulty walking and some mobility issues, and her family was concerned about care available for her.  As well as arranging the in-home respite care and access to an activity centre, I referred her to Villa Maria Rehabilitation Centre in Wantirna. There, she was assessed by an occupational therapist who arranged for disability modifications and a personal alarm to help prevent her from having falls,” Ms Yuen said.

Since that time, Ms Edwards’ improvement has been fantastic, according to Ms Yuen.

“She is now totally mobile, can do all the household tasks, and looks very happy. She’s even planning a camping trip with her family in October.”

Another vital part of improving and maintaining Ms Edwards’ physical and emotional wellbeing has been twice-weekly visits to Villa Maria’s White Road Activity and Respite Centre in Wantirna. The centre runs a range of programs and activities for adults living in the east with an acquired physical disability, such as a brain injury or stroke, a visual or physical impairment, or who are frail aged, as well as offering vital respite for their carers.

“I enjoy doing crafts and mosaic and also the quizzes because they make you think and keep your mind active,” Ms Edwards said. 

“We also have a theme each week where we dress up and do activities.  I’m looking forward to Mexican Week soon.  I’ve already bought a poncho for that!”

In July, White Road received further funding from the Department of Health in Victoria’s Home and Community Program to continue to run activities for older people in the Knox region.

Ms Edwards encouraged fellow seniors and their carers or family members to seek support if they needed it.

“It’s awful if you have to sit at home and do nothing.  It’s good to be able to keep busy and active every day.”  

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