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Call to action needed from the Community

This story was originally published in the Whangamata News by Jennie Black.

There is a growing need in the community for a purpose-built dementia unit. There is also a real need for independent apartment living for those who are mobile and want to enjoy a lifestyle where they are self-reliant. Our first two pieces raised awareness: 'We are here - We are Moana' and then 'Who are the people in Moana and what is the need' in which Whangamatā News met with Ersk and Mavis, Sue, Paul and Daveena, all who have differing types of care living in Moana to this date (please refer to our blog for earlier stories).

So now we focus on the next priority – the Dementia Unit. For readers who don't know, we must build a new facility for a dementia unit, it is not possible to create one as the buildings exist now.

The Dementia Unit is the driver of the entire re-build of our facility. Obviously a Dementia Unit is a different design, a different standard and a different specification. So, as I was a daughter of an Alzheimers father, I asked Vivienne and Garth, "what would I see in a dementia unit for my parents? What needs and standards would I see?"

Fascinatingly they told me "You will see a different design, where you will see visual prompts for dementia patients, they will see where they need to move. For example, that patient would not see the end of a corridor,but say,a bookcase, so that exits and pathways can be disguised for their safety, the differing stimuli, the aesthetics and design will also show animation on floors rather than a mat, especially at night. A lot of people who have dementia, come alive at night, so they need to help and manage Moana staff to help the environment to foster that.

Vivienne told me there is a new and incredible computer on a stand, or on a table or floor known as The OMI – with magic surface interactive projections. Say the image projected portrays sand, and then water, shells and fish will come out, projected in front of the resident. Imagine clouds that when touched, the clouds move and a unicorn appears, or a garden in a field that when touched blooms. This OMI is well-used overseas. To have someone who has lost their memory try to find where their room is, their image could be a wallflower, so they look for and follow the wall flower – and there it is on their room's door.

Vivienne says "It's all about how you design the facility". Garth adds "Dementia New Zealand are also very supportive of the plans we have here". I couldn't believe what I was hearing ! My Dad passed away in 2010 and I can not portray the experiences I had with a Dementia Unit in a Tauranga Home and Hospital, staff were hard-pressed to turn the TV on, let alone a western, which my father would dearly have loved. And now this, straight away, I went to search for the OMI magic, to ensure rich, happy and safe lives as your candle dwindles. Incredibly, only $18,000 (approximately) could buy one for the Dementia Unit planned for Moana House.

As a reader, could you help? My question to Garth Blake, as Fundraising Manager for the rebuild of Moana House Home, Hospital and Dementia Unit, is this how will you fundraise the $20m plus to come to fruition? He told me "Getting momentum is so important, so we can go to the government now, not just showing the intent to support but also is it not Government responsibility?" The need on the Eastern Coromandel is now, say if you are in Whitianga and you get dementia and you have to come to Whangamatā, then that has to be a lot better than your loved one going to Thames. Particularly with SH25A now and how that is. Access to visit and live in Moana House would be the answer.

In my opinion the need is dire, its proposal is 80 beds in a new facility and 20 of those beds are in a Dementia Care Unit that clearly has a new vision for our family and puts their needs first. Also, as we go to print, Mavis Robertson (93), of our last story, has sadly just left Moana House to go to the Thames Dementia Unit and leave Whangamatā and her husband of 70 years behind. It will be difficult for Ersk to visit her. He will be totally reliant on his children for a long trip and indeed an upsetting, emotional one coming all the way home again.

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