The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports older people make up a considerable proportion of the country’s population, with more than 3.7 million people aged 65 and over in 2016. And the number is expected to reach 8.7 million in the next 40 years.
Lithgow Aged Care’s chief executive officer Sharon Holt believes this growth in numbers will be reflected in parts of the Central West.
“In 2011 to 2013 there were studies undertaken, particularly in the Lithgow area, in regard to the growing need for aged care, and it was identified that Lithgow has the biggest population of aging residents in the rural NSW area,” Ms Holt said. “And what that means for our area, including Bathurst, is that we need to be ready for that influx.”
From humble beginnings as a 25-bed hostel in 1968, what is now called Lithgow Aged Care has always had a focus on the future, merging two facilities in 2013 and acquiring 73 additional residential beds in 2017.
The next exciting project for the community owned and operated aged care provider is a massive undertaking which will deliver a state-of-the-art facility. This October, the first sod will be turned on a new build, thanks partly to a $3.5 million government capital grant, and will result in a new 168-bed facility.
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Incorporating the current 95 beds, planning is underway for the project which will hopefully see the doors swing open in four years.
And, it will be like nothing seen before in aged care design. While many facilities look clinical in their repetitive similarity, the new Lithgow Aged Care will be modern from the outside in. In the hands of Bathurst’s Integrated Design Group, each pod within the 36-block units will be different from the next, being built from varying materials.
But it will be the facility’s continued philosophy of person-centred care which will provide the strongest of foundations for residents.
The respect, the communication and relationship built from that space is really remarkable.Sharon Holt
“We have benchmarked against like-minded facilities and we were always favourable with our care staff [ratio],” Ms Holt said.
That means residents at Lithgow Aged Care receive more care time than what is received at other facilities. This care, together with services provided, helps differentiates Lithgow Aged Care.
“All services are in-house. We cook all our meals in-house, and all our laundry and cleaning is done in-house as well,” Ms Holt said.
Also of immense value, Ms Holt proudly acknowledges, is the remarkable staff.
“Some of our staff have been with us for more than 25 years and their relationship with our residents is so conducive to our home-like environment, which is really important to us,” she said.
In the last five years the industry, and Lithgow Aged Care especially, has embraced person-centred care.
“The flexibility around care has changed. We are more accommodating and flexible with resident care, such as meal times,” she said.
Residents at the redeveloped Lithgow Aged Care will be able to enjoy a coffee at the on-site cafe or have their hair done at the salon.
They will continue to enjoy tailored activities developed by the diversional therapist, head out on regional excursions and pack their bags with excitement for the biannual resident holidays where they stay for a night or two.
Enabling residents to connect with the community is also encouraged, with a buddy program established with Lithgow Public School. This program is “immeasurable” in its benefits, Ms Holt said.
“The respect, the communication and the relationship built from that space is really remarkable,” she said.