To have acknowledgement of my existence, to be respected and to keep my dignity.
These were the three last wishes of Ethel, an aged care resident.
Department of Human Services Aged Care Team Leader Gianna Luccitti befriended Ethel while visiting her elderly mother.
“Ethel lived in the room next to my mother. After hearing from a staff member that no one had visited her in two years, it broke my heart,” Gianna said.
”I began visiting Ethel every day after work when I came by to see my mother.
“That’s when I asked her that if she could wish for anything, what it would be.
“Her response stuck with me. If you ask most people that question, they’ll say something like a holiday or to win the lottery.
“But something that costs us nothing can mean so much to someone else.”
Aged care is something Gianna is incredibly passionate about. She lived it every day with her mother and it’s something she devotes herself to in her role as Team Leader in the department’s Aged Care Team.
“I love the work I do,” Gianna said.
“People living in aged care often have no one to speak up for them, and a lot of the time they are the most vulnerable.
“Not long after Ethel had passed away, I was helping an elderly aged care customer with their payment and it dawned on me.
“As an organisation, we’re granting Ethel’s three wishes to millions of older Australians every day.
“We acknowledge their existence by having a relationship with them, we respect them by helping provide the payments they need, and this in turn gives them dignity as they are able to use this to access the right care to comfortably live their life.”
September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day, which also coincides with Dementia Awareness Month. It is an opportunity to look at how we can best support our loved ones living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
“From my personal and professional experience, I have three tips for those looking at selecting care for someone with dementia,” Gianna said.
“Choose a nursing home close to family or those important to you. This will ensure it’s easy for loved ones to visit regularly.
“Not all nursing homes provide the same level of care, so it’s important you select a residence that caters specifically to patients with dementia.
“Also make sure you check the accreditation status of the nursing home. All aged care homes receiving government subsidies need to meet quality standards.
“Having an understanding of a nursing homes accreditation will ensure you select the best possible care.”
CEO of Dementia Australia Maree McCabe says an estimated 425,000 Australians are living with dementia.
“Dementia not only affects the people living with it, but their loved ones too as they’re often the ones providing essential support and care, and facing the emotional hurdles that can be part of the dementia experience,” Ms McCabe said.
“A core part of the work of Dementia Australia is to increase understanding of dementia and its impact.
“By doing this, we can support our family members, friends, and neighbours living with dementia to continue to do the things that are important to them and experience being respected, included and involved.
“Gianna’s story is touching, moving and inspiring and made a profound difference to Ethel. Small actions can make a big difference.”
The department delivers approximately $1.5 billion a month in aged care costs and fees to providers of both residential and home care, highlighting how many Australians need our support.
“It doesn’t cost us anything to acknowledge the elderly, even if it’s just with a smile. But to them it can mean so much,” Gianna said.