Meeting Needs with Mercy

Mercy Services

Mercy Services attempts to alleviate this confusion and set the minds of persons needing care – and their loved ones – at ease. A registered company and a not for profit charity organisation, Mercy Services can assist in all situations where help is needed by those who are the sole care provider to a person who can no longer take care of themselves in one way or another. The organisation’s goal is to support the people who need it whilst enabling them to remain living in their own home for as long as they care to stay.

The organisation was originally launched by the Sisters of Mercy, a group of registered nurses in the late 1970s. They worked out of the Mater Hospital in Newcastle and provided palliative care for people in the community; eventually, in the 1980s the group obtained funding from New South Wales Health to continue in that role and to hire more registered nurses to care for people within the community. More funding followed, allowing the group to operate a day centre for people with disabilities, and the 1990s eventually brought core funding into the community aged care industry, and for persons with disabilities. By 2001, the organisation was able to provide community transport services and an increasing variety of community support programs.

Stephanie Colquhoun is the Coordinator for one such initiative, the dementia monitoring and social support program, and she has been hard at work providing innovative ways of caring for people with dementia. These innovative programs are usually geared to those with early onset dementia within and around the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie areas.

Stephanie explains, “I have six support workers and six volunteers as well; we cover medication monitoring which can be seven days a week. We go in and assist people with their medication, and we also have a unit which is called a carousel, which is an automated piece of equipment that dispenses medications with an alarm that will sound for an hour. It can be set for 28 doses, so normally we have people taking medications up to five times a day, and we go in sometimes twice a week to have those units re-patched with medication. If that’s not suitable we can have a care worker go in once a day and dispense medication from a locked box, as well as to assist them with medication patches, eye, ear, and nose drops as well as ointments and creams.”

All of the carers working with dementia sufferers hold a certificate 3 in aged care. They assist in other programs such as walking groups which provide exercise, morning tea, and opportunities to socialise and play games. Often these groups also include a meal in a restaurant where the participants can see the food (such as at a buffet where the food is displayed rather than simply on a menu); this simple approach works well to combat confusion that can be caused by a failing short term memory.

Another interesting program is one which picks participants up from their homes and brings them to a venue where they can enjoy a creative activity. For example, the men are taken to lunch and then brought to what is called The Shed, a woodworking shop. There they will make handmade timber crafts that can be sold for money to help the organisation purchase new equipment. There are also programs that are non gender specific, incorporating a trip to a restaurant for lunch and then an all day adventure to a vineyard or another place of interest.

Roy Hambly, General Manager of Mercy Services for the past 14 years, told us, “Our facility at West Wallsend is actually a refurbished bowling club so we had some extra room on the old greens, the majority of which are used by the local croquet club, and on which we built our activity shed. We also received some funding from the Newcastle Permanent Building Society Charitable Foundation to build a sensory garden for the people with dementia to walk around and have a look at, which is very stimulating to their senses.”

The sensory garden is a beautiful garden with water features, wind chimes, and a selection of vegetable gardens growing edibles. There is also a native garden with ponds along with a shed that simulates a bus shelter to help stimulate participants’ past memories.

The main goal of the recreational programs is to stimulate the brain to create new pathways, and according to Stephanie it has worked very well. “These people are with others who have memory loss and they are accepted by each other… no one feels as if they are different and I think that’s an incredible part of the program, that these people feel comfortable with the ones with whom they are spending their time.”

Aged care isn’t the only service offered by Mercy Services; there are many other programs available to those who need them, including counselling services and other programs for families that are at risk of having issues with drugs or alcohol. Mercy runs around 25 diverse programs, ranging from aged care and disability, family, drug and alcohol, to crime prevention, parenting, and intensive behaviour management intervention.

The intensive behaviour management program, called Brighter Futures, is funded by the NSW Government and is an early intervention program working with vulnerable families. Mercy works specifically to help families with children that have challenging behaviour. A worker will actually enter into a client’s home and work with them at difficult times, perhaps around bedtime where the parents need to learn about how to properly get their children clean, fed and put in bed. Help can also be given in the morning to help parents learn how to get their kids out of bed and ready for school.

The organisation employs approximately 120 staff members that live all across the Hunter area and presently welcomes around 100 volunteers who generously donate their time to work across a number of programs.

Roy Hambly explains that, “The Sisters of Mercy were founded by a woman called Catherine McAuley in Dublin, Ireland, and it’s always been a very strong philosophy that the programs under the Mercy banner still try and follow the vision of Catherine McAuley by working with vulnerable and disadvantaged people. It’s a very important part of the work and the values that we have here.”

The Commonwealth Government is presently undertaking significant aged care reform, part of an overall health reform process. The Commonwealth will be taking responsibility for everyone that is aged 65 and over as part of the new Aged Care Reforms while the NSW State Government has taken responsibility for everyone under 65 with a disability under a broadened disability services program. These reforms will continue until 2015 and will provide new funding for the development of innovative programs while continuing to fund existing ones.

While these reforms are taking place, Mercy Services still needs help from those who would appreciate the chance to volunteer and work with people in need. Often, helping a person in need is as simple as sitting down and sharing a meal with them. Other times, it is the families that could just simply use a bit of respite. There is currently an important opportunity for funding for respite services at Mercy, to provide for the carers of people with dementia or to give them a break.

For more information on how to help out, please visit Mercy Services online at www.mercyservices.org.au or call (02) 49612686.

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October 20, 2018, 11:35 AM AEDT

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