What it’s like to have family in residential care

Lisa Spira her mother Judy decided to move her father, Henry, into Montefiore Residential Care

Since their close family entered residential care, board members Lisa Spira and Renée Symonds have seen Montefiore from a new point of view. Here they share their personal experiences and insights for those considering care for a loved one.

Montefiore Board members Lisa Spira and Renée Symonds first met nearly 30 years ago when their children attended preschool together. Both have been board members for more than 20 years and sit on the Quality, Safety and Risk Committee. Lisa brings a wealth of experience as a Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nurse Educator. Renée is a clinical psychologist who helped to establish Montefiore’s award-winning Staff Holocaust Awareness program.

For the past year, they have supported each other as loved ones entered residential care. Lisa’s mother, Judy, and her family decided to move her father, Henry, into high-care dementia living (Special Care Unit) at Randwick, until his recent passing. Renée’s husband Geoff was diagnosed with metastatic brain cancer, and he spent several months in Randwick Hostel for rehabilitation. He then moved to palliative care before he passed away in June.

Hear more about their personal experiences and decision-making in residential care in our new Spotlight series webinar on October 12. Find out more and register here.

Lisa’s Story:

Seven years ago when my father, Henry, was diagnosed with dementia, I took extra responsibilities to help run his business. I have continued to maintain my clinical skills working part-time as an Operating Theatre Nurse at POW Private Hospital.

My mother, Judy, cared for Dad at home until he moved to the Special Care Unit (SCU) earlier this year. My brothers and I supported Mum in deciding it was time.

I ensured they looked at another facility with an open mind, confident they’d be reassured Montefiore was the best option. When the time comes to make these tough decisions, you’re at your lowest point emotionally. All you can do is to be informed and learn about the system so you’re not so overwhelmed.

Sitting on the Quality, Safety & Risk Committee for many years, Renée and I see the intricacies and thought behind the care. Montefiore provides, and we’re always looking at ways to improve. So to experience as a family the end result, and the incredible care the team provides, is extremely gratifying.

Mum was an SCU volunteer for many years, so it meant a lot that she was greeted by those same staff who cared for Dad when he moved in. When we visited, they set a place for us at mealtimes. The commitment and sensitivity shown by staff has exceeded anything we could have imagined. The team worked with our family to provide Dad with the best care, and they ensured we were part of all the decision-making. I’ve found every staff member at every step to be supportive, informative, helpful, caring, communicative, informed and knowledgeable. The way they all worked together, liaising with us and Dad’s doctors, has been an enormous comfort.


The late Geoff and Renée Symonds on the day he moved into Montefiore Residential Care in Randwick
The late Geoff and Renée Symonds on the day he moved into Randwick

Renée’s Story:

My first experience at Montefiore was with my mother, who lived with dementia at Hunter’s Hill in the 2000s. As a result, I decided to join the Board. Later, I facilitated the Staff Holocaust Awareness training that I continue today in both my mother’s and now Geoff’s memory.

Geoff wasn’t a typical aged care resident. He had just turned 70 and was still working as a senior research scientist when he had a seizure. He was diagnosed with metastatic cancer in his lung and brain.

Initially, he moved into Residential Care at Randwick to help regain strength following his harsh cancer treatment. Geoff had the advantage of Montefiore’s physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, exercise and HUR equipment. The Dementia Consultant assisted with cognitive loss, and through the outstanding art therapy team he found a voice that he had lost with his work world – a creative outlet.

From my long involvement with the organisation, and now living the ‘Montefiore Experience’ first-hand, I’ve come to understand what one gains in Residential Care here. Each individual receives physical and social additions, safety and care.

The care planning and interdisciplinary team did a lot of the thinking for us – all the specialties worked together to anticipate Geoff’s care needs and tailor programs. This allowed us as a family to focus our emotional resources on supporting him. The staff offered care, compassion and knowledge, so we didn’t ‘lose the plot’ when depleted.

As I knew Geoff had limited time with us, I wanted our sons and their families to spend time with him in a safe, peaceful environment that felt like home.

There is no comparison between care now and in my mother’s time at Montefiore. These days it’s all-encompassing, tailored and thoughtful. We are very grateful for Geoff’s care. Our family’s as well.

Want to know more about residential care at Montefiore?

Click here to discover more or contact our Residential Services team on <a href=”tel:+61283459135″>02 8345 9135</a>
or <a href=”mailto:residential@montefiore.org.au”>residential@montefiore.org.au</a>