Sunday, June 26, 2011

$6 a day

Gated communities and retirement home complexes (like Table Rock Lake homes) sound like a mixed blessing to me. I visit one of them fairly regularly when I play for some singers who present short concerts there. The idea of living in one doesn't appeal much to me, but then perhaps I'm not at the stage of life yet where it would...if there is such a stage. Equally, perhaps I'm not the sort of person for whom the idea of a close-knit (but elderly) community appeals. I like people of all ages. As no doubt many of the residents of these communities do.

You may have read in the news recently about Richard Giese, the retired flautist who had worked for many years with the NZ Symphony Orchestra. He hadn't paid the extra $6 a day ($42 a week; $180 a month) that it cost to have someone checking on him daily in his retirement village home. He lived a reasonably active life for an 85-year-old - walking to the shops, playing his flute every day, going to the doctor on his own and so on - so I guess he thought he didn't need to pay any money for something that he wasn't concerned about.

Some time between February the 18th and March the 8th, he died of a heart attack. His lights remained on for a week, his mailbox wasn't cleared, and a neighbour realised she hadn't heard his flute for some days. And finally notified the retirement village staff.

His former wife was apparently the last person who spoke to him, and she said she was amazed that no one had checked on him, thinking that would be par for the course for a retirement village. In fact she rang the coroner when she heard that the date of death was undetermined.

The Dominion Post reported that Susan Bowness, North Island regional manager for Ryman Healthcare, which runs Rita Angus and 22 other villages, said residents were able to request daily checks, for a fee of $6 a day. Mr Giese had never asked for such checks, and it appeared his death was sudden.

Ms Bowness said the company was not required to check on its independent residents. "It needs to be understood that they are truly independent – they only get the services they request."

They only get the services they request. When asked by the coroner what could be done to ensure residents' safety, Ms Bowness said, management needed to make sure residents understood that the service was available if they needed it. Um, is that ensuring the residents are safe?

Also available - for an additional fee in each case - are the following:

Residents can ask for meals to be delivered.

Can eat at the dining room.

Can have medication to be brought to them.

Can have someone check on them.

Can have an evening telephone check.

Can have healthcare services provided by the village rather than by their own doctors.

It seems as though being old in some retirement villages can be quite an expensive business, if each of these items cost an additional $6 or more a day.

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