Hastings rest home Gracelands and Auckland's boutique Lynton Lodge Hospital have won the first independent awards for North Island rest homes based on residents' and relatives' reviews.
Gracelands, a long-established 86-bed rest home and hospital now owned by Oceania Healthcare, won the 40-plus-bed award from Aged Advisor, a Christchurch-based review website set up last May.
Lynton Lodge Hospital, a privately-owned 40-bed facility in Westmere, won the award for smaller rest homes.
Presbyterian Support's Abington in Whanganui won the North Island award for retirement villages, and the South Island awards went to Archer Home in Christchurch (40-plus beds), Cheviot Rest Home (under 40 beds) and Ryman's Diana Isaac Village (retirement villages).
Aged Advisor founder Nigel Matthews, 46, said he set up the review site to fund a visiting service for lonely rest-home residents after he and others noticed that many residents did not have anyone visiting them.
"We all had experiences with either parents or grandparents and saw a common thread that a lot of people were sitting there with very few visitors," he said.
His own parents had to go into care because his father had Parkinson's disease and then his mother, who had been caring for her husband, suffered an aneurysm.
His father has since died but Mr Matthews still visits his mother at Wesley Care in Christchurch.
His visiting service, Life Friends, has started on a pilot basis with about 20 volunteers visiting four rest homes in the Papanui area, including Wesley Care.
"The first facility she [his mother] was in declined to have the visitation programme," he said. "Why? It could be it was a management decision that this was outside of the box, we don't know how to deal with it, so let's not bring any issues in. But we found other facilities that we could work with."
He said Age Concern ran visiting services for lonely people in their own homes, but not for rest-home residents.
Rest homes with the Eden Alternative philosophy, such as Auckland's Elizabeth Knox Home, also run extensive volunteer programmes.
"We don't need to re-create the wheel, but only 1 or 2 per cent of the aged-care facilities around NZ have volunteer programmes," Mr Matthews said.
At this stage, Life Friends has no paid staff.
"Until we raise enough funds through the Aged Advisor site, we do this because we believe that there is a need here and we've seen it first-hand," he said.
He said Aged Advisor refused to accept sponsorship from any aged-care provider, but had obtained other sponsors such as Hearing Technology and accepted small advertisements from care providers.
Its five staff moderate reviews. Care facilities can report reviews which they claim are inaccurate, and moderators investigate and decide whether to edit, delete or restore posts.
Mr Matthews said about 1000 reviews had been posted on about 200 facilities so far.
Award winners were calculated using algorithms developed in consultation with the University of Canterbury to determine the ratio and mean scores of reviews.
"The winners received consistently high ratings from residents and their families and represent the top tier of senior care or retirement village providers in New Zealand," he said.
Gracelands acting manager Deborah Dillon said her 80 staff were "rapt" with their win.
"We are proud of our staff and all the effort they put in," she said. "It was a combined effort from all our staff."
See also www.agedadvisor.nz