Merepeka Raukawa-Tait: Rest homes accommodate Maori values

By Merepeka Raukawa-Tait

I'm pleased the Maori owners of the old Lakehouse Hotel are considering options for the future use of the land and buildings. It's a great spot with million-dollar views.

In Carterton there is a niche boutique Hotel called the White Swan. It looks similar to the Lakehouse and is definitely a "must call in" when travelling in the Wairarapa. I always do.

But here's another idea for the use of the old Lakehouse Hotel. A lovely residential home and care facility for Te Arawa elders, both men and women.

It's time their needs were addressed and if you argue that "it has to be a business proposition and pay its way" I can assure you a rest home is a business.

And as the population ages care and support for the elderly will become even more important.

The owners may be looking at a heritage-style hotel offering upmarket accommodation.

This sounds very appealing but I'd rather start thinking of the needs of older Maori who tend to get overlooked.

It's not as if they don't have the same long-term care and support needs as everyone else, they do. It's just that the majority don't see rest homes, residential care and supported living facilities as places they would ever feel comfortable living in. But what if they had one of their own? A home where tikanga Maori was valued and practised, staff were Maori and familiar with families wanting to be involved in the care and support needed by their family member and where Te Arawa were active in the area of aged care?

In the six months before Theo died he was in Rotorua Hospital on three occasions.

He would look down at his beloved Ohinemutu, his own house in the pa, Te Arawa's Tupuna Whare Tamatekapua and beautiful Lake Rotorua with Mokoia in the background. I know on many of these occasions he was transported back to a time long ago. But he did tell me a number of times that the Lakehouse would be an ideal residential aged-care facility.

Older people enjoy living in the present, surrounded by the things they are familiar with. But they are realists and know when their health starts to decline, as much as they would like to remain independent and continue to live at home, sometimes this is just not possible.

Living with family is not always the ideal situation either.

I spoke recently with a Maori elder, still able to get around with support, who told me he left his own home and moved in with his son.

He said he should have trialled it first. He is constantly asked for money, the noise from the children is incessant and gets him down but the worst thing is the loneliness. He gets ignored most of the day.

A supported living environment would be ideal for him. He said he would consider one if there were other Maori living in the home. In speaking to older Maori they tell me they are lonely in their own homes and many are quite frightened, particularly at night.

Some do not see their families from one month to the next and because of ill health they cannot take part in many of the activities they used to. Now they sit alone at home.

The thought of putting elders into rest home or supported living care is viewed by many as uncaring and un-Maori. Families worry about what other people will say.

I believe they are thinking about themselves and their own feelings rather than considering the health-care needs of the older person.

You do not go into rest-home care if there is no need to. But when your health is causing concern and you need to be supported in your daily living then sometimes residential care may need to be considered.

These days family caregivers cannot always provide the level of care needed, as much as they might want to.

There is no shame in saying, "I can't do this". The shame lies in knowing your family member is not getting quality care and refusing to do something about it.

No one should be made to feel they are less caring because they are considering all aged-care options, included residential care and supported living.

Families do worry about the old people during the day while at work. Are they safe, why haven't they answered the phone, have they fallen while moving about the house, have they taken their midday medication?

Older people would not normally leave their own familiar, comfortable family home environment if they didn't have to, but sometimes it is necessary.

Rest homes and retirement villages have long been the domain of older Pakeha. And yet are their needs any different from older Maori? I think not. But the setting in which care is provided is very important.

There are many rest homes, retirement villages and long-term care facilities in Rotorua. These are caring and supportive environments and provide a high level of care and attention to residents.

The majority try very hard to be inclusive of the needs of Maori residents and older Maori are now moving into these facilities.

There is much talk within Maoridom of the value of elders. Their final years should be spent continuing to live their tikanga in an environment where they see that demonstrated also by those around them.

There's nothing un-Maori about that.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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