I spoke recently with a friend in the low-care section who moved from another facility to ours.  She had no real complaints about the one she had left, except that it was some distance away and she could not connect with friends.

However she also commented on the wonderful activities programme we have at Bayside, which they did not have at the place she had left.  To give you an idea, last week was as follows:

Tuesday – Residents/Carers meeting.  Held bi-monthly, with someone from the kitchen, the laundry, the activities officer, and director of nursing, so anyone is able to raise any issue from missing singlets, to not enough beetroot in the salads, to questions about staffing or suggestions for improvement.

Wednesday – “High Tea” with silverware, best china cups and saucers, elegant serviettes — cream cakes, petit-fours, Devonshire tea and so on.  (I think this was to celebrate Older Persons Week or something, which had to be deferred from the official date because we had some cases of flu and had been in lockdown.)

Thursday – Concert with local singer presenting some “golden oldies” for everyone to join in

Friday afternoon 2-3 pm – the usual weekly “happy hour” with a beer or a glass of wine for everyone including visitors, spring rolls and dim sims, cheese and biscuits, with Rod on his guitar entertaining everyone and nurses persuading some of the more ambulant residents to get up and dance with them.

At present the craft group are busy making decorations for Halloween on Monday, which will be big, then the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, which will also be full on, and the following week will be a special marking of Remembrance Day.

This is apart from the regular routine of tai chi on Mondays, bingo on Wednesday afternoons, a bus outing on Wednesday and Friday morning for those able enough, and so on and so on.

Don always has to be persuaded with great difficulty to join in, but my friend was enthusiastic.   “It’s all “go” here!” she said.  “I think it’s terrific.”

Yesterday I was speaking to a friend who had moved their disabled relative from one nursing home to another because they were dissatisfied, among other things, with the lack of adequate staffing at the first nursing home.  Apparently there was only one Registered Nurse (RN) in the whole facility, and that RN did not even have to be on site, they only had to be “available”.  My friends had moved to a facility with an RN on every wing.

I was rather taken aback, because in our facility of 130 residents there are four sections and every section has an RN on duty (with just one RN for the whole facility at night).  I asked my friend how they could get away with it, surely there is a legal requirement about staffing?

The answer, to my astonishment is that there is no mandated nurse-to-resident ratio in aged care facilities in Australia!  We have mandated staffing levels in kindergartens, schools, hospitals – but not aged care facilities!


Looks like we are well served by Bayside.


When our good friend Rev Bob Jackson died following complications from a bowel cancer operation, Don was determined to get to the funeral.  No taxi available for the week (something about a blown gasket?) but the community carers arranged for their bus to pick us up.

It was a Presbytery occasion because Bob was a Uniting Church minister, and Don was anxious to dress officially and wear his alb and stole to the funeral.  When I inquired about this, I learned that Bob being a no-nonsense bloke had not only made arrangements for his funeral well in advance, but had requested that it be low-key with no pomp and ceremony or “processing in” with all the regalia.

Don was not happy.  Bob was one of the few people he could still hold a conversation with, someone he always felt comfortable with, and he thought Presbytery should give him the right measure of respect regardless.

I thought he looked quite smart in the suit, which he has not worn for ages.


But Don didn’t like it.  We compromised by dispensing with the alb but wearing the stole.  I was dubious in any case about how the girls in the nursing home would be able to dress him in the alb (the white gown reaching to the ankles, full and bulky, not easy to manage when you are sitting in a wheelchair I would think).  Don was still not happy but he was the most official looking of anyone there apart from the minister conducting the funeral.


The nurse came to me with a plastic bag of money.  She explained very nicely that the nursing home now has a policy to protect the security of residents and that no money or valuables are to be kept in the room.  This money ($30) was Don’s and so it would be kept in a locked cupboard at the nurses’ station, and he or I could access it at any time.

I was rather taken aback.  Where did they get this money from, I asked.  Did they go to Don’s wallet in his top drawer to find it, or what.  She didn’t know, she was just carrying out instructions.

I was not at all happy with this arrangement.  Only a week or two before, in one of his very depressed days, Don had complained bitterly, “I have nothing!  I don’t have the car because you always have the car, I don’t have any keys to anything, I don’t have any money, I don’t have a credit card.  I’m completely trapped and I’m completely helpless.  I have nothing.”  I was able to reassure him that he does at least have money and credit cards, and when he didn’t believe me I went to his drawer and fished out his wallet and showed him, “Look!  There’s some money, it’s yours and it’s always here for when you need it, and there is the credit card.”

He actually made me hand them to him so he could check the money and have a look at the credit card, and then he handed them back, satisfied.

So I tried to insist to Mel that Don is to have money no matter what, and if one of the senile residents wanders in and takes it, well, tough.  We aren’t going to starve in the gutter for the want of $30 and we aren’t going to sue the nursing home either.

Well of course it isn’t as simple as that and so I’ve been having some tense conversations with the management.  Upshot is that I keep the wallet in the bag that I always take with me so it’s available as long as I’m in the building.  Of course I understand that there is a problem with security of valuables.

Still, it isn’t a satisfactory solution by any means, and I intend to quietly replace the wallet and money in his drawer some time soon. It isn’t about money, of course — it’s about dignity.


My friend Helen needed to spend some time with her 89-year-old mother who had just come out of hospital, but her home town is 500 km away and she was reluctant to make the trip on her own.  I know the family and offered to come with her.

The countryside was a picture after all the rain of recent months, and having grown up in the country myself – Mudgee, in central NSW – I found the journey delightful.  Being in the small town of Baradine (pop about 600) was no hardship either, with the leisurely life of providing company for a convalescent.  It mainly entailed sitting by the fire at night watching TV before going to bed at an incredibly early hour, or sitting on the back steps in the afternoon soaking up the sun.

Helen in the sun

Of course we also did the jobs that we were there to do, but they didn’t amount to any more than we would be doing in our own homes, mainly getting meals and washing up and providing endless cups of tea.  One afternoon we went into nearby Coonabarabran for an appointment and then a cafe.

Coffee with an amazing 89-year-old

Coffee with an amazing 89-year-old

White frosts in the morning, and clear sunny days, quite idyllic.

Unfortunately the stress level zoomed upon arrival home to the discovery that my car had mysteriously disappeared.  (I had gone with Helen in her car.)  This was apparently my fault for coming home a bit earlier than planned, because the car had been loaned to a friend and should have been returned by the time I arrived.  My shrieks of What is his name?  and, Are you sure he has a licence and not suspended or anything? and, Can you promise he never had a drug conviction or DUI or anything? and, If he has a prang I am immediately reporting it stolen!!  … were not appreciated and I admit my shrill interrogation did escalate the stress level all round, especially when the car was still not back by dark.  A text message about being “stuck in traffic in Sydney” did not endear.

Anyway the car was back by 9.30 pm so I fell into bed wondering how much houses cost in Baradine and whether they have a nursing home there.

Don has always been a prolific letter writer.  In our scrapbook I have numerous letters to the editor that were printed, and a few copies of some that weren’t.  He sent helpful suggestions for improvement, to people or institutions, on many occasions — as a result of which we have a vitriolic reply from poet Les Murray (Don loved Murray’s poem “The Whip” but suggested some other images that could have been included) and a huffy two page lecture from Art Gallery Director Edmund Capon (years ago, when Don’s comment that aboriginal art should have a more visible presence than down in the semi-basement did not endear).

Anyway, it seems that in this area as in many others, as Don is unable to do something, the mantle has fallen to me.  I find myself writing letters to the editor about various issues quite frequently.  Mostly none of them see the light of day.

However, last week I wrote to columnist Peter Fitzsimons, head of the Republican movement, avowed atheist, and one of the best columnists around.  He had written a piece extolling the virtues of the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre and I wrote to him:

Dear Peter,
 An avid reader of your columns, I respect your devout atheism but thought you might be broad-minded enough to acknowledge that the Kings Cross injecting room about which you were so affirming is actually run by the Uniting Church.  To be accurate, it is run by “Uniting Care” the social justice arm of the Uniting Church.
 Just thought it worth mentioning as I note that devout atheists seldom miss a chance to note the dreadful things that sometimes happen in the name of the church and so perhaps it is worth swallowing hard, gritting the teeth, and admitting that sometimes the church is doing something good.
 Barbara Dufty
I of course told Don what I had done and he was completely stoked.  He beamed non-stop and asked me to read it again to him several times.  And then, to his credit, Peter Fitzsimons did indeed acknowledge what I had written, and without naming me, the following week his column said this:

Thumbs up to injecting room

Have an educated guess how much flak I took last week for my contention that, despite how counter-intuitive it might seem, it actually IS the best health policy to give clean needles to pregnant 16-year-old drug addicts in the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre. (For, however appalling an act it is for the 16-year-old to so inject herself, the alternative is all too frequently for her to use infected, used needles in dark alleys – which is even worse for mother and foetus.)

The answer is, just about no flak. There were one or two narky and ignorant tweets, but 98 per cent of the reaction was regretful agreement. That is how far we have come and why it is not only moral madness, but political madness, for the Baird government to try to block access to the injecting centre to pregnant women. In terms of emails received, however, one lady did make a fair point.

“The Kings Cross injecting room,” she writes, “about which you were so affirming, is actually run by Uniting Care, the social justice arm of the Uniting Church. Just thought it worth mentioning as I note that devout atheists seldom miss a chance to note the dreadful things that sometimes happen in the name of the church and so perhaps it is worth swallowing hard, gritting the teeth, and admitting that sometimes the church is doing something good.”

Bravo, Uniting Church.


Don has glowed this whole week on account of the letter and response.  When Luke the cleaner comes into his room with a mop, Don will say to him, Have you heard of Peter Fitzsimons?- read him the letters, Barb.  When Mel brings in his tray with lunch, he wants me to read to her, and anyone else who wanders in.

The thing is, he now refers to it as “our” letter, and, Barb can you read that letter “we” wrote to Peter Fitzsimons, and his reply.

Which of course warms my heart and makes me think I should try to do “Don” things more often on his behalf.

The Electoral Commission take seriously any complaints, and they got back to me at some length about my complaint.  They listened intently, and asked a lot of questions to get all the details correct.  The guy explained some of the difficulties they encountered in trying to staff mobile polling stations in such places but he was not being defensive, or challenging anything I had said.  I suggested they needed to allow longer periods of time in aged facilities, they needed to have staff properly trained in understanding that no one who comes to vote may be prevented from voting, and that the staff themselves were not up to scratch since anyone with a grain of commitment in that situation would absolutely not have left the premises when there were people wanting to cast a vote.

He agreed with all of that and said they had received other, similar complaints from aged facilities and in fact several others from Bayside, and they were looking closely on how to do it better next time, including some of the issues I had mentioned.

Before we ended I said, “Actually I want you to know that despite all my indignation I have to tell you that the two institutions we have in Australia that I am most proud of, are our electoral system which I believe is second to none in the world, and secondly our census collection which also is a blueprint for the world.”  He gave a bit of a rueful laugh and said Yes well they are also in the gun at the moment so maybe we aren’t doing so well after all.

But our census collection, like our electoral system, is something we should be proud of, and those glitches everyone is complaining about are nothing more than glitches and they will get sorted out in due course.

I live down the end of a long driveway.  At the top of the driveway is a small shop/service station, and my water meter in located by the fence at the side of the shop.  In the 8 years I’ve been in this house there haven’t been any problems except for last September when a car backed away from the petrol bowser and backed over my water meter, and it cost me $400 to have it fixed —  because of course the shop owner had no idea who had done it (naturally).

water meter

But the little shop has been completely renovated, with new petrol bowsers being installed and a brand new concrete apron has been laid in the whole area.

When I got a notice from the Water Board telling me that they are updating and replacing everyone’s water meters and would I please remove the obstructions and make a clear space around my water meter, I didn’t know what they were talking about.

Until I went up to the shop to have a look and realised they were quite right and my water meter is not at all accessible!  It has been concreted in.

water m3

And yes, it is completely wedged in.

water m1

I’ve talked to the shop owner and the Water Board numerous times because obviously it is going to be no small matter to jack-hammer up all that concrete.  Water Board have put a temporary hold on the matter because it won’t be resolved soon.  They tell me it is now a “civil matter” between me and the shop owner and so of course it will no doubt will involve letters of demand and all sorts of stuff that exhausts me to think about.


Bayside has been in a state of upheaval over the past few weeks.  We are having major renovations.  It’s all a bit inconvenient, with the dining room being out of bounds for several days while the plasterers and tilers and painters got in there and did their stuff, and we have had to side-step ladders in the corridors and sometimes take the long way round to the wing because whole sections are roped off.  But in a nursing home any change to the routine is interesting, and so we can stand and chat to the painters wondering how they are going to paint right up to the skylights and finding out where have they come from (they all seem to have thick accents) and other chit-chat with patients and passers by, and the residents seem to be enjoying the contact and are coping well with the invasion and the disruption.

Originally we had neutral shades, basically cream walls and floor, with a touch of blue.


Now we have feature walls that look much more impressive.


And finally, carpet.  This is the final result for the wing we are in.


Only thing is, the staff are unhappy about the difficulty of pushing trolleys along carpet rather than lino, and the cleaners are taking longer because they have to move the vacuum cleaner from power point to power point rather than just moving along the corridor with their mop.  And nurses have expressed doubt about the hygiene of incontinent residents in a carpeted area rather than lino.

I looked up Google and found that there is big trend away from carpet because of the hygiene factor.  A Monash University study of 2014 that found an alarming occurrence of superbugs in nursing homes, and ended with some recommendations that included, firstly upgrading hand hygiene to alcohol based wash and installing many more sinks and wash-basins than are currently prescribed, and secondly replacing carpet (which apparently is the norm in most nursing homes) with lino.

Monash University researchers carried out swab tests on 115 residents of four facilities in Melbourne, and found that more than a third of them were infected with antibiotic resistant superbugs. In one facility, nearly half of the residents were infected.  The study raises the question as to whether care facilities need to be more physically structured like hospitals – including the abandonment of germ harbouring carpet for lino.  “Nursing homes are usually lined with carpet,” said Professor Grayson. “When dealing with incontinence on carpet, steam cleaning is cosmetic. It’s not anti-bacterial. So there’s the question of changing carpet for lino – but how do you balance that need with the fact that these facilities are meant to be homes for people.”

Meanwhile, however, we all think it looks great and are enjoying the change.

I don’t know why I get so upset when I learn that one of the residents has died.  It is, after all, “God’s Waiting Room”.  But when I walked by the nurses’ station yesterday afternoon and saw there a sympathy card for staff to sign, for George Davison, I welled up on the spot, completely shocked, and had to take a few moments to compose myself before I went in to Don.  Maybe it was so unexpected because he had not been sick and in fact I spoke with him only a few days ago. George totters up the corridor each afternoon to sit with his wife Barbara who is also a resident.  (For some unknown reason they have not been put into a room together although she shares with another lady.)  George loves to see me come visiting with our dog Jebby, and he invariably asks, “No little dog today? I was a life member of the RSPCA.”  He always has a vague smile and then repeats several times over that he was a life member of the RSPCA.

But it isn’t just George and it isn’t just that it was unexpected.  I always get upset with I find out they have “lost” someone.  Sometimes I shock myself by bursting into tears on the spot.

Maybe it is just the sudden unavoidable awareness that the grim reaper is hovering in that place.