A day in the life of a House Companion

Wednesday, 03 March, 2021

A day in the life of a House Companion

Tracey Hogan is a long-standing House Companion at NewDirection Care in Bellmere, Queensland — a microtown that provides freedom of movement, independence and choice for the elderly and those living with younger onset dementia and complex care needs. Residents live in seven-bedroom homes with six other residents and have House Companions who provide 24/7 relationship-based support and care.

06:00: I am up and enjoying my morning coffee and readying for my day.

07:00: I arrive at work, log in and head down to my house for the day, taking a trolley with personal care items that are required for the shift. On entering the house, I greet any residents that are up with a big smile and a good morning and assess how they are feeling. This is a very important step in working with dementia residents, guiding the direction to set them up for their best day. I uncover our resident budgie George and open the curtains, attending to any personal cares.

One of the houses in the NewDirection Care microtown.

08:00: I start preparing breakfast for the residents in our house kitchen and sit at the table with them, chatting about what activities are on for the day and how they slept, and encourage them to eat their meal. Medications are also given. I check the handover notes from the night staff for anything that may need addressing this morning and note any resident appointments.

09:00: Some of the residents like to sleep in, so I open curtains to help them orientate to the start of day and let them know the time. I offer breakfast and let them know I will be back in five to 10 minutes to check on them again.

Then, off to the chickens we go! One of our residents has put himself in charge of the NDC chickens, Lorna, Dora and Blacky. We collect vegetable scraps from dinner prep and take them down each morning; we sit and have a chat and learn about growing up as the youngest of 13 children.

Rita and Derek with one of the NDC chickens.

Time for some cleaning — the residents’ washing goes on and it’s time to start residents’ room clean for the day. Each resident has a day assigned for a full room clean. House companions are responsible for all the normal household cleaning tasks for each resident in their house. Just like home. All washing is done on-site in the house laundry.

Next, I assist residents in attending activities in the community — this might be a movie at the cinema, a haircut, family visit or high tea at our cafe, or a visit from one of the dogs, Millie, who loves to keep residents company while they are relaxing at home in the lounge.

Millie keeping one of the seven residents living in the house company.

11:00: Morning tea is a great time to listen to residents’ stories about their childhood or have interesting conversations. Sometimes I’m not quite sure where the conversations are heading, like when an 86-year-old lady with dementia tells me she’s worried she might be pregnant.

Switching to resident cares, it’s time to trial some scheduled toileting — this can be interesting with some of our residents. Today I provided emotional support and encouragement for one of our non-verbal dementia residents as they try to process the changes in their mind and body. This requires reassurance, verbal and non-verbal cues, patience and a kind, caring attitude. We shared some tears and laughs and sat and had a cup of tea and spent some time one on one reading the newspaper and looking through the travel section.

Tracey the House Companion sharing morning tea with David.

12:00: I prepare lunch, with one of the residents helping with kitchen clean-up and making sure I’m not making too much mess. All daily meals and snacks are prepared fresh in-house by the staff and factor in any nutritional needs for the individual resident. Residents have input into the meals they would like as well. Some residents will be busy out and about in the NDC community, so out we go to encourage them back to the house for lunch — sometimes we take lunch to them, so they can continue enjoying socialising with other residents from other houses. After lunch we might listen to some music or put on a movie, especially during summer to encourage residents out of the heat. We might share some funny dances and some laughs.

14:00: Heading into the last hour of my shift, I make notes, finish tasks and make sure all residents are happy and comfortable.

14:45: It’s time for the handover with the afternoon staff, filling them in on the outcome of the day or any task not completed. After a short debrief I head home after saying goodbye to the residents and letting them know when I will be back. The drive home is time for reflection of the day and taking note of what worked and what didn’t, the highs and the lows and the giggles at all the funny little things that make this job so rewarding.

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