This month, HBH Senior Living celebrates forty years since the doors of Howick Baptist Home and Hospital (as it was then known) were first opened in 1977. A great deal has changed since then although, as Chris Dunlop, their Director of Nursing, explains, the little things that make HBH special still remain the same.
Chris Dunlop has been with HBH Senior Living for most of those forty years. She started as a registered nurse, working a few afternoons a week when her family were young. Even then, she says, “It was a lovely place to work."
Chris explains that the most noticeable difference between HBH now and then is that when she first started, many of the residents in the rest home and hospital were still very independent.
Now, older people in the community tend to stay at home longer, or they move into HBH’s apartments at 139 on Union (built in 2009), which offer independent living with care on hand. So by the time many residents arrive at the rest home or hospital, they are ready for a higher level of care.
The other significant change is the residents’ rooms in the rest home and hospital. Initially many of the rooms in the hospital had four beds and shared bathrooms, and residents in the rest home walked down the hall to the bathroom. When the rest home was refurbished around eight years ago, two new wings were built, and now all rooms are large single rooms, each with its own ensuite bathroom.
The introduction of the Eden Alternative approach has also made a difference. This philosophy of care focuses on the three major problems of aging – loneliness, helplessness and boredom – and Chris says staff do everything they can to alleviate those things. However she believes they have always worked in an ‘Eden-like way’.
"We’ve always gone out of our way to ensure our residents feel connected and valued," she says.
There are several staff members who have been at HBH Senior Living for many years.
“That’s because once you start working here, it’s hard to leave," says Chris. "It’s always felt like family. I remember one of our resident’s family members commented that the thing she liked about HBH was that the staff seem so happy. It’s true. For most of the staff, it’s more than a job – they love it. And that has never changed."
Story: Jocelyn Bray for HBH Senior Living