Rosemary Hyles has been running SOS Nursing & Home Care Service for 18 years and in that time has seen it grow into the largest private nursing service in the region.
> What is SOS Nursing & Home Care Service?
SOS is a nursing service that cares for people in a community setting, usually their own home. If they are on holidays, we can provide care while people are staying with family or friends. SOS is a fully flexible service that can not only look after people with high levels of health care needs, but also send someone to clean gutters or wash windows, provide respite while carers have a break, drive you to the doctor’s appointment or do your shopping.
We operate 7 days a week and have a 24 hour emergency on call facility, which means we can be reached any time, night or day.
> How long has your service been established?
I established the service in Moree 18 years ago. At that time there were no private nursing services around, so people who needed care were dependant on family, friends or the hospital to help them survive. I was aware of many elderly people around Moree forced into care who, with a little help, could have remained in their own homes.
So I started SOS Nursing with the aim of providing people with choice and the whole focus of the organisation remains just that – to allow people to make choices about the care they receive and how it is delivered and to assist people to live as independently as possible for as long as possible.
> You care deeply about people’s health needs?
I grew up in the Moree area but came to boarding school in Armidale (NEGS). I have a passionate commitment to the country and country people. I completed my nursing training in Sydney and then returned to Moree to work. My mother and family also live in the Moree area, so I have strong family support. I have 4 children who have all grown up with SOS and have at different times helped in the business in some way. They understand that people’s needs are the same whether they live in the middle of Sydney or on a property 30 minutes from town. They are used to the phone calls in the middle of the night or the unexpected changes to plans because someone has an emergency.
When you work in the health care field you quickly learn to adapt to different situations and people. I have learned so much from seeing people struggle with ageing or disabilities and still retain their dignity and sense of humour. I think the sense of isolation people feel when trying to deal with difficulties is heightened by the lack of facilities in the country. This means it sometimes takes a superhuman effort just to survive out here. It has been a privilege to work in this area and with the many wonderful people I have met.
> Has your service expanded to other areas?
The service has grown over the years and we now have staff and clients over most of New England. I did not start out with the idea that SOS would be this large – in fact quite the opposite. All I have done is respond to demand wherever it occurs. How can we say no when someone has a need for care?
I have some truly wonderful staff who have been with us for many years and have travelled many, many kilometres in that time.
We now have offices in Tamworth, Glen Innes, Moree, Central Coast, Brisbane and Toowoomba, but our commitment continues to the New England region.
In March 2000, SOS established a respite house with the office in Tamworth at 33 Edward Street, to provide an alternative venue for day respite and people needing overnight, short-term and emergency care. We purchased the cottage to create a home-like setting that would help people to relax and enjoy the respite experience.
In 2003 we were able to purchase a large 5 bedroom home in Glen Innes at 22 Macquarie Street, and so establish a second respite home to cater for the needs of the Glen Innes, Armidale and Inverell areas. This home was large enough to create a self contained unit completely equipped with disability features. It is ideal for someone to use for short-term accommodation and provides the flexibility needed by some families.
> What does your service offer in Armidale?
In Armidale we provide the full range of services, including in-home and out of home respite. We have a strong collaborative relationship with Sunnycove and work closely with the residents there to assist them to maintain their independence for as long as possible. We have strong links with Tablelands Community Support options in Uralla and Northern Community Care in Glen Innes and we work closely with local GPs and specialists, providing an umbrella of care which remains focused on a personal service.
Until we are able to establish an office locally, all the rostering of staff is handled by the Glen Innes office. The Manager there, Vicki Mulligan is a Guyra resident and she comes to Armidale regularly to meet clients and families.
> Describe the philosophy behind the service?
The philosophy underpinning the organisation is to ensure there are nursing services available to country people, irrespective of where they live. We have some clients who are over 60 km from town and our staff will travel to them to deliver a service. We pride ourselves in trying to be there when people need the service and to send someone that the client is comfortable with. We find this then makes it easy for people to accept having someone in their house.
Most of our staff have cared for family or children and bring with them a wealth of kindness and practical experience. Sometimes they have to collect the mail or shopping on the way out and deal with gates, sheep, dogs and cattle before they get there. Not as simple as seeing a client in the city, by any means and very much a labour of love.
> Respite funding provides support also?
The SOS Respite Homes in Tamworth and Glen Innes, working closely with the Commonwealth Carer Respite Centres, support carers of older Australians, including people with dementia and challenging behaviours living in the New England Region. It is made possible through the Australian Government’s approach to enhancing the community care system through “A New Strategy for Community Care – The Way Forward”. This is a fabulous package. It means carers can have up to 5 days away using the time in whatever way is most important to them, and during that time they can relax knowing their loved ones are also having a holiday in either Tamworth or Glen Innes. Travel to and from the home is included. We cook those meals they like to eat, we take them out for activities or sightseeing, they have a daily routine that suits them and the funding allows for up to 24 nights a year.
Some of our visitors have booked regular weekend breaks while others have used the time to have a longer stay. The staff are fabulous and go out of their way to make each stay special. On one occasion we had an elderly gentleman staying with us and during that time he and his wife were due to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. The staff prepared a special dinner for them both that night complete with candles and champagne, and they had a really lovely evening.
> How do you define a carer?
A carer is a family member, friend or neighbour who provides regular or sustained care and assistance to another person without payment for their caring role other than a pension or benefit. In some cases the carer can be a young person and there are many examples of young people caring for older family members.
The very nature of the caring role means carers often find it difficult to attend to their own needs and it is hoped this offer of respite will allow carers to take time to rest, visit family or perhaps meet their own health needs.
I know the managers in either Tamworth or Glen Innes would be delighted to talk to anyone who may want more information about this package. The Tamworth phone number is 6765 8433 and Glen Innes is 6732 4533.
> What does the future hold for you?
I hope more of the same. I love what I do and when I see how much the services we provide mean to people, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
> Thank you Rosemary.