Rest homes and retirement villages are incredibly varied in what they offer to their residents. Some of them may be active hubs of socialization, others are more isolated places of tranquillity and peace. Tony and Helen Coombs define the Wensley House Rest Home and Retirement Village with a single, vital quality; a place that people can call home. The owners and operators first purchased the establishment in 2005 though Wensley House has existed long before that. It was first built over 25 years ago as a private home which was expanded into a rest home facility a few years after its inception.
Now, Wensley House has 30 bedrooms in its rest home accommodations and 13 studios for independent living in the attached retirement village. It is situated in a large estate with beautiful, well-maintained garden within walking distance to the Richmond township and a short drive to the city of Nelson. Helen and Tony are very hands-on operators, taking on the roles of General Manager and Accounts Manager respectively as well as a variety of different jobs within the rest home and retirement village.
Supporting residents in their everyday lives
Their philosophy is simple yet staggeringly different from many similar organizations. They strive to make Wensley House a true home for the residents, a place where they can go about their lives with all the extra support they may require in order to be comfortable. In there, every resident knows one another, they see each other on a daily basis, and are generally a close-knit community of neighbours. With a 100 percent occupancy, responding to the needs of every resident is a challenging but welcoming task and every member of the staff does their best to ensure the residents are taken care of at all times.
“Our vision in a nutshell is that we believe Wensley is our residents’ home, hence why the staff doesn’t even wear uniforms, just an apron over their own clothes. There’s no reception desk because there wouldn’t be one in their homes. Visitors just ring the front bell and if they require assistance, it goes on the staff’s pagers and they go on to assist them. These are what we believe stops Wensley from feeling like an institution. That’s also why we try to keep the name Wensley House instead of ‘rest home’ or ‘retirement village’. It’s just that niche that we have. Not everyone loves the big corporate facilities or the feeling of being lost. We are trying to help in little ways, that’s what we are about basically”, say Helen and Tony.
To keep the residents active and entertained, Wensley House employs two activities coordinators which organize programs for both the retirement village and the rest home. These programs include various activating such as exercising, bingo, quizzes, and readings. Those who do not wish to participate in group activities are also engaged in 1-on-1 sessions so everyone can have something to do. Between the activities, the residents are provided three meals per day which are prepared with the assistance of a dietician. On the spiritual side, there are regular interdenominational services as well as a weekly Bible group by a local chaplain.
Maintaining strong work ethics
Though Helen herself is a registered nurse with many years of experience in the industry, Wensley House also employs a number of additional registered nurses as well as caregivers who satisfy the medical needs of the residents. Despite the fact that there is no nurse on-site 24/7, residents are always free to call upon the staff whenever they want and medical services are always a short distance away. In addition to that, the Wensley House staff is comprised of a very stable team and some of the employees have been with the organization for more than 20 years. According to Helen, the staff is very loyal as well as hard-working.
After all, aged care is not an easy industry to work in, neither for the staff nor the owners. It takes true dedication and love for the industry to succeed in the long-term, particularly in a busy working environment. Since Wensley House is fully occupied, the staff has had to step up considerably to cater to the needs of the residents and they have been largely successful in doing so. Of course, Helen and Tony have a huge training and education program which includes monthly speakers on different subjects. Furthermore, the couple closely works with any new employee to make sure that they assimilate into the team.
Unparalleled dedication to the industry
Thankfully, their hard work is recognized by the residents, their families, and the official bodies governing the aged care industry. Wensley House is audited on both the rest home and the retirement village. As part of the Retirement Villages Association (RVA), they have to adhere to strict standards. However, their competence has been repeatedly recognized and after their last audit they received a three-year certificate of operations. As far as measuring resident satisfaction, there are annual surveys, a formal meeting every three months, and weekly informal meetings with Helen where the residents can raise any and all concerns they might have.
Helen and Tony’s future goals are simple but well-defined. They wish to maintain their current occupancy rates which sit near the top of the industry average. Furthermore, they want to continue the circulation of the Wesley House name through different forms of marketing so that more and more people can know about them. As their dedication and passion for the industry continues to stay as strong as ever, their work will surely continue to be rewarded.