As Australia braced itself for the devastating effects of a pandemic, nursing homes around the country held strong as our last line of defence in protecting this country’s most vulnerable people. 

The heightened level of risk required an equally cautious approach to safety protocols, and visitor restriction became a necessary evil amongst stringent infection control methods.

Like all providers, Regis Aged Care has been forced to prioritise resident safety over social interaction, but a story that recently unfolded in their Fawkner facility is proof that some situations call for rules to be broken.

Clay Santos took on the role of Operations Manager at Regis Aged Care with hopes of making a positive impact on the lives of real people. Although Clay had witnessed a number of special moments throughout his tenure, nothing could prepare him for what recently transpired.

“Because of current circumstances, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to everything, but we do have a framework where we are allowed to exercise discretion on compassionate grounds,” said Clay.

“One elderly woman who had been with us for several years, unfortunately, had to been placed into palliative care. The majority of her family were Melbourne based and I’m proud to say that we were able to accommodate the family’s needs with extended visits.”

While the family was very appreciative of the extended visits, this particular resident also had a beloved granddaughter by the name of Krystal who was living in the U.K.

Despite the distance and travel restrictions, Krystal was determined to say the final goodbyes to her grandmother in-person, so she rolled the dice and booked the first available flight down under.

“It took her four weeks to get a flight, which is a minor miracle in itself given current circumstances, but she arrived on a Friday and called us the next day and explained her situation,” said Clay.

From the moment of arrival, Krystal began the required 14-days of self-isolation that is required for those arriving from oversees.

The team at Regis advised Krystal to approach the Department of Health about the possibility of being granted a one-off period of exemption from self-isolation protocols, they also assured her that they would do everything in their power to accommodate the visit if given the chance.

“The Department of Health called us on Monday morning and confirmed that they would give Krystal a three-hour window to leave isolation and visit her grandmother at our home in Fawkner,” said Clay.

“From the time they contacted us with confirmation, we were able to get back to both the Department and Krystal within an hour and let them know that we were ready to go.”

After getting confirmation at 10.30 that morning, amazingly, the team at Regis Fawkner welcomed Krystal on to their site at 1.30 that afternoon. 

Staff had also moved Krystal’s grandmother out of her shared room and into a private room before her arrival, while Krystal went through the normal screening process involving the taking of temperature and PPE.

“I made the trip from our Box Hill sight over to Fawkner just to oversee things because I wanted to make sure that there were no miscommunications, but I am so glad that I did,” said Clay.

“I was able to meet the granddaughter and talk to her and see the look of love on her face as she was sitting with her grandmother, and I really felt as though we were able to help facilitate a special moment.”

“Things like this are the reason that people come into the aged care industry and we were extremely lucky that things moved as quickly as they did.”

Sadly, the elderly woman passed away within 24 hours of her granddaughter’s visit, but the significance of the previous day’s visit provided a silver lining amongst clouds of grey.

“I believe that the grandmother was hanging on to see her granddaughter. I really do. And the impact of this has been a real morale boost for everyone in the organisation,” said Clay.

“The lengths that Krystal went to just for the chance to see her grandmother show just how strong the bond of family is and why it always needs to be acknowledged when making decisions.”

“We have an obligation to manage risk, but providing care is a lot more than the things that get written on pieces of paper. Rules are needed, but our main objective should always be helping people in any way that we possibly can.”


Photo Provided by Krystal Sare

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