Submitted by Anonymous.

My mum, who is still living independently at home, is really unable to ‘deal with’ the stresses that come with continually monitoring my dad’s life at the aged care facility.

It should not be as it is and considered ‘stressful’. This is now my responsibility.

Our issues are the same that all families face when dealing with life in any facility.  These are varied and many, but one thing that stands out recently is the guidelines and lack of support in replacing, in my dad’s case, the loss of now 3-4 pair of dentures.

My dad has dementia and is not at all mobile. It was very clear the last time that he was unable to have personally disposed of or lost his dentures.

My dad does not seem to remove them regularly or fiddle with them and he cannot move from the chair where he sits.

It was impossible for him to have disposed of them and he does not have them when he is in bed anymore.  I believe, in the early days, they used to forget to take them when he would ‘go to bed’ or ‘take a nap’ and they would find them either placed on the floor by him or beside his pillow.

My mum and dad financed the original pair purchased for my dad.  I was able to get government support via a voucher to replace the 2nd pair and beg for support, another voucher to replace the 3rd pair.

I also found a local provider who offered the service of replacing the dentures for the cost of the ‘voucher’ and with no gap payable.

We were devastated when again they lost this final pair and with much ‘beating of chests’ and ‘pressure’ I was able to get them to replace them.

Regarding ‘what system was in place’ at the time the first pair of my dad’s dentures went missing and the truth is, from what I could see, was that there really wasn’t anything terribly consistent.

The teeth tended to stay in the room.  I asked questions about how often or if the teeth were cleaned and it was always very foggy.

The teeth always looked dirty (from food) when I would visit my dad and on many an occasion I took them away and cleaned them myself. It’s a distasteful job and I believe it’s something that some staff particularly avoided.

With the last pair I had gone to great lengths and much aggravation to have them implement a proper system of accountability with regard to the care and tracking of the dentures.

They did eventually pro-actively implemented this and it completely blows my mind that at this point having been an independently run facility they did not seem to have any proper system in place, to care for such items as residents dentures.

We had a similar problem with his hearing aids and over time we have ‘together’ implemented a system for the care of these also.

Within 2 weeks of this last pair of teeth being replaced, they were again “lost”.

Our angel of a dental technician, pointed out to me that often the staff do not like caring for or handling the teeth.

This made me wonder that it is perhaps also then a possibility, that it is easier for a staff member to dispose of such items off site, and to just feed the resident mush and not have to worry about caring for and fitting and unfitting teeth each day.

Having fought long and hard along the path of keeping my dad ‘in dentures’ I can see that most families would just give up and accept them being gone and that everyone’s life is easier without them.

For me though, seeing all the comforts of my dad’s former life either lost or stripped away, he still takes enjoyment from food.

He is perhaps one of the few people ‘in these places’ that eats all and enjoys his food.  I believe he is unique having read many articles aged care and the problems people are facing.

A number of the staff told me, after the last pair were lost, this was not my dad’s fault that these teeth went missing and ‘to keep going’.

I believe that resident care should always be about the individual and in my dad’s case, His teeth are one of the most important possessions he has.

I suppose when it comes down to it, my main question is “is this normal?”.  It’s certainly not acceptable.

Are there other facilities out there doing a successful and good job of this area with individuals care and prosthetic property?

Things need to improve and they are improving slowly. I feel people are being held to task more in completing their jobs properly but better staff to resident ratio should be a high priority in the changes being legislated in the age care industry.

I feel for the staff and the residents.

Message from the Editor: This open letter was sent to us from a member of the HelloCare community. We decided to share it in the hope to open up conversation from other residents, their families and also aged care workers. We are aware that the ‘care’ of dentures is often a topic for discussion in aged care facilities. And the impact when dentures are lost on residents care can be detrimental, especially if they are too unwell to visit the dentist for a new pair, they often find they have to live without them. Whilst there are a number of reasons for dentures going missing, we ask when you are reading this to think about the impact on someone’s life when they do go missing and how ensuring systems are in place to prevent dentures going missing in the first place.

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