The treasures we surround ourselves with …

Max Reid

woodcut by Janet de Wagt
Woodcut by Janet de Wagt

Some years ago, I was managing a large not-for-profit aged residential care facility in Wellington. We offered a range of rest home, hospital and dementia level care, and we were operating in a very competitive market, a market increasingly dominated by private ‘for profit’ aged care providers.

A perennial question for organisations in the aged residential care sector – be they private or not-for-profit – is, ‘What makes what we offer distinctive?’ Even earlier in my career, while undertaking a business degree, I remember a marketing lecturer defining the three key aspects of ‘market distinctiveness’:

You have to be either the biggest, demonstrably the best, or the most innovative.”

Sound enough concepts in themselves, perhaps, but somewhat difficult in a sector (like aged residential care) where virtually every aspect of the service you provide is detailed in standardised specifications and contracts, and then audited to within an inch of a contract’s life.

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“There’s no science for goodbye”

Sue Wootton

Aspiring Daybook by Annabel Wilson describes a year in the life of a young New Zealander, Elsie Winslow, whose carefree travels in Europe are interrupted by a phone call:

A phone call in the middle of the night. Not a good sign.
Out of context, the wrong time, too early or too late.
Malevolent omen. So often the sound of bad news.

Aspiring Daybook

And it is bad news. Elsie’s brother has cancer. She boards a long haul flight, heading home to help look after him. Time, place, light – all these reliable fundamentals seem to be falling apart. “I’m on a plane, going forward in time, back into the past … Today is New Year’s Day, and it’s getting erased.” Elsie’s journal becomes a kind of touchstone, or navigation tool, for piecing together a new reality on the other side of this catastrophic news.  Continue reading ““There’s no science for goodbye””

Questions of shame

Emer Lyons

When my mother reads one of my poems that uses the personal pronoun ‘I’
And the word queer to describe myself
She gets all worked up, all don’t be showing this to your auntie and only upsetting her
My mother doesn’t care that the LGBTQI community have reclaimed queer
Or that when a poet writes a poem using ‘I’ it’s not necessarily their perspective

Shaming the personal

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Life with polio

Sue Wootton

Lorraine Inwood
Lorraine Inwood

Lorraine Inwood is 88 years old. She lives in Mosgiel, near Dunedin in New Zealand’s South Island. Sixty years ago, when she was pregnant with her fourth child, her eldest son became ill with a tummy upset. He vomited several times but soon recovered. Then Lorraine went down with the same bug. She quickly became so weak and feverish that she was unable to get out of bed.

The family doctor diagnosed pneumonia. He made at least three home visits, finally telling her, “You’re convalescing now. You should be up and about.”

There was no way that Lorraine could follow his advice. She had a vicious headache and awful back pain. Every time she tried to stand she vomited again. She could feel herself becoming progressively weaker. No matter how much she willed herself to stand up straight, her body refused to obey and she remained bent double, saggy as a sack. A specialist was consulted. He recognised the signs and symptoms immediately: Lorraine had polio. She was one of 1,485 New Zealanders who contracted the disease during the 1955-56 epidemic.

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Smoke in the head

Grace Carlyle

opening blindsI have an elderly neighbour. We have a signal: each morning I look to see whether she has pulled her curtains. Then I know she is all right. This became less important after she had three falls followed by two operations and acquired a St John alarm, as well as home help to call in three times daily. Still, every morning I look to see the curtains are pulled. I go across whenever I am able and we have a cup of coffee. Often I cannot walk that far but I try to manage at least once a week.

She arrived in New Zealand with her eldest daughter sixty-five years ago, soon after the New Zealand government allowed Chinese wives to immigrate. She speaks a Chinese dialect and her English is limited but her ability to capture difficult concepts with the words she does know frequently takes my breath away, they are so poetic. What a poet she would have made had she only learnt to read and write. My only language is English but we mime at times and laugh a lot. She gave birth to twelve more children and worked in her husband’s market garden. She cannot manage the garden she has now, but for years I would see her out there for hours – small wonder her garden and house were immaculate. They put mine to shame. Once house-proud, now I value poetry above dust.

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What’s cooking in human nutrition research?

Sarahmarie Innes & Katie Mahn

Sarahmarie Innes and Katie Mahn with their Bake Your Thesis “Teach them to fish” cake.

Many of us remember adolescence as a difficult time. Our mental well-being may have suffered because of increasingly busy lifestyles and academic expectations, body image issues, and peer pressure.

It’s also a time of increasing independence, which means more freedom and responsibility for your own dietary choices. Studies have shown this increased independence over food choices often results in teens eating less fruit and vegetables, having takeaways and snack foods more often, and missing meals such as breakfast.

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Depression: back from the dead and celebrating life

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. The following article is an updated version of one originally posted on this day in 2016.

Mark Thomas

World Suicide Prevention DayLike a shorter, slower version of the great All Black John Kirwan, I have decided to speak up about depression. My life is fantastic and I get immense pleasure from my love of sport, travel and the amazing people around me. But here’s a simple statement of medical fact: I have experienced major episodes of clinical depression since the age of 18. I don’t know how that works, how the same mind that allows me to drink in life like an intoxicating nectar can also turn dog on me and drag me to the depths of emotional hell, but that is the truth of it. I do know that depression can afflict anyone, regardless of how good or seemingly enviable their life is, just as cancer, heart disease or any other illness can strike anybody, regardless of how happy, famous or wealthy they are.

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