My name is Annie Gaites. I was born in England, and moved to New Zealand with my parents when I was 7. When I turned 21, I moved to Australia on my own and lived in Newcastle for many years, until my second husband decided he wanted to move to Tamworth to open up a stone masonry. That was in 1986, so I’ve lived in Tamworth for over 30 years now.
It’s funny to remember, but I used to be frightened about living on my own. I had never done it before I moved to Australia. But gradually I got used to it, and now I love it. I can get up and wander around, make a cup of tea at 2am, or ring my relatives in England at 3am. I don’t have to answer to anybody. I didn’t want to wind up somewhere with a lot of people. I like to enjoy my own space. Peace and quiet… I wouldn’t get it in a nursing home. I like my own surroundings. And I’ve got a lot of things! I’ve lived a long life, I’ve travelled around the world five times, and I’ve got many precious things that I wouldn’t want to leave behind. Souvenirs, photos…
There is one photo I’m particularly fond of. My uncle took it when I was attending school in England, the day before we were to leave the country. That photo was one of the only things I took with me when I left England. Now, I didn’t know this at the time, but my uncle saw that photo again one day, and he pointed at the little boy next to me and said, “You know who that is?”.
I said “Yes, that’s Davy Jones.” And my uncle said, “No… That’s David Bowie.” David Bowie was my little friend at school! It’s funny… such a small world.
I have another photo from when my family and I were boarding the ship to New Zealand. It’s a photo of me, sitting on the ship, surrounded by all the sailors. You see, I’d broken my leg not long before that, and they had to carry me onto the boat! All of these photos are my memories, and I like being able to keep them where I want in my house.
Home Nursing Group comes to see me a few times a week. They come and do my housework for me; I’ll get the washing going, and they’ll hang it out for me. Recently I got my new glasses; they paid for the frames to be put with the new lenses. They put security lighting outside for me. They do some gardening for me. They take me shopping or to the doctor or the podiatrist. I first found out about HNG when looking for carers for a friend. I have a few lady friends who are about twenty years older than me; I used to help look after them in a way, and I saw what they went through with different nursing groups. One friend went through about five, and she didn’t like any of them! So I started looking for somebody decent who would look after her properly.
I found HNG. They came and interviewed my friend to find out what support she needed, and she wound up with them coming to look after her. They told me at the time if I ever needed them, I could get in touch. A while back,
I had a fall. I had cancer seventeen years ago, and my bones had degenerated and made it difficult to walk. I fell, I was in absolute agony, and the doctors told me: that was it. Go home, pack your bags, sell your car, move into a nursing home. Well, I’m not that sort of person. I couldn’t do it.
After I got out of the hospital, I had some people come to look after me. They didn’t really do very much. They didn’t seem to have much of an understanding of what was wrong with me, what my ailment was. So I rang HNG and said I needed some help now. Even though I could barely walk, I managed — because I had HNG.
I couldn’t have done without them. Any little problem, and they’re there. Sometimes they do the few little chores I have. Sometimes they come and we just talk, or they make me a cup of coffee. Bev’s pretty good at making a cappuccino; she’s mastered the machine! My daughter used to do a lot of these things for me, but she just got burned out. She works about 13 hours a day, 6 days a week, and she had a dance school as well. HNG takes a load off her mind, an absolute load. Now she can just be my daughter again, and my friend. When she comes around, we can have fun without the worries.
I still enjoy getting down town when I can. I love Tamworth — I love country music, and I adore the theatre. I think of the Capitol Theatre as my second home. When the Tamworth Musical Society puts on a show, I’m there from beginning to end. I’ll go to the first audition, to the last show, and while the show’s on, I’ll sell programs in the foyer. I’ve also got my own “What’s On” on Facebook. If I hear of a good show, I’ll publicise it.
Sometimes people even contact me directly to ask me to promote their show, or football match, or anything. I’ll do that for them. That way, if people don’t want to go thumbing through all of Facebook, they can come to my page and see what’s on. I get a lot of pleasure out of social media. They make everything so easy! Later today, Bev is coming around, and we’ll go downtown and see what’s what.
I want to buy tickets for the next show I’m going to see. It’s called ‘Camp Fire’; I can’t wait! If I hadn’t switched to HNG, I don’t know what I would have done. They’ve made my quality of life so much better. I love being able to pick out what I want on TV and watch it. I like being able to get up in the middle of the night and do as I please. I can get around half-dressed… or undressed if I ever felt like it! That’s what home is — it’s comfortable. Home Nursing Group has made me realise I’ve got my life back. And it just gets better and better.