"Old age is not a disease" says creator of ward café lifting patients' spirits at Tauranga Hospital

Every Monday and Thursday the patient lounge within the Health in Ageing Ward at Tauranga Hospital is a hive of activity as patients mingle in what now has become their very own café. 

Health Care Assistant Josie Bidois and Physio Assistant Annie Duffy came up with the idea as part of discussions to improve services supporting patients' rehabilitation journey and wellbeing.  

"A lot of our patients are at the stage in their lives where many of their friends have passed away. They can become quite isolated and lose confidence to interact with others. And that feeling can be compounded by health issues such as having a fall or suffering a stroke," says Josie. 

She says the café is a way of helping them to gain confidence to get up and about and out of their rooms. 

The café has been operating for about four months. Food for the café is funded from donations from families. Josie organises the weekly menu and tries to keep it varied. It operates like the usual café except there are no café workers, instead staff including doctors and nurses are serving the patrons.  

"It's about supporting our patients to gain confidence to connect with others.  The patients can bring their visitors along too. There are no rules aside from there's no take out - that would defeat the purpose." 

The café style setting encourages patients to talk to each other and make connections. 

"There's a real café atmosphere. Staff can join in too on the proviso that they bring a patient with them." 

Josie has been working on the ward for more than 16 years. She's a firm believer in Reminiscence Therapy. 

"It lifts their spirits when they can talk and reminisce about the good old days and a lot of laughter can be heard throughout the ward. They like that people know that they can laugh and can tell a joke or two." 

Feedback from patients and their families has been positive. The concept proving so popular that housie, and quiz sessions have also be held in the café. 

The café now has an outdoor dining area too complete with small plants and flowers donated by Josie and others to give patients a burst of sunshine on a fine day. 

Josie says she's learnt a lot from patients on the ward over the years.  She recalls a patient with dementia whose loving family did everything for her, things that she was capable of doing herself.  One day Josie asked them to stop. The family realised what she was still capable of achieving herself, and the woman thanked Josie for this. 

"That's really stuck with me. A person with dementia doesn't have to be lonely. Our motto was adopted from Maggi Kuhn - Old age is not a disease."

HIA Team Cafe

Healthcare Assistant Josie Bidois (standing left) during one of the café morning in Tauranga Hospital's Health in Ageing Ward. 

First published Checkup October 2018.

Last updated: January 31, 2019