09. March 2017
// Articles & Reports

Living in a comfortable community

The Seniorenzentrum Röttgersbach is breaking new ground in nursing care

The globe in Ingrid Wierks' hands glows. She turns the American continent to the front and says: "America was the greatest for me and my husband. We visited it 14 times. I love New York! I'll never forget how we climbed up the Statue of Liberty."


The many souvenirs from these travels now decorate an attractive, spacious room on the ground floor of the Seniorenzentrums Röttgersbach retirement home in Duisburg. Freedom and self-determination still continue to shape the lives of Mrs Wierks and her housemates. Since the house offers both privacy and a genuine community feeling. The furnishings, chairs and the Venta care bed from Stiegelmeyer also play a part in this, by creating a comfortable, homelike atmosphere in many of the rooms.

Residential groups with 12 members

The retirement home is part of the Evangelisches Christophoruswerk in Duisburg and was opened in May 2016. 72 women and men reside here in six mixed living units. Each unit has 12 single rooms arranged around a cosy kitchen/ living room. In addition to the nursing staff, a care assistant is always available in the group as a point of contact during the day. The care assistants talk to the residents about everyday matters, bake cakes with them and help with their questions.

"The kitchen is the central location here," explains Ursula Linke from the social service. "The residential community model thrives on the range of opportunities that take place within the group. This promotes social togetherness and a feeling of safety and security." Instead of being brought to a dining room, as in a hotel, the residents experience everyday tasks, such as making coffee, at first hand. One of the tasks of the care assistants is to put everyday happenings into words, in order to raise the awareness of the residents. It often suffices to say: "Oh, we need more milk." If the residents fancy sausages and chips or would like a hot chicken soup on a cold winter's day, then these ideas will be taken up in cooperation with the social service (everyday companions). An outing to the nearby supermarket is then organised, with shopping list, to make sure that all the ingredients are to hand for cooking later on.

Enjoying the fresh air

In addition to the kitchen/living rooms, the residents also have comfortable seating areas and many attractive options for spending time outdoors. A patio and balconies invite residents to enjoy the fresh air. "In our dementia garden, raised beds at eye level allow people to see for themselves how the plants change colour with the seasons," explains Uwe Stoffels, head of public relations at the Evangelisches Christophoruswerk.

As soon as you leave the bright, warm colours of the communal areas and enter the rooms of the residents, you are transported into individual worlds. Here, each resident can introduce his/her own personal tastes and preferences.

Mathilde Kläsges sits at her table at the window, under a cosy, nostalgic standard lamp. With a pink tablecloth, embroidered cushions and colourful flowers on the table, the room looks very refined. Mrs Kläsges reads the newspaper and beams: "MSV Duisburg is top of the league – if only in the third division," she announces and explains that she always closely follows the games of her favourite club, MSV, and even knows MSV legend Bernhard Dietz personally.

Rockers welcome

A few doors further along, in Rainer Lücker's room, it is clear that a new taste in music is slowly taking hold in residential homes. Headphones and a guitar hang on the wall, and Mr Lücker has written on a board: "Rockers are welcome!" But there is no wild music blaring through the rooms, just the radio playing quietly in the kitchen. At this time on a morning, many of the residents are engaged in sporting activities. What does a typical day of care in the resident groups look like?

"Each group is looked after by one carer," explains Ursula Linke. During the day, when more care support is needed, assistance is provided by stand-by staff, nursing students and apprentices. Residents should be able to follow their own personal rhythm. "Our aim is to create a comfortable, familial atmosphere," says Ms Linke. "From 8 o'clock onwards there is breakfast, but the residents don't need to be there exactly at eight. So some residents start their first breakfast late, at 11 am, while others are ready for their second breakfast by this time. They might like a cup of coffee then and maybe half a bread roll." People should be able to sleep as long as they like. Exceptions are always possible. Residents are asked about their personal rituals when they move in.

The amount of assistance provided by relatives also varies from person to person. Some relatives visit for up to 9 hours a day. "They work in advisory committees or make an appearance as Santa Claus in December," reports Uwe Stoffels. Some relatives develop such close links to the Evangelisches Christophoruswerk that they continue to do voluntary work even after the death of the resident.

Training up our own staff

What is the situation regarding junior care staff? "We profit from the education and training society Evangelische Gesellschaft für Aus- und Fortbildung in der Pflege Rhein/Ruhr, in which we are a co-partner and whose headquarters are on the grounds of the Evangelisches Christophoruswerk," says Uwe Stoffels. "Around 280 students study there, so we have young talent on our doorstep, so to speak."

Some politicians hope that there may be a number of new care workers amongst the immigrants of the previous years. How does the Christophoruswerk deal with the coexistence of different cultures and languages? "We have people from 35 nations working for us," says Uwe Stoffels. "We checked this as part of an initiative of ours for tolerance, humanity and altruism." Working together under one roof at the evangelical institution works very well.

The way out leads through the lovingly landscaped dementia garden. A first breath of spring lies in the air. The Seniorenzentrum Röttgersbach is a place that leaves the visitor with a warm feeling and enduring positive memories.

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