Caring for thousands of senior citizens over the past two decades is an experience few people would know and some might even avoid.
But for the Sargeant family, enriching seniors’ lives became their mission when they bought a small Pakuranga rest home in 2002.
Linda Sargeant had a career in aged care and her husband Allan had just finished a business course when the owner of the Edgewater Drive facility asked if they wanted to buy it.
“The timing was perfect because Linda wanted to have greater influence over the care of residents and I was looking for a business opportunity,” Allan says.
“Linda was committed to a holistic approach to aged care, incorporating the person’s health, social and emotional well-being.”
The couple took the plunge and renamed the rest home Ambridge Rose Manor after a favourite rose, and immediately started to think bigger.
At the start of the new millennium there were significant aged-care regulation changes.
Many small rest homes closed because their business models weren’t sustainable.
Allan and Linda had to write extensive quality manuals to ensure Ambridge Rose Manor met the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) new certification requirements.
They aimed higher than the minimum standards and over the years regular audits became less frequent when there was evidence of continuous improvements.
New Zealand’s ageing population required more residential aged care and by 2007 the Sargeants made the first of many building expansions, enabling them to offer hospital-level care.
They needed more staff and started bringing health workers to Pakuranga from overseas.
“At the time our older residents were generally Europeans who preferred meat-and-three-veg-style meals,” Allan says.
“We had to think more broadly about our culturally diverse caregivers and increasingly diverse community, which was happening at Ambridge Rose well before it became the norm in Auckland.”
The Manor grew from 18 beds to the current 104-bed private hospital and rest home.
A new wing opened in urgent response to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake when older Cantabrians immediately needed specialist accommodation.
“That was one of our biggest challenges — pushing through the last requirements to open a new wing in a couple of hours before 15 vulnerable and traumatised people arrived in the early hours of the morning,” Allan says.
Constantly growing demand for enriching dementia care led to the couple developing The Cottage and The Villa, which increased the total number of beds in their charge to 154.
The Sargeants’ daughters and son-in-law joined the business and whenever possible their grandchildren are involved also.
“One of the nicest things has been having the family coming along for the journey,” Allan says.
It takes a lot of people power to operate three rest homes and the couple have employed more than 1000 people, with almost all elements of care being managed in-house.
Allan says they’re rewarded by the work they do for the community and by creating a family-based organisation that’s financially sustainable so residents and their families are secure.
“For 20 years we’ve been on-call 24/7 and there’s seldom a minute goes by I’m not thinking about Ambridge Rose and the people we care for.”