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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

‘The rewards outweigh everything’ – why these workers are passionate about their jobs

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With Aged Care Employee Day to celebrated on Sunday (August 8), two staff members from Lifeview Residential Care­­­ in Melbourne have shared with Aged Care News their insights on what brought them to aged care and why they are proud of the work that they do.

Gill Hynes, 72, has more than 40 years’ experience working in the industry.

She currently works as a resident advocate across four Lifeview aged care facilities in Victoria, visiting each and assessing the general wellbeing and satisfaction of resident’s in Lifeview’s care, ensuring person-centred care is being properly executed within all Lifeview facilities.

She joined the organisation more than 20 years ago as a nurse and has since lent her hand as clinical care coordinator and assistant residential manager.

“When I originally did my nursing training, I didn’t know if I wanted to work with children or the elderly,” Hynes recalls.

“I worked at the [Royal Victorian] Eye and Ear Hospital many years ago, working with children with cancer of the eyes, and I just found that too distressing.”

As a fresh start from such confronting work, Hynes decided to take a position at an aged care home in Essendon, and it was then that she knew she had a career for life.

“What I love about aged care is that we get to really connect with the residents. You’ve really got to be there, in the moment, with them,” she says.

“I had a great conversation recently with a gentleman in his 90s, and he was telling me about when he started work at 12 with his uncle, and just those stories and, once he started, the animation — that’s what I love.

“I love to find the connection … and the longer you stay with them, the better it is.”

Gill Hynes, an aged care employee of over 40 years, says that she cherishes the ability to make genuine connections and bring smiles to the faces of residents everyday.

These days, working in a managerial position, Hynes assists in the admissions process, liaising with families.

She loves that even in her role as a resident advocate, she is still able to remain present, on-the-floor with residents, identifying unmet needs before they manifest into full blown episodes of loneliness or despondency.

“I go to all the homes, and am involved with the residents themselves, and I can pick if there’s an issues before there’s a real problem.

“Our homes are very family orientated … we’ve got a resident here now whose brother was here many years ago, 23 years ago when I first started at this company, and we were talking about him today.

“We had a little prayer meeting because that’s what she loves. You just do anything you can to make them smile.

Acknowledging the struggles faced by workers across the country, most working in pressurised, short-staffed environments, Gill advises workers to prioritise every minute of care.  

“You take it quietly, you concentrate, because your anxiety comes across to the resident.

“So hypothetically, going into a resident’s room, if you’re in a flurry going ‘oh, hang on, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that’ you’ll make them anxious too.

“So instead, when you go in, do something as simple as starting with ‘hello, how are you today? What would you like me to help you with?’

“Just fully connect, and stay with the resident; don’t think about what’s going on behind you because, eventually, it all gets done.

“Know your resident; read their care plan; know what this person likes, and don’t do something alien.

“You’ll find that the residents are more appreciative and they’re in a better frame of mind.”

Most importantly, Gill says it is vital for aged care businesses to provide daily shows of care for their staff, too.

“We’ve got to look after the staff, so we’re making sure we’ve got drinks for them — water and soft drinks — and some little treats.

“Keeping morale up is a big thing. Some of them are working 12 hour shifts, some of them are working six days in a row, so we just get them some little surprises to show our appreciation.”

It’s a tough time to be working in aged care, but Gill says she will persist for as long as she can in the industry, loving what she does to her core.

“I will fight to the end of my life, because I love what we’re doing at Lifeview,” she says.

Annitta Macauley has worked in aged care for seven years, having experience as a personal care assistant at Lifeview Carnegie, but is now working as a social support and events manager across all four Victorian Lifeview facilities.

She previously worked in disability care for 18 years but, much like in Hynes’ case, it was the unparalleled opportunities for connection that inspired her to pivot to aged care.

“When I was working in disability, we started to get some older clients, and I just loved hearing their stories,” Macauley says.

“I want to make a difference in people’s lives and empower them, to just make those moments precious and special.

“Much like disability care, aged care is challenging, but I find it so rewarding.”

Annitta Macauley, Lifeview social support and events manager, enjoys being able to engage residents with new and exciting activities.

The key to creating a truly rewarding environment for residents, according to Macauley, is listening to residents, but also thinking outside the box in developing activities.

“We did a special dinner, a fine dining event, with some of our married couples.

“Many said afterwards, ‘that was the best night we’ve ever had’.

“Seeing those smiles just makes coming to work everyday such a joy.”

Allowing residents direct input into activities planning has taken the Lifeview activities program in all sorts of new directions — many breaking traditional stereotypes.  

“While sitting with a resident, they said ‘oh, I like that tattoo’, and next thing you know we’re having a tattoo night,” Macauley says.

“Just because you get older, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and you can’t be a little bit naughty.

“And it’s never too late to learn.

“I had one particular resident making pom poms, a male resident who had lived at the pub most of his life.

“He ended up making 200 pom poms and thoroughly loved it.”

With massive shortages in aged care workers across the country, Macauley says that on this Aged Care Employee Day, she would like to appeal to Australians nationwide to consider a career change to aged care.

“My biggest advice to other people is ‘ just come into aged care: the rewards outweigh everything.’

“Yes, it’s tough at the moment… but for me I find that if you make one person smile a day, whether it be residents or staff, you’re already winning.”

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