I recently asked a friend of mine to tell me about their experience in aged care. What Cameron* told me just made my heart soar.
No matter how small you think your role (or the roles of those around you) are, they all add up to something so much bigger. Our work changes lives.
Thanks for sharing Cameron.
Until last year my Gran was living in an aged care home in the UK. After suffering a stroke, she lived there for 9 years and received the best, most loving care from all the staff. But there was one carer in particular, she started not long after my Gran moved in, who sticks in my mind - we'll call her "Katie".
It was obvious 17 year old Katie was fresh, inexperienced and quiet as a mouse, but ready and willing (if a little sullen at times!). She showed reluctance and was sometimes hesitant during the care of Gran and the other residents. It may not have been her first career choice and, at the time, I'm sure she wasn't too keen on some parts of the job but it was clear she treated each resident with respect.
During those 9 years, the majority of my time was spent studying in London, and for the final 3 years in Australia. Visits to see my Gran coincided with trips home - Christmas, Mother's Day, Birthdays. Each visit was like reading through the contents page of a book: change happened in phases and the change in Katie over that time was remarkable.
By the time I left for Australia, it was abundantly clear Katie had matured into a dedicated clinician, passionate about providing excellent care. Her bubbly personality rubbed off on all those around her, making for a wonderful and friendly environment for residents, relatives and staff.
Gran sadly passed away last year and naturally I travelled home for the funeral. It went about as well as funerals usually do but there was one face there I recognised but was puzzled to see for a moment. Puzzled because they were neither friend nor family - technically at least. However the moment soon passed and it all made sense. For Katie, my Gran wasn't just part of a job, she was like family.
Katie's journey into aged care started at the same time as my Gran's. I like to think that, in some way, they coached each other through what can be an emotional journey.
Since the day of the funeral, we haven't had much contact with the home, save for the collection of some personal effects. In amongst the mass of belongings, the staff had collected fond memories and tributes and bound them into a memorial book for us. Inside a heartfelt message from Katie:
I will always remember our morning chats and silly jokes!!!
How lucky we are to have you stay with us for so long, you truly were the lady of the house!
*All names and identifying information have been changed at Cameron's request.