Life fulfilment comes from connections. Hilary, a veteran aged care worker, finds those connections easily through her work. She is effortlessly confident in herself and treats people exactly how she wants to be treated, regardless of where she resides on the age scale.
Hilary took good care of her grandparents when she was a teenager and has, ever since, been drawn to the care of elderly citizens in the broader community. Aged care work is often a labour of love but for Hilary the scale seems skewed towards love, residents are people after all. When she first started working as a teenager in aged care, she said it was like an apprenticeship. She started in the kitchen as a ‘trade girl’ and would administratively nurse patients when the student nurses were in training to become registered nurses. She learned first how to change a bed, hoist someone to the shower and spruce a space for optimal living. It was in these moments that she discovered opportunities to interact with patients. She was employed as an ‘assistant nurse’ which the position later became called ‘personal carer’.
Hilary learned quickly how to bring a smile to the faces of the elderly people in her care. These daily interactions that led her heart to fully open became an addictive part of the job. She diligently gave each elderly client the same care, respect and rights. Hilary took me through the process of how she engages new elderly clients in her care, the process is so obvious yet often mislaid for productivity and process. “Try this,” she said, “knock, introduce yourself, ask how they want to be called, give them choices, bring opportunities to engage and have fun”. Obviously, these ‘clients’ became her friends and then the extended family too. She says that residents look out for her when she is not there, she is a trusted ally.
In line with her family values of togetherness and service, she would bring her own kids to work with her on weekends. The boys were school age and she didn’t want to miss them on weekends whilst working, so they came with her and they helped. They played chess and other games, played instruments and chatted to all the residents. Her husband also joined in and brought with him imagination and spirit, he would dress up for festivities and operate the bbq for staff on Sundays. A shared community of carers sharing their own community. Hilary recalls the times when the staff worked together as a real team to support each other, especially where heavy lifting was needed but, more importantly, to advocate for the needs of the residents.
Hilary has enjoyed many heartwarming and happy moments and has always stayed true to her personal values of trust and love. She feels incredibly fortunate to have had the privilege of getting to make new friends throughout her life, whatever the age. According to Hilary, the only care that should exist is a care unit that centres its care on family engagement.
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