Earlier this year a survey by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation revealed that one in five aged care workers were planning to quit their jobs.
Talk of the great resignation and quiet quitting has risen ever since – especially in the healthcare sector.
Yet Helping Hand has just celebrated ten years of service from seven of its staff.
We acknowledged this milestone on Thursday December 15, on the same day we celebrated the 10th birthday of our award-winning Lightsview residential care home.
CEO Chris Stewart said of this occasion, ‘I am delighted to present a significant number of staff their ten-year service recognition as we celebrate this anniversary. This demonstrates the satisfaction staff receive working in aged care and is reflective of their commitment to create communities for older people’.
One of the staff members to receive a certificate of service was Michele Villani who started her career in aged care at Lightsview the very day it opened.
Asked why she has lasted this long her answer was quite simple, giving people purpose gives her purpose. She says that helping them to achieve quality of life relative to their circumstances is incredibly rewarding, especially when you can make them happy.
Before joining Helping Hand, Michele worked at Ashford Hospital as a Patient Services Assistant for 17 years. She says leaving that job was the biggest decision she’d ever made, and the best. She thoroughly enjoyed a return to study and got her Carers Certificate at TAFE.
She moved from Carer into a Resident Services Coordinator role at Lightsview before relishing the chance to study again. This time it was a Lifestyle Certificate which allowed her to learn a combination of centre-based activities, cultural appreciation and how to adapt activities to suit different abilities. Michele realised this is the path she wanted to go on and she now works as a Lifestyle Assistant and loves it.
What keeps her coming back?
Jobs don’t always feel like work, and for Michele working with older people is a rich experience.
She says that her clients make her feel like the stories they share with her are gifts. They take her to another place in time and provide details about someone’s personality and past. Clients become a unique type of friend and family.
One of her clients was alive when the Spanish flu was here. So much has changed in the past 100 years. Older people have lived through it and Michele says that by respecting this and listening to their stories we validate their existence and enhance our own.
In addition, she says that working with older people is a great reminder to take each day as it comes. A bad day is just that. Every day is a new day. Don’t hold grudges and always start afresh.
How did she cope with the arrival of COVID-19?
Michele concedes that the arrival of COVID-19 put a lot of pressure on everyone. Staff had to work hard to continue bringing residents the activities and support they needed. However, she says that everyone has got better at adapting – even the residents – and being flexible to new arrangements has meant less stress for everyone.
A willingness to go the extra mile in this job is both crucial and fulfilling, according to Michele.
It is the job of staff to help keep clients grounded and ensure they feel cared for. If lockdown or other illness means they can’t integrate with community physically, you must take action to ensure they still feel part of community. Care-packs and conversation are just some of the things they provide at Lightsview.
What to consider when working in aged care.
Michele concedes that caring is not for all. ‘To be good at it, you need to love the job itself’, she says.
Be patient. Show empathy. Listen – to both your peers and the people you care for. Show respect. Help people to maintain their dignity and independence.
Michele says that bringing life experience to a carer role is very beneficial as the service is very personalised. Meanwhile, being more extroverted will help you roll out Lifestyle Activities with confidence.
No matter what role you take, Michele says, a big heart is a must.
And being a team player is also incredibly beneficial. Sharing information about residents and their needs and wants is very helpful. You develop a strong work family as part of the process, and she still has regular dinners with colleagues she met years ago.
For what it’s worth, Michele says that from the moment she walked into Helping Hand’s Lightsview facility it had a good hotel-style vibe, a sense of excitement and a buzz about it, and still does today.
She says she wouldn’t work anywhere else. Her plan is to retire from Lightsview but leave her tag on the room that she’d like to move into.
May many more people like Michele join the sector. We’ll all be better off!
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