VOLUNTEER AT SNUG VILLAGE CHRISTIAN HOMES TASMANIA
I've been a volunteer at Snug Village Christian Homes in Tasmania for the past four years. My husband and I have a business in which I worked for six years but office work wasn’t my thing.
I had always worked in childcare, which I stopped when I had my second child, but I’ve always been a person who likes looking after people, so when I decided to stop doing my office job I thought ‘what am I going to do now?’, and aged care came to mind.
I took myself off to my local aged care facility here at Snug to sign up to volunteer for them, thinking I might possibly do some courses longer term. However I’m still a volunteer four years later and I’m very happy doing what I’m doing - it suits my lifestyle and I love it, although I still do have staff say to me ‘when are you going to do something about some courses and work with us?’ I just say ‘I do work with you’.
I go in two days a week on set days, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I like to work it as a job because I'm a very routine person and like structure, so the only way for me is to say ‘my job’ is Tuesdays and Wednesdays, it's not just when I feel like going in because then I would lose motivation. I think the structure helps the residents too as they know when I’m coming in and what days I'm there.
I dread being asked what I do day-to-day because it is a hard question to answer. My time there goes so quickly and it can be so varied. When I'm there I’m kept very busy between helping with leisure and lifestyle activities like walks, crafts, outings and concerts, as well as other routine things. There's also a lot of downtime talking with staff and residents, which is equally important.
Many residents don't have visitors or family, or don't have family close by, so I spend time chatting to them and along with staff, we become their family. We also have patients in our dementia wing who have spouses who visit on a daily basis. Of course sadly their partners are more or less non-verbal, so although they come to be with them for a few hours daily they don't get a conversation, because their partner can’t communicate with them.
I can't see them just sit there looking around watching what's going on in the room so I'll sit and I'll talk to those visitors. I've actually formed some lovely relationships with a couple of these people. Sometimes they open up because they probably haven't got anyone else to talk to who understands the situation they are in.
Another thing I have done is sit with palliative care patients. I’ve sat with a resident who had no family and I couldn't bear to see her die alone so I tried to make her feel cared for and listened to in those last moments of her life. It's just what we do and I myself would hope that someone would do that for me if I ever needed it.
But I guess I'm not only there for the residents, I’m there for the staff too, to take the pressure off them where I can. I remember when I first started another lady said to me ‘remember what you're here for’. I said ‘what do you mean?’ and she said ‘remember you're not here for the staff you're here for the residents’ and I thought at the time, ‘I get what you're saying but I don't agree. It's nice to be able to help the staff as well. They’re busy and it makes staff happy to have some support and help, and we have a happier environment overall if both staff and residents are happy.
I just love doing what I’m doing because I get a lot out of it. I know residents and staff enjoy my company and I can bring some joy and happiness to an environment that could have the potential to be a bit morbid if the staff allowed. I am a bubbly person, and if I can make someone smile I'm happy with that.
I’d love to see more people entering a career in aged care at a younger age. I feel there is a gap for many people between finishing school and finding this career because they don’t fully understand the vast array of options open to them. There needs to be more education before children leave school about what they could do to start their working lives in aged care, so we can capture their interest before they go and discover another career.
Working in aged care can teach you a lot about other people and yourself. I’m naturally an impatient and fast moving person, but when I'm at Snug Village I’m able to become very patient, so it’s a good place for me to be too. Things move slower, people move slower so you have to be patient, slow moving, compassionate and happy to get the most out of what you do!