Facilities & Maintenance Coordinator, Dougherty Apartments, NSW
Dougherty Apartments was an experiment, designed for local people from all socio economic & cultural backgrounds to come to in the latter years of their lives, so that they didn’t have to move to a suburb away from their friends and family to a place they were not familiar with.
I am one of our locals, born, schooled, grew up, work and still live in less than a five kilometer. In April 1997 I was asked by a friend if I would like to work as the laundry person/cleaner at Dougherty when the staff member went on one month’s leave, as my youngest of six children had just started school.
Of course I did, and after the month I was asked to work part time. In the October 1997 I started working four days a week, Monday & Tuesday in the kitchen & Wednesday & Thursday as PCA. Eventually I worked my way up to Supervisor on these two days.
While working in the kitchen I would cook scones & cinnamon tea cake every week before the residents got up for breakfast, and the smells going through the facility would tantalise everyone’s taste buds. I was, and still am, more of a “hands on” employee, and enjoy getting involved more than doing the admin side of my job.
In around 2002 Dougherty decided to create a Dementia Specific Unit. This took a couple of years to complete as we had to move self-care residents within the building first, and then create another 37 hostel units from the original 16 self-care units, while not displacing any residents.
After stage one of this renovation I went through the area and noted an incredible number of defects. As our then GM didn’t have the time to dedicate to manage the renovation I was asked to. The dementia wing finally was officially opened November 2006.
This was the start of the position that was built around my strengths that I hold now as the Facilities & Maintenance Coordinator, and which has grown over the years.
My roles and responsibilities are extremely vast. Apart from managing day-to-day operations, other tasks include being Chair of the WHS Committee, emergency coordinator, laundry supervisor, coordinator on all aspects of security, managing all external contractors and their contracts, assisting in the monitoring of the health & well-being of the 150 self-care residents and overseeing the incontinence program.
I’m in a very lucky position at Dougherty because I get to know all 190 of our residents and their family members, and over the years they have become a part of my family - as my family have become part of theirs. Some of these residents may have no family, or are estranged from their family, so it’s great that we can fill some of these roles for them.
Having six children I’ve had my share of issues with them, the passing of my mum in 2017 (who became a resident at Dougherty in 2015) and the sudden tragic passing of my daughter in law just one year ago, but the love & compassion I received from all residents was overwhelming. They have been there to support me, as I hope I support them in times of need.
In my 21 years in aged care I have come to realise that no matter what your date of birth we ALL need the most basic things in life, to be heard when we speak, to have ongoing human interaction, to be loved and to be cared for by a caring person.
To work in aged care I believe you need patience, empathy and a big heart. If we were all to care for everyone as though they are your mum, dad, grandma, grandpa, brother or sister you can never put a foot wrong.
Also I believe if you go into this work with heart and give of yourself, you will receive ten fold back from residents compared to what you put in. I like to remind people that a cuddle costs nothing to you but can make a big difference to a resident that is struggling just to get out of bed. Maybe we should have cuddle day once a month or so.