This is a special profile on one of our most beloved carers. We hope you enjoy Cary’s Story: Caring With Heart
Cary works with us at Autumn Aged Care and quite simply, he is an absolute treasure. With a ready smile and joke to boot, he has made and continues to make an incredible difference in the lives of our residents and staff. In order to facilitate the best quality of care with integrity, innovation and authenticity, we want to shine a light on those doing life right alongside our residents. We want to honour and thank staff we have seen pouring themselves out to make a real and sustained difference. Cary has been instrumental in not only meeting the basic needs of residents but providing some of life’s greatest dignities, caring with a heart to be treated as a human with hopes, a past, a future, a sense of humour and above all, a soul.
Growing up Cary always had a keen sense of family. From holidaying with the whole family clan in the country town of Avoca, his grandparents and family played an instrumental part in teaching him the skills he uses today. From learning bushcraft and improvisation skills from his family, Cary showed an eagerness and willingness to learn from his elders. One of the ways psychologists advise to bring about respect for our seniors is to listen and value what they have to teach. Certainly an approach our broader society would benefit from greatly.
Starting out in the technology sphere Cary had no idea that one day he would end up working in aged care. With electronics jobs moving overseas, Cary had some decisions to make. Having invested over two decades in service to water rescue efforts and St. John’s ambulance he decided to pursue remedial massage with aged care as a secondary job. As things go, that job became front and centre.
Compassion, Honesty, Calmness.
Powerfully, Cary speaks of the qualities that he believes staff working in aged care should have and seek to constantly develop. “Compassion, honesty, calmness, flexibility, an ability to gain rapport in difficult situations, integrity, ability to listen to the residents and follow up on your promises.” With residents needing intimate, daily and sometimes unexpected care, these qualities arguably serve as helpful guiding markers in how staff approach and treat residents. Being bathed as an adult by someone else is a time where one is vulnerable, dependent and exposed, how much more do they need compassion, integrity and trust.
To Be Family
Cary shares the heartbreaking reality of many residents in aged care facilities. After he had started working in the sector it became apparent to him that for many of the residents he was looking after, he was their ‘family’. After 4.5 years at a centre, there are still residents he has never seen with a family member. The weight of this reality is likely to strike a chord with many Australians. Humans are communal and social humans, to be without family and connection is one of the factors behind what medical professionals are calling the modern epidemic of loneliness.
When discussing the things that residents have said they value most about living in aged care, Cary said that while some might want their space, most prefer the sense of community and village-ness found within the centre. They have spoken to him about loving the friendly and helpful staff, those relationships being highly valued. It warms our hearts that in a world going at the speed of light, often leaving those who can’t keep up behind, aged care facilities can be places of warmth, community and family. With powerful succinctness, Cary says that what energises him to go to work is the certainty that the residents need him and the staff. Many agree that working in aged care comes a deep responsibility to truly care.
Speaking into what makes a great aged care facility Cary says that a relaxed staff and residents base is important. He regularly “walks through the different wards to access the ‘feel’ of each. Do I hear silence or jokes and laughter? Am I seeing stressed faces or smiles?” Of his favourite moments of working in aged care, Cary remembers fondly the parties for residents turning 100 years old. He tells of how residents with advanced dementia still remembered him and staff months later and how edifying it is to make a difference like that. Cary gives us insight into the precious moments of humour he finds working at Clovelly; many of the residents give him cheek daily. He says this is probably because he gives them a lot of cheek too. This cracked us up no end.
It Can Be Tough
Yet working in aged care is no picnic. With tough factors such as managing time, gaining rapport from residents in a lot of pain (whether physical or mental or both) to dealing with the physical fatigue, there is a lot to juggle and manage. Cary says that support staff and residents readily rally around him when he has little to no energy left. He articulates that it would not be possible to do his job and to do it well without the support from fellow colleagues. The family of staff is integral to the thriving of all in the facility where he works. Wanting to put his words into action, Cary has, for many years, taking extra time to train, mentor and counsel staff, so that they know there is a safety net there. A divided house cannot stand and Cary has consistently shown commitment to bringing the team together. We are so grateful.
Cary highlights that while the aged care sector has seen a much-needed change there are still some areas that could see development. If personalised care is to be truly met each resident’s situation and details should be easily accessed for all staff. While generalised service times help with rosters it can sometimes cause difficulty for residents that these times don’t suit. Cary displayed tenacity and initiative by creating an excel spreadsheet with resident’s personal care requirements, timing and details, dynamically rostering staff and troubleshooting problems. Initiatives like this are integral to aged care centres working to their full potential. When all members and sectors of staff have open communication, issues can be swiftly acknowledged and met.
We will leave you with a story that epitomises why Cary is a true treasure. Cary tells of how he regularly plays chess with a few residents after his shift finishes. He says it’s a great way to unwind and he loves drawing upon their help with teaching students about different aspects of care. A personal, genuine and reciprocal friendship is one of the quiet but deep joys of working in aged care. Thank you for serving with us, Cary.
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