Celebrate Living History Profile: of an Aged Care Nurse.

By Stephanie Dunbar

Working in the aged care industry is not a job for the faint hearted. It involves lots of patience, long hours and constant focused attention.

Celebrate Living History was fortunate enough to gain a glimpse into the day-to-day work of an aged care nurse, Jacqui.

Jacqui works as a nurse at one of the Catholic Homes in Victoria and has humbly asked that we do not reveal her full name.

_Jacqui made her career move into the aged care industry after seeing her Grandmother be taken into an aged care facility. “I wanted to provide the oldies with the level of care they deserve,” Jacqui says.

There are unfortunately a lot of people that see the job as an easy way out, especially people from overseas trying to stay in Australia Jacqui explains.

Training involves an intensive course in aged care nursing where the students learn basic first aid care, specialised treatment care and ethics.

This is then followed by strenuous unpaid placement. The training is structured in a way that allows the trainees to see if they really are fit for the job.

Jacqui explains that a lot of the people within her course dropped out, as they couldn’t cope.

“It’s a field of work where you have to enjoy it, if you don’t enjoy it it’s just going to be the worst job ever. It is so hard sometimes to wipe their behind and put them in the shower but it takes a strong person to do that stuff and a lot people aren’t fit for it,” Jacqui says.

An average day of work consists of waking the residents, taking them to breakfast, assisting them with showers and bathroom visits and games. There are also occasions when the nurses take residents on outings to get their hair and nails done or to special events.

A typical nursing home has several wards, usually with thirty residents, at a ratio of six residents to two nurses. The residents range between 65-108.

Australia has an increasing number of elderly citizens with the baby boomers entering this stage. According to an article by the Nursing Careers Allied Health Australia, there are currently around 2,800 residential aged care facilities that provide care to over 160,000 elderly people in Australia. It is predicated that the number of elderly residents will reach more than 250,000 over the next ten years. This could place greater pressure on the ratio of nurses to residents. However the ratio at present is small enough for the nurses and residents to develop great deep friendships.

They share stories and learn valuable life lessons from each other. “You get really close to them,” Jacqui says with a big smile.

Despite the hard work involved the job is not without rewards. ‘Do you wanna know what happened to me on my wedding night?’ a resident once asked Jacqui while on a night shift. The lady had told her the story of before her wedding night she had never seen a male body part before. On the night of her wedding she was given the biggest surprise of her life when the couple retired to bed, Jacqui tells through laughter. “They are pretty open, they will happily tell you anything,” Jacqui, explains, “They just want someone to talk to sometimes.” These chat sessions are one the most rewarding and favorite parts of the job.

The residents talk about the funny but also the sad as many are war heroes, many left with war wounds. Jacqui tells of one lunchtime brought one of the male residents to tears as rice was served alongside their chicken. A cup of rice a day had been all that he could ration during the war and the sight of it brought up very bleak memories. Nevertheless the residents talk about their experiences and teach their home made remedies, professing to cure anything from a headache to getting a super Hollywood smile with just a banana skin.

These elderly citizens are beacons of wisdom and want nothing more than someone to share it with. “It doesn’t matter how down my day is, if I smile at them it lights up their whole day. They are so happy to see you. They are just so happy someone actually wants to talk to them and take care of them.”

The Celebrate Living Project has excited Jacqui as it presents the tales of our elderly citizens in a unique and interesting way. It provides the younger generations with a glimpse into the lives of the countries war heroes and survivors and of the women who waited for them. Most of all it helps teach the younger generations to respect and admire their elders, to be grateful for the wonderful and easy lives they lead in comparison.

Jacqui says this is the greatest life lesson her profession has taught her, “I’ve learnt that I should be grateful for the life I have right now and we should thank them for everything that they did. We should aim to give back what they gave…kids these days don’t respect anyone, the old people teach you respect.”

Jacqui is a proud supporter of the Celebrate Living History Project and we thank her for her insight into work of an aged care nurse.