The view from a aged care student

By Bev Wilkinson

The curiosity to see what was on the other side of working with seniors is what made me apply to an aged care course.

If you asked me a year ago if I would ever consider this course, I really don’t think I would have applied.

First thing that would have to come to mind are duties including showering seniors and having to assist in the toilet.

To me that would have been so awkward, to see a person unable to do the basic everyday things we take for granted.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Courtesy of Getty Images

And in some way even though I am doing this course it is still awkward, my teacher mentioned a retirement village that would only take on students who have been taught how to shower a senior.

I’m not sure if I would like three students staring at me while I was in the shower!

So awkward! But luckily for us it turned out the manager was a little bit dodgy and just wanted free labor without training.

On the topic of free labor, we have to do 120 hours in a retirement or nursing care facility.

While the others found finding placement difficult, I managed to find a nursing facility without much hassle.

The period of time waiting for the interview was much more interesting, I felt like a fly on the wall listening to the nurse’s chat about their clients.

There was this one lady who didn’t like walking, when her daughter came into visit suddenly there was a big smile on her face.

She got up and started walking towards her daughter.

It was really amazing to hear what a simple visit can do, as one would say it really is mind over matter.

Something as simple as eating two pieces of toast had two nurses all excited, there was this one gentleman who didn’t want to eat.

Somehow the nurse managed to talk him into eating two pieces of toast, it doesn’t sound like a huge achievement, but to the nurses this was a huge break through.

It was beautiful to know that despite the frustration of trying to get this simple task done, the nurses kept calm and kept trying, they didn’t give up and in the end they were successful.

Once the manager was available she took me inside the facility, it was weird having to type in a special code to get inside the doors.

Suddenly I was on the other side, there was seniors chatting and I could even look into some of the rooms.

It was weird, even though I have spoken at retirement villages and senior groups this was like another world.

There was no sense of privacy, I felt strange looking into the rooms and in a way the facility reflected that of a hospital.

I felt a little bit sad, these are people who have been independent all their life and now they needed help with everyday tasks.

In class we learnt how to feed each other, it was bizarre having someone ask if they are feeding you too fast or slow. You could not use your hands all you could do is open your mouth.

For me that was 20 minutes, for most of the seniors in this facility this was the rest of their life.

Later that day I went into work, totally different environment but once again seniors surrounded me.

I was working in the elevator and a mother and daughter came in. But it wasn’t your typical mother and daughter; the mother was in her 80s and acted like a child.

It was a bizarre role reversal the mother was in a moterised wheelchair with a pink number plate with her name on it.

She was neighing like a horse, while her daughter looked down at her tenderly and stroked her hair.

The look of pure love was beautiful; her daughter all grown up was now looking after her.

I wondered what her mother was like before she had dementia. Did she have many great adventures? Did she once dream? Did she have a great love?

Once I finished work, I ended up crying at the train station, it takes a person with so much heart to work in aged care.

I’m not sure if it’s my destiny to be in this industry, but I’m grateful to have an insight into this world.