Aged care workers celebrated on special day

Aged care employee Agnes Lopez (right) with 103-year-old resident May, pictured before the pandemic. Picture: Whiddon
Aged care employee Agnes Lopez (right) with 103-year-old resident May, pictured before the pandemic. Picture: Whiddon

If there's anyone in the community that deserves a little extra love, it's aged care workers.

That's why Whiddon aged care at Glenfield created Aged Care Employees day in 2018 - an event that has since gone national.

As the pandemic has made it even more difficult for family to visit their loved ones in aged care, the dedicated workers have become more important than ever.

One such worker is Agnes Lopez.

The Glenfield resident has been working with the Whiddon family for a year and said she absolutely loves being an aged care employee.

"I love this work. It's almost like parenting. It's a very special attachment," she said.

"Though in my job as team leader of laundry I'm not working with the residents every single day, I do get to visit them often and it's such a great atmosphere with them.

"I feel like they are my parents as well - I miss my parents, I don't have them anymore, but we are all like a big family."

Ms Lopez said she felt good about her work every day.

"It is a very, very rewarding job for me," she said.

"It's a big operation, looking after all the clothes and the sheets, washing, drying and delivering.

"But there's a lot of pride. You've got to do it properly for the residents. Cleanliness is so important."

Ms Lopez said the family atmosphere extended beyond the residents and staff to include the residents' family members as well.

"You build relationships with everyone and become close with one another," she said.

Ms Lopez said Aged Care Employee Day was a wonderful invention and she was thoroughly enjoying experiencing it for the first time.

"It's a big celebration. It should be more than once a year," she joked.

"You feel very important."

Whiddon staff also work with the nearby Glenwood Public School on a program called 'grandbuddies' which, before the pandemic, saw pupils visiting the facility several times a week to engage with the residents.

Glenwood principal Jay McInney said the school got a lot out of the visits.

"We've seen the value and impact that our students have working with our senior citizens," he said.

"This program gave our students some contact with older people that a lot of our kids, being from a diverse and dynamic range of culture where a lot of their grandparents still live in the countries their parents originated from, just don't have.

"It has also provided authentic learning opportunities and vice versa for the senior citizens at Whiddon who get a chance to be around children and the younger generation, and pass along some of their knowledge and life experiences."

Mr McInney said Covid-19 had made it more difficult to continue their ongoing engagement with the facility, but the school found a novel way to work around the obstacle and help the staff celebrate Aged Care Employee Day.

The kids created a video on with several students sharing their thanks for all the hard work the employees do.

Throughout the year they've also sent letters and drawings to the residents.

Mr McInney said, when visiting was possible, one of the most engaging tasks the students had was working with their 'buddy' to find the solution to a 'need' they were experiencing.

"One example is one of our students' buddy had Parkinson's disease, but really enjoyed chess," he said.

"So working with design and our school's 3D printer, the student was able to make a chess board and pieces that were Parkinson's friendly. They were able to present that to their buddy at the end of the program."

Mr McInney said he was impressed by the way both his staff and the staff at Whiddon embraced the partnership between the school and the aged care facility.

Whiddon chief executive Chris Mamarelis was full of praise for his employees.

"Aged care employees are caring heroes who go above and beyond each and every day to positively impact the lives of senior Australians," he said.

"I am incredibly grateful when I see the way our employees have continued to provide exceptional care and show such passion for making a difference throughout this pandemic.

"These aged care heroes continue to go above and beyond, despite their own personal challenges and uncertainty they may be facing.

"They offer comfort support and love and create smiles on the faces of the wonderful people that we are privileged to care for."

Whiddon Easton Park (Glenfield) operations manager Sharon Fletcher said Aged Care Employee Day was being celebrated this year by surprising employees with thank-you gifts and filling the staff room with snacks and treats.

"We are shining a light on the amazing job these people are doing during such challenging times," she said.

"They have gone above and beyond to keep residents safe and well and make a meaningful difference to their lives."

This story Aged care workers celebrated on special day first appeared on Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser.