Workers are comfort in the night

THERE'S a tray of sandwiches in the fridge to tide over restless residents until the morning.

Breakfast marks a break from what could have been a restful night, or a painful night, or a night spent in a state of anxiety eased only by the open ears of the carers and nurses and managers who  keep Aldersgate at Kings Meadows ticking.

Extended care assistant Mark Spicer, who starts work at 11pm   at the Uniting AgeWell home and leaves eight hours later, said dealing with the residents meant getting to know each person's quirks.

Mr Spicer and registered nurse Fiel Quistadio can almost set their watches by their needs.

They know who struggles to sleep, who needs checking regularly and who is at risk of a fall.

For some residents, it's  having someone to confide in at 2am that keeps them comfortable.

``It might be anything they forgot to mention during the day,'' Mr Quistadio said.

``There's lots and lots of reassurance,'' Mr Spicer agreed.

Night duty starts with counting drugs to ensure everything has gone as it should through the day.

Next, Mr Quistadio and Mr Spicer will shine a torch on the ceiling of each resident's room to make sure they're all right.

If they're awake, they'll ask why, and if they're asleep, they will make sure that the resident is dry, warm and comfortable.

``When you leave the room, you have to think, `is that how I would want my mum or dad to look?'em'' Mr Spicer says.

Not all residents have the luck of having such caring people in their lives.

While family is welcome on the premises 24 hours a day, Mr Quistadio said there were some elderly people who saw their family rarely, if at all.

Mr Spicer agreed that there were some sons and daughters who waited until their parents' final moments to make amends.

The pair said it was regrets about family relations that most often surfaced before people died.

``People who haven't visited in a while can get a shock - they break down, their parent or relative might have deteriorated in appearance, physically and mentally,'' Mr Spicer said.

``If (people) have relatives who live in aged care facilities, do make time to visit,'' Mr Quistadio said.

He  said there was still plenty people could learn from the elderly who suffered dementia or Alzheimer's.

Mr Spicer agreed there was an exchange between carers and residents: while carers and nurses looked after the physical and mental needs of people, residents imparted wisdom and lessons in turn.

``I've learnt patience, humility, caring,'' Mr Quistadio said.

``It's fascinating hearing the stuff that was,'' Mr Spicer said.

Some of the stories are told in the early hours of the morning when worries creep in about  things that happened anywhere between 40 years ago and lunchtime the day before.

By 2am, Mr Quistadio is hopeful he might be able to have a coffee and catch up on paperwork.

Nights can be unpredictable and the buzzers sound regularly.

And by 4.30am, Mr Spicer said, it's all ``go, go, go''.

``They're starting to get restless -  they're all usually people who have lived on a farm,'' he explained. 

Working in an aged care home can be emotionally draining.

Mr Spicer said that while trainees were warned not to get close to residents, it was inevitable.

``You do get attached . . . you watch someone come in vibrant, walking around, then they're bedridden,'' he said.

``A lot of people pass on through the night -  it's when they're comfortable.

``You just want to know you've done your best for someone.''

Aldersgate extended care assistant Mark Spicer  says dealing with residents means  getting to know each one's quirks.

Aldersgate extended care assistant Mark Spicer says dealing with residents means getting to know each one's quirks.


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