Living the high life

Isn’t it funny how at one point in life we have all said something along the lines of “I hope I never end up in care facility” or how many times have you heard a friend or relative say 

“don’t let me end up there”? 

When in actual fact, we all come to a stage in life that a care facility is exactly where we need to be. And if we think about it positively, instead of seeing it as losing independence, we see it as, receiving the care that we deserve after living a dedicated life to caring for everyone else in our lives. As a resident so eloquently put it to me one time 

“s**t happens when you get old, we all deserve some help.”

If there ever was a way to break the aged care stigma, Estia Health Hope Valley are doing it.

On Tuesday, admittedly my first day as a volunteer, and my first day attending an aged care residence not as a nurse, I was greeted in the wide and welcoming foyer that straight away washes away all preconceptions of aged care facilities. Spacious, light filled, furnished with high back armchairs, your view is immediately cast down to the library sitting space, with the ambience of the fireplace and ceiling high bookshelves, 

I could see myself losing an afternoon right there.

But, alas, I am not here to check in!

I quickly put down my bag and followed the lifestyle coordinator, Vanessa, as she knowingly whisked herself around from room to room decorating each in beautiful photos from Hope Valley’s last ‘Country and Western Show’.

I couldn’t help but admire the enthusiasm Vanessa had, to give me not only a little tour, but to give an introduction to each of the residents. From excerpts of their personalities, their families and abundance of knowledge on their life histories. 

Vanessa knows the residents better than I know some of my own family.

The photos we were putting up depicted what looked like an event of roaring fun, complete with costumes, props, dancing and so many energetic grins. In conjunction with the photos that litter Vanessa’s office walls, it is clear that the Hope Valley events calendar is nothing short of extravagant. The morning’s energy and enthusiasm continue throughout this “normal Tuesday”, as we set the foyer for an afternoon high tea. 

I wish I had taken a photo.

Tables were clothed and set with flower vases, three tiered servers offering cakes, sweets and decadent sandwiches, all prepared in house by the hard-working kitchen team.

The refreshments are not to be looked over either, coffee, herbal tea and of course, my choice of poison, champagne!

Assured that everyone had something to eat and drink, I sat down with some of the ladies and thought to myself, 

“is this even volunteering?!”

Wrapped up in conversation, the afternoon slipped away hearing incredible travel stories from my newfound friend, Margaret…but that’s a story for another day 😉

Leaving that day and reflecting on events transpired, I am thinking, 

I must have picked the right day to show up,

but guess what, each and every day goes a little something like that.

In fact, as I sit here in Vanessa’s office writing all this down, I am awaiting the 1:30pm “happy hour”, canapés and drinks. 

Happy Friday, right?!

So, here’s me:

So here’s me: With a short-lived background in nursing and the world of health care it’s no wonder that I find my writing inspiration from behind the closed but not locked doors of aged care. Write what you know, right? You are probably thinking 

“what does she mean short-lived background in nursing?”

…like why was it short lived and why on god’s green earth is she now writing a blog!? Well, let me clarify, in 2015 I was searching for a purpose and my wise and knowing late grandmothers undervalued words kept reiterating in my head

 “you’d make a great nurse one day.”

And that sentence combined with a passionate desire to do something purposeful and rewarding, drove me to study Enrolled Nursing. Within twenty-four months I had completed four placements (internships for you American yanks) in the health care industry and two of which were performed in the wonderful world of residential aged care. 

I came out the other-side of those twenty-four months with a diploma, the doom and gloom fear all students experience in the face of finding a job and somehow the unwavering feeling that I was not meant to be doing this, like I was a fraud.

I had spent the duration of my diploma feeling like I was swimming out of my depth, like I just couldn’t get it. But there was one thing I did get. People. And they got me. Some of my greatest experiences were the relationships I was privileged to make with residents. There was no way I could be a nurse, my time management was shocking!

“Elise, dear, would you like to share some Tim Tams and listen to my rock music?” 
Um, you betcha Jo!

And so my itch for my life purpose and fulfilment had not been scratched, and some part of me knew that I needed to pursue my interest in writing…
In fact, a resident I spent time with gave me more inspiration than she knows, her name was Joan.

Joan sat with me on her bed and shared a bottle of “bubbly water” which we pretended was the good stuff (champagne!) and told me her life story hours after my shift had finished. I told her:

“Joan you could write a book about your life, it is just so fascinating”

and although she hadn’t thought it to be anything other than just her childhood memories, she boastfully told her son upon his visit, 

“this is Elise, she is going to write my memoirs”.

So here I am, enrolled in a Bachelor of Journalism and Professional Writing, in a course which calls for me to write a blog. Great! Fantastic! I’m excited!
On our very first day we sit in a class room of 25 or so and painfully go around the class to announce our ideas for our blog. On our very first day.

Some poor peers are coming up with duck eggs, using the broadest terms like “football” or “lifestyle” and then here I go with this outlandish, completely unplanned, spur of the moment idea that I would like to write a blog about the stories of our older generations. My tutor loves it. She has plans for it. I am now locked in and beginning my journey of volunteering my abundance of time (Sike! I am a full time student and part time employee) in the wonderful world of residential aged care, where I hope the incredible people will open their hearts and share their lives with me.

Because I love to hear it, they deserve to tell it and we are all privileged to learn and share in these lives well lived.