I have a friend with Motor Neuron Disease. Whilst he was in the early stages, I helped him for a few days at a time, to give his wife and mother a break. I assisted in his activities of daily living, such as eating, showering, dressing, and the manual handling involved in getting him in and out of bed, or a wheelchair. And whilst my friend and I are about the same age, the experience gave me some insight into what it was like to help someone who lacks the ability to fully look after themselves.
When I was looking for a new line of work, some of my former colleagues, who knew of my experience in looking after my friend, suggested that aged care might suit me. It was more of an intuitive “hunch” that aged care might be a good fit for me, as I hadn’t been involved in aged care before, but as I thought about it some more, I approached Gorm Kirsch, the proprietor of the Home Nursing Group, about a job as an AIN, and “here I am!”
I don’t think people are all that different, regardless of the outward roles in life and what you do.
Treat people well (easy to say, and sometimes difficult to do), get to know them, their thoughts and feelings, and what you can do for them. These are experiences that are applicable from what I’ve done previously, and what I’m doing now.
Definitely the pain and suffering that some people go through, and watching someone physically decline, or as their mind unravels into dementia. I have felt, and I think we all do at times, a sense of uselessness or helplessness, that there is nothing I can actually do to help them, or to stop their condition from deteriorating. Clients die, and I’ve never found it easy to lose anyone that I’ve gotten to know.
It was also to do with dying and one client’s attitude to it, which I hope I’ll never forget. He was just so peaceful, gracious, and totally accepting about dying, although at the time I didn’t know his time was up. There wasn’t any fears or regrets about the 95 years he had lived, and what might happen next. I was in his lounge room, standing near him in his sitting chair, and he just looked up at me, and said with such serenity, that his doctor had told him that there was nothing more that could be done for him. Then he spoke briefly about his own life, and how he’s had a good run, and couldn’t complain about anything, and how he should have gone years ago. We chatted for quite a while longer, and again there was an underlying peace and tranquility in everything he said. As I left I said I’d see him later, without thinking or knowing that I wouldn’t.
The next day I received a message that he had died at home, about an hour after I left. Whilst there was that jolt about how sudden it felt, and that tinge of sadness about his passing, I was also really happy for him, after having lived such a great life. Whenever I think about our last conversation, and just how so many things where embedded into it, attitudes about life and living and dying, I’ll always be grateful to him for our last talk, and send him thanks for the gifts that he imparted to me in the last hour of his life.
Getting on with others, real teamwork, and helping those individuals who come into your care, in an individual way. When you read about organisational objectives, customer service or client directed care, as an AIN, it really comes down to you being able get on with that person and look after them in a way that means something to them. Coming into someone’s life as an AIN has some interesting elements to it, in that you don’t have the years of university training like a doctor or RN, and yet you’ll also serve some people in the same very personal way. It can be both humbling and ennobling at the same time, and just so insightful into life’s journey itself. You will get to meet the full spectrum of society, with all their strengths, and the human quirks and foibles as well, and you’ll get to see a few of your own, if you already haven’t. What lessons from AIN work can be applied to other areas of life? Basically I would say, try to learn, and grow, and improve from the examples that you will see. Add them to your own life’s experience and knowledge.
Give it a year or so, and have a good look around at what you do as an AIN. With that knowledge, have a think about where you want to be in 5 or 10 years. You can stay at being an AIN, or move towards another line of work within aged care. Our office is a good place to investigate other options, and speak with our RN’s and Care and Support Coordinators, as well as those involved with HR, or Finance, and see what they all do, and if you think any of those roles would appeal to you.
All the roles that we do in the business are needed, so I don’t think it really matters what you do, so long as it’s a “good fit” for you, and is headed towards where you want to get to in life. My “second piece”, of a-single-piece-of-advice is; you have to enjoy your work, and as an AIN in community care you really are working with people at the coal face, in their homes, and in their life. If you find yourself thinking, “this isn’t for me”, once again, have a look around at our business, and aged care in general. With an ageing population, there is going to be a ton of work in this industry, and that is going to take a lot more people, doing many different things, in many different areas. I really think there is a career path, if you want one, and it really comes down to what you think you’d be better off doing, and matching it up to what your vocational strengths and skills are.