Even after her mother passed away, Maria isn’t sad coming back to Bardon aged care

It was a hard conversation to have out in the St Vincent’s Bardon courtyard. A pleasant morning – plenty of chatter, one of the team brought around coffee and talked with the residents.

It was a hard conversation in the way that, it’s never easy to hear about someone’s mum passing away.

maria family member in bardon courtyard

“I went down for a quick trip [to Sydney]. I saw her on the Wednesday. She’d just been to the hairdresser and had her hair done. Collapsed, had a stroke and died about 12 o’clock.” 

“We saw her afterwards. The team laid her out beautifully. They now have a special service for people to be fare welled here. There was a little ceremony where we said goodbye to Mum and Father did her funeral at her parish about a week later. And that’s something I’ve helped with here.”

But where some might feel the pain of revisiting the place where a loved one had lived and passed away, Maria finds purpose now volunteering at aged care in St Vincent’s Bardon, in particular helping dementia residents like her mother.

“I don’t feel sad coming back here. I’ve never found it depressing here for people with dementia.”

“They’re people. They say hello. You remember their names.”

And while Maria would visit regularly when Mum was still alive, volunteering now, her appreciation for the staff has reached new levels.

“Just how hard a job it is and how dedicated they are. You see how many people they need to look after.”

“Just the patience, kindness and compassion. Going beyond what their role may need. The creativity I suppose as well with COVID. How to cope with people being isolated like that.”

“Physical care is one thing, but volunteering makes you realise you need that spiritual and compassionate side of people. We go and influence their lives by talking to them and sharing with them. Sitting beside them, tapping them on the hand. And that awareness of tuning into people and getting to know them.”

“While people might be at the end of their life, it should be a fulfilling time of life.”

But while Maria volunteers now, that hasn’t meant that it’s always been easy.  Aged care is rarely an easy thing for people to come to terms with. No matter how prepared (or unprepared) you might be.

“No-one likes to face the possibility that their parent will end up in aged care,” says Maria.

“Mum was living in a retirement village. She had a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. That was managed, we thought, at the retirement village.”

“But you know probably what’s coming. You know residential care is going to be the only way to live her life. We had a townhouse with stairs. So, you’re always anxious about where she is.”

“We knew we were doing the right thing by her, even though you hear the stories about homes.”

But in the end, despite any concerns, aged care at St Vincent's Bardon proved to be the right place for Maria’s mum to live and for her family to visit.

“The closeness here was a huge priority here as well. While I was working, my husband and brother could help.”

“The size as well. The family feel of the place. This is just the right size for that homely, caring feeling where you get to learn everyone’s name.”

And that’s what Maria has come to do. With volunteering at St Vincent’s, she gets the chance to see the same people she saw for those four and a half years and continue to make a difference by helping residents and families alike.

“That’s the issue is, when someone dies what happens? The people you’ve come to know, you never see them again. I knew so many people here that to never see them again would be quite a big wrench for me.”

“Supporting the pastoral care program. Enriching their [resident’s] lives. It’s a privilege really. You get a lot from giving.”

“I wouldn’t volunteer in a place that I felt people weren’t being treated as individuals.”

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