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Aged Care worker shares experience of working amidst Covid-19

21st August 2020

Experienced Benetas Personal Care Worker, Mary Mercieca (pictured below), was recently redeployed with a number of her colleagues to the provider’s Altona Meadows aged care home to support ongoing care during its Covid-19 outbreak.

Following 25 years in the sector, and 14 years at Benetas’ respite facility, Bateman House, Mary was committed to sharing her much-needed skills during this challenging time.

“I’ve been working in aged care for many years, and it was important for me to be able to share my skills and contribute with what I’ve always done,” she said three days into starting the role.

“Of course I was concerned, but with the PPE, training and protocols in place, you learn what’s needed to deliver the ongoing care that’s required.”

Comprehensive PPE is critical in these conditions to protect the health of employees and prevent virus transmission. Mary explains however, the challenges this equipment poses in care delivery.

“The full PPE outfit includes a long gown, gloves, mask and a face shield. It slows you down, but most importantly, it makes it much harder for you to connect and communicate with residents.

“Many of the residents who we care for have dementia. Many of them have hearing difficulties and sometimes English can be their second or third language. Residents often rely on reading my lips.

“Not being able to communicate with your hands and facial expressions is very, very hard. You look at people in these outfits in photos, but delivering care in them is an entirely different experience.”

When asked what the hardest part of working through a Covid-19 outbreak, Mary says it’s the emotional impact that the experience has on so many people’s lives.

“The work is not hard. It’s fast and it’s different, but I have been trained and I enjoy working with the residents, I always have,” she says.

“The biggest challenge is the emotional impact of what we are all going through. And preparing yourself emotionally for that before walking through the doors.”

“Connecting with residents, being a source of support, and providing reassurance to their family members however, makes the challenge worth it.”

Mary’s work is largely dedicated to supporting the wellbeing of residents at the home. While she can only stay in a room for short period of time, she works to nurture meaningful connection.

“I look at the photos on their walls and the decorations that have a lot of their personality,” she said.

“I then start the conversation from there. One of the residents wasn’t responding at first, so I spoke in Italian. I then tried Maltese, and we were away. Singing is also a great way to connect and often leaves a smile.

“One resident when I was leaving sang to me ‘We will meet again’, and I said, ‘Yes we will’.”

The work that Mary and her team do is incredibly valued by the families. She rings them after the visits, and reports how grateful for the updates and reassurance she is able to provide.

Mary says it’s important to be optimistic and remember that it is going to get better. She says that with a smile and the supportive team alongside her, she is confident they team at St George’s will get through.

Read more stories and experiences at Benetas' residential aged care.