Katherine Hostel’s Lucy loves to learn from residents
The beauty of ARRCS’ aged care homes is that our residents have so much to teach us. It is one of the many things Katherine Hostel Activities Officer Lucy Withers loves about her job.
Her day might see her organising trips for residents out to the stunning Nitmiluk National Park, setting up challenging activities for craft-loving residents, hosting movie nights or taking the time one-on-one with a person living with dementia to keep them happy and engaged. It’s a chance to provide meaningful service and build deeper connections.
“I try to target activities towards specific needs of the individual, as well as the group and I try my hardest to incorporate any cultural or traditional activities,” Lucy says.
But always, she is learning: “I actually learn a lot from them. A few residents in particular are always happy to answer my questions, and make it easier for me to make things appropriate.”
On the half-hour drive out to Nitmiluk, Elders might point out certain trees and features of the landscape that have cultural meaning. Other times, Lucy will go on walks specifically to find items they have taught her about, such as seed pods to use in traditional beading, or soapbush and rosellas to stir childhood memories.
One common element of this First Nations wisdom is fire – both Rocky Ridge Nursing Home and Katherine Hostel have fire pits.
“They’ve all cooked on pits,” Lucy says. “To them, food tastes the ‘right’ way when it’s cooked in the fire.”
And they’re not backward in coming forward to teach her on the ‘right’ way to cook, as well!
“Even with dementia, they’re very fire smart, because it’s a past memory,” Lucy says. “Even the smell of the smoke brings back memories. We’ll see them singing their own songline or corroboree, which they wouldn’t do otherwise – which is great to see.”
Lucy, who has been with ARRCS for three years, has a special place in her heart for people living with dementia.
“My own grandmother has dementia and I’m learning to treat my residents how I would treat her. To have them happy, doing something that they love, or trying something new is really great.
“It’s incredibly rewarding doing this sort of work.”