CENTACARE support worker April Clarke carries with her an air of joy and positivity, and clients light up when she visits.
One of them, Shirley Hamilton, calls Ms Clarke a “ray of sunshine”.
Ms Hamilton is one of the people Ms Clarke would visit often on her rounds as a Centacare support worker.
Friday, August 7, is Aged Care Employee Day, a national day to recognise and celebrate the 365,000 workers like Ms Clarke who care for 1.3 million older Australians.
It recognises the nurses and personal care workers in residential, in-home and community settings; the allied health professionals; chefs; cleaners; drivers; gardeners; managers; and volunteers – people who have been on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They come from all walks of life and have different motivations for doing the job that they do but they are united in their devotion to caring for others.
For Ms Clarke, 42, her job is all about keeping families together.
“Whether I’m doing dishes, taking someone shopping or getting them to an appointment – it’s these things that allow them to stay living in their own home and community, surrounded by the people they love,” she said.
Ms Clarke grew up in Redbank Plains and has lived there her whole life.
When the youngest of her four children started school, she felt lost.
“I needed to feel connected in my community,” she said.
“I needed my own identity, outside of my children, and I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.
“I was a stay-at-home mum for 16 years and (had) no formal qualifications or experience. I had only finished Grade 10.
“I met with Centacare and they showed me that the skills and qualities I had developed as a mother made me perfect for the role of a support worker.
“I’m very calm, I’m a good listener, I’m patient and I’m a good delegator.
“Mums are a bit of everything – you have to be.”
Ms Clarke has been with Centacare as a support worker for six years.
In that time she has helped hundreds of older Australians “live the life they choose”, as she puts it.
“I have lots of regular clients, which gives me the opportunity to form deeper relationships with them and their families,” Ms Clarke said.
“There’s a sense of family connection. They’d introduce me to their friends and say ‘here’s my girl’, which is really lovely.”
Ms Clarke’s Centacare boss, area general manager Richard Kreft, said he would never forget the day he completed a shift with her as part of a process improvement initiative.
“It was December and about 40 degrees in the western suburbs,” Mr Kreft said.
“The client didn’t have air-conditioning so we really laboured in the heat to get this person’s house cleaned.
“But the smile never left April’s face.
“She is so devoted and so passionate about helping people to live their best lives.
“She radiates positivity and makes people feel secure and cared for.”
Ms Hamilton is one of Ms Clarke’s clients who appreciates that.
She is in her late eighties but can’t afford to slow down because she’s a full-time carer for her husband Keith, who has dementia.
When Ms Clarke walks into her home each week, Ms Hamilton breathes a sigh of relief.
“She showers Keith and takes him out to lunch, to see his friends or some other planned activity,” Ms Hamilton said.
“If it wasn’t for April and the team at Centacare, we wouldn’t be able to keep living here – I don’t know where we’d be.”