Meet The Graduate – Olivia Brettle, 22, Aged Care Worker

In a new series of blogs, we are going to introduce you to some of our very special graduates. Firstly, we’d love to introduce you to 22-year-old  Olivia Brettle, who studied Aged Care and Individual Support with us in 2013 and 2014.

In a wonderful turn of coincidence, we managed to connect the dots and realised that after she graduated, Olivia actually cared for our Social Media Manager Shonagh’s stepfather whilst he was in a high care dementia ward at Harbison Nursing Home in Moss Vale, NSW.

We’ll hand it over to Shonagh and Olivia to tell the story!

Shonagh: “It was 2012 and it had been a few years since my stepfather had been diagnosed with vascular dementia. His condition was becoming worse and it was no longer safe for him to live at home, so we moved to the Southern Highlands in NSW, which has some wonderful care facilities. He was lucky enough to have found a space and beautiful room at Harbison Nursing Home in Moss Vale.

“It was a very emotional time for our family, as dementia is a disease that is almost harder on the family and friends than it is on the person who is going through it. As a result, I took some time out of my media work, as it was all a bit of a pressure cooker. I found solace (and income!) by opening a dog walking business. Dogs are naturally joyful so being around them in a time of emotional stress is always a bonus.

“As fate would have it, one of my ‘clients’ was Kate Lovett, General Manager of h&h. Kate had seen my dog walking Facebook page and got in touch and before long, I was taking her gorgeous dog Tommy out walking a few days each week.

“As Kate and I got to know each other more, I revealed my media background and she asked me to come on board to work with her on the Social Media side of h&h, which I have found so incredibly rewarding. I really love seeing all the comments from the staff and students and watching the wonderful camaraderie throughout the college.

“But back to dog walking and how we connected the dots! I’m renowned for posting pictures of dogs on my personal Instagram account – not just my own dogs, but the happy hounds that I walked when I ran the business. Of course, I posted lots of pictures of Tommy and had tagged Kate in them.

“One day, I noticed that a girl called Olivia Brettle had commented under a picture of Tommy: ‘Thank you for looking after our boy so well”. I also noticed that she had ‘liked’ a picture of my beautiful stepfather Neville. In it, he was giving the ‘thumbs up’ and wearing the sunglasses I had given him that Christmas Day.

“By this stage, Neville had passed on. He had only been gone for about a year or so, but I immediately realised that Olivia had cared for him in Harbison! We hadn’t crossed paths until this point – I must have visited at times when Olivia wasn’t working. However, with this turn of events, I felt like it was as though Neville had been looking out for us all and wanted us to meet!

“Olivia and the staff at Harbison treated Neville with the utmost care and respect, ensuring not only that all his needs were met, but that he retained his dignity and was made to feel special every second of every day.

“To this day, I can’t express my gratitude to them, so when I discovered that Olivia, one of h&h’s graduates, had been his carer too, well, it was really one of life’s astounding moments (in the best possible way, of course). I was overjoyed and grateful that in a small way, by walking Tommy, I could help to repay the kindness that she showed Neville in his final days.”

Olivia: “Neville was such a lovely a man and a dream to care for. Even when he was in the very advanced stages of his disease, he was always smiling, and kindness just beamed from his eyes. People like him are the reason I got into this industry, completing my Certificate III and IV to begin in my dream job and career.

“I am in the high care aged care section at Harbison at the moment, but I will eventually move into nursing. I’m currently studying that at TAFE. That’s the great thing about h&h – its courses allow you to springboard to great heights in your career and of course, the teachers are wonderful.

“Chris Whymark was my teacher and she was fantastic, really compassionate and she loves what she does. I also really liked how organised the college was and how friendly the receptionists were.

“The course content was thorough; teachers were knowledgeable and always available. I’ve been to other colleges where I felt like I was a number, but h&h made me feel like I could ask anything at any time.

“The best part of my day is arriving at work! I love getting to work early, making a coffee whilst listening to handover and preparing for my day with the residents.

“The hardest part is when we lose a resident. Preparing for a death of a resident you’ve developed a connection and a friendship with can be heart wrenching, which was the case with Neville. It’s especially difficult.

“However, you do learn to put techniques for handling this in your studies and throughout your course. I also find that sharing your grief with other staff members and colleagues can really help, and make sure you have a solid, positive circle of friends outside of work, as well as a happy social life.

“I honestly would recommend the care industry so highly. It is extremely rewarding. My advice to anyone inclined to enter this line of work is to always be kind, as kindness can go a long way. Patience is also important as is learning to work in a team cooperatively. These are all skills that you learn or learn to enhance when you study with h&h.”

Thanks to Olivia and Shonagh for sharing their wonderful story! If you want to know more, please do get in touch with us by calling 02 9682 0100 or emailing granville@hnh.org.au