A health care professional and advocate for aged care reform, Lauren Todorovic has spent over a decade in the acute, palliative and aged care setting working in various positions from clinical, to quality and auditing, managerial and more recently a Cognition and Dementia Nurse Consultant. She is the founder of Aged Care Report Card, Australia’s first ratings and reviews website for consumers and health professionals and a Winner of the 2015 Australian Financial Review & Westpac 100 Women of Influence.
Lauren is also the co-founder of RetireNCare, a news and media portal dedicated to reporting on the retirement and aged care industries in Australia.
Lauren is a powerful advocate for better standards and an inspiration to everyone working in aged care. Here is Lauren’s story…
Starting a career in aged care was a vision I had at a young age – I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do but I did know that my mission was to ensure all elderly people were provided with the true meaning of ‘quality care’. I was simply uncomfortable with anything else!
Learning from older people
My interest in aged care has always been apparent. I’m drawn towards situations and opportunities where I’m surrounded by elderly people, whether it be for work or in my own time. I believed then, and still believe now, that older people are very wise, and that there is much I can learn from them. I want to be a part of the information, advice and life lessons they can give me.
“Older people are like the crystal balls of wisdom we all wish we had – they’ve made their mistakes and missed some opportunities along the way but they’ve lived life to the fullest.”
From about the age of 8 years old, I ‘informally’ studied the ageing, observing their body language, how to communicate with them and most importantly respecting their decisions. We had a number of family friends living in a nursing home and I recall always wanting to go with my mum to visit. By the time I was in Year 9, I had so much interest in aged care that I did community service in a nursing home, handing out cups of tea and biscuits to the residents. Wherever an opportunity became available to assist or help out older people, I was there.
My hands-on caring for older people, in an ‘informal’ capacity developed over a number of decades. It started with my experiences caring for my grandfather who lived with us as he aged. He didn’t have an easy life and suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from his time at war, but in the last twenty or so years that he lived with us, I’m certain he did have a good life.
His life during this period was full of endless love and quality care, where he was given independence and choice over his lifestyle. We let him enjoy his life and (with our support) run it the way he wanted. This is a pleasure that not all people are given as they age, yet something I believe is a basic human right.
“My grandfather taught me a number of qualities when caring for older people: to be patient and take your time, and being nurturing, gentle and respectful.”
Having my grandfather in my life without a doubt has contributed to the person and nurse I am today. As a result, I always make sure that when I am providing care for anyone, it is exactly how I would want others to care for my family members.
Why do people choose to work in aged care?
When my grandfather was no longer around, I missed his presence and not being around elderly people, so I decided to get a job in a nursing home as a personal carer. At the time, I was studying to be a nurse and I wanted to understand the barriers and challenges in the aged care industry, and where improvements could be made to make the system better.
I see that there are two different motivators for working in aged care. Not everyone has a ‘personal story’ like mine for why they choose aged care as a career. Even if compassion is not your primary driver, you can still enter the industry as an aged care professional, as long as you are sensitive to the high standards of delivery. For some, compassion will come later after doing the work and seeing the effects.
Regardless, you still have to be persistent, respectful, and committed to helping others in need – in a manner that respects their dignity and helps them preserve their identity.
The gift of giving to others
As nurses and carers we truly are the custodians of the ultimate trust bestowed upon us by some of the most vulnerable members of our society. This is a privilege that I recognise and try to remind myself of every day. I thank my patients and residents for allowing me this privilege in such an important period of their life.
“In my opinion there is no better gift than giving to others. What an honour to be given an opportunity to care for people in their later and final stages of life.”
Make it an experience they won’t forget
As a personal carer or a nurse working in the aged care sector, we have choices every day when we go to work. I think this is the most important one:
“Every day when we go to work…make this the very best day for the people you care for. Make it the quality of care that you would expect for your own mum and dad. Provide care that shows them that someone really cares, care that makes them feel secure, safe and protected. Care that is unconditional and not a burden. Care that turns their dull day into something that they look forward to. Let’s give them an experience that is second to none.”
What it boils down to…
To succeed in the industry long term, you really need to enjoy helping our vulnerable, elderly community and feel inspired by your choice of career. If this isn’t the case, and the compassion and enjoyment doesn’t come naturally, it may be wise to ask yourself whether this sector is the right career choice for you. It is not about enjoying every task and chore – some tasks are downright unpleasant or monotonous – it’s about knowing and understanding that you are making a difference.
“Simply knowing that what you are doing is going to contribute to an improved quality of life for those entrusted to your care should mean something to you. For me it is essential.”
Working as a personal carer or nurse is more than “just a job”. You have the opportunity to change lives. Since starting Aged Care Report Card, I have continued on my mission to create change. We are now seeking to achieve this on a larger scale, working with other inspired, passionate people to create positive changes in the industry.
If you would like to get in contact and me ask about a career as a personal carer or nurse then drop me a line at email@example.com and I will be sure to get back to you.
Everyone is ageing and at some stage it will be you. In terms of career, this is a growth industry about to face a tidal wave of innovation and invigoration. I hope to see you in the sector creating positive change, somewhere you find passion, someday in the future.
Sage Institute of Aged Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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