I started out as a support worker
Soana Fifita knows how it feels to provide home care services. Although now a referrals co-ordinator for Access based in the Hutt Valley, she started out helping family members with personal cares and household assistance.
'For me it's always just been a part of life. Though born a kiwi, half of my family are Samoan and half Tongan. Within Pasifika culture you fight to look after your elderly family so I grew up helping to care for my grandparents with personal cares and medication. It wasn't a paid role but as a girl in the family that's what was expected. At times there would be 15 of us, including cousins, living in the same home back on the islands so everyone did their part,' says Soana, with a sense of pride.
So what does Soana's role as part of Access's team of referral co-ordinators involve? 'When a client visits a GP who refers them for care, the local Needs Assessment Service Co-ordinator - or NASC -gives us a call. We're often the first point of call who start the ball rolling for clients to receive care. We also have to help co-ordinate when clients are moving from one District Health Board to another or perhaps moving to, and sometimes from, a rest home.'
It's a busy job requiring liaising between different organisations and departments. So what particular challenges has Soana faced over her years with Access? 'Holidays can be tricky. Trying to arrange for clients to continue receiving their cares when they want to visit another part of New Zealand. One client from Northland was visiting for a family wedding. They'd never been this far south but it was her Great-Grandson's wedding so we knew how much it would mean to her. By having a good rapport with NASCs you work hard to accommodate requests out of the ordinary to help people live as good a life as they can. I managed to get the client the service and specialist equipment she needed for her visit.
'There was another situation whereby we had to try to help an elderly Chinese gentleman. He could only speak Chinese and would only receive help from a male. That proved challenging as we try to match support workers to the needs of the client, but we managed to find him an appropriate support worker.' Finally Soana shares the greatest challenge, one that is echoed by many in the industry. Death. 'Unfortunately as many of our clients are very elderly it's inevitable. When I was a support worker I was once asked to help with an 80 year old's deceased mother. She had died between my shifts but when I had returned she was still in the same position as when I had left. I even had to close her eyes. Some people rely on you being strong for them at their greatest time of need and what better privilege can you get than that confidence in you.'
What advice would Soana give to someone looking to work in home care? 'Go in with a positive mind. Walk in with a fresh mind. People need and appreciate the help and it's the diversity of the people that keeps it enjoyable. It means each day is a fresh new day. Enjoy it!'