“They’re always here”: Experiencing ghosts in aged care facilities

Regardless of your personal opinions on the supernatural, most people out there can attest to feeling uncomfortable after experiencing something that logic could not explain.

Over the years, I have heard countless tales from friends and family who have claimed to either see or feel the presence of a deceased loved one, and one friend even told me that his television set turned itself on at the start-time of his mother’s favourite TV program – an hour after coming home from her funeral.

Whether you chalk these kinds of experiences up to coincidence or something more ghostly, stories of encounters from the ‘other side’ have been around since the beginning of time, and the common theme amongst many of these experiences involves the spiritual presence of people who have died recently. 

Aged care homes are unique for a number of reasons, but working in an environment where people come to live out the final years of their lives means that aged care staff are regularly in the presence of death. 

Recent inquiries from HelloCare have found that a large number of aged care workers have reported hearing, seeing and witnessing things that they couldn’t explain, and as you would expect, most of these incidents occurred for staff who were on night duty.

How the heck did that happen?

Walking the halls of an aged care facility at night can be a lonely experience at times, and tip-toeing about while others sleep definitely gives the mind enough of a chance to wander – but, there are numerous stories of aged care staff who claim that their experiences were actually physical. 

One anonymous nurse claimed that she was pushed while walking down a corridor and another claimed to have felt a slap to the back of the legs while working completely alone. 

The most common supernatural experience amongst aged care workers is experiencing call bell alerts in a resident’s room after they have died.

We heard a multitude of stories from aged care workers who witnessed repeated call bell alerts coming from empty and locked residents’ rooms, and many staff also recall hearing new aged care resident’s speak candidly about witnessing ghostly apparitions after moving into the room of a recently deceased resident. 

One of the more captivating stories came courtesy of a carer who had spent over 25 years working in the aged care industry who recalled an experience that involved a resident dying a short time after their birthday. 

According to this story, the carer had just walked into the hallway to begin her rounds when she noticed a bouquet of helium balloons standing still in the hallway that were courtesy of a birthday celebration for a recently deceased resident.

The carer continued doing her rounds until eventually, feeling as though someone was behind her, she turned around only to notice that the balloons had followed her on her rounds all the way into the office – causing the carer to walk outside and set the balloons and the resident’s soul free.

Nursing at night

Ex-nurse and Vative Healthcare CEO, Carmie Walker, grew up knowing that she wanted to be a nurse, and her early days training in the extremely old hospitals in England brought with them a number of experiences that were very out of the ordinary.

“I was working night duty with another girl in the Florence Nightingale Ward, and we looked after 30 patients who were behind curtains. We heard the big doors open very clearly because they were massive and made a very distinct noise,” said Carmie.

“We both assumed that it was the night-sister doing her rounds and we were waiting for her to poke her head through one of the curtains and say hello. We eventually grew suspicious after not seeing or hearing anything, so we looked out from behind the curtain and we saw this thing that looked like an old nurse making its way up the ward.”

Carmie continued, “The person we saw was wearing the old-style big hat and old uniform with the cape, and we could only see the figure from the knees-up. As it turns out, many people had seen the same thing and it was believed that this was the ghost of the old night-nurse still doing her rounds, and the reason we could only see her from knees-up was because the floor had been renovated and she was still walking on the old floor below the one that we were actually walking on.”

She added, “The ghost of this nurse was well known in the hospital, and everyone saw her every so often, and believed that it was just an old nurse walking on her ward in her time.” 

Can we be friends?

One thing that became very clear when looking into this subject is that the majority of aged care staff who claim to have had supernatural experiences seem to have handled these situations with an amazing sense of poise.

In fact, some aged care staff even adjust their style of care to include the spirit of a resident. 

One aged care worker shared a heartwarming story about how staff at their facility ensure that palliative residents have a lamp that emits a soft light that stays on at all times, and that a window or sliding door is always left open a fraction – as most staff at this particular facility believe that this stops a person’s soul being trapped in their room.

As obscure as this sort of ritual may sound initially, many aged care staff actually revealed that they also did similar things that they felt assisted the resident in the afterlife. Some staff opened windows and doors while others spoke aloud and let any unseen forces know that they are free to go.

Generally speaking, a lot of aged care staff tend to be very easygoing and have an extremely practical attitude, so it should come as no shock when one of the aged care staff who was asked about her experiences replied – “Who? The ghosts? Yeah, well .. they’re always here.”

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