“You become family with the residents”: Aged care staff who live on site

Aged care worker living on site
Registered nurse Shiv Ashok lives on site in an apartment at Nellie Melba Retirement Village. (Image: Supplied)

It’s no surprise then that when the pandemic meant some Ryman Healthcare staff chose to live on site, one of the best things about the experience was getting closer to the residents they now lived alongside.

Registered nurse Shiv Ashok has been living at Ryman’s Nellie Melba Retirement Village in Melbourne’s Brandon Park for the last month, choosing the option after she returned home from travelling overseas.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Ryman has had around 50 staff members take up the offer to move into the village where they work, and there are now 10 staff living on site at the Nellie Melba. 

“I’m safe and it’s safer for the residents”

Ms Ashok, who previously lived in a share house, is living in one of Ryman’s two-bedroom, fully furnished apartments, complete with a full kitchen and laundry. She doesn’t have to pay for the accommodation.

The carer works four or five night shifts a week, and spends her free time reading, watching television, and speaking online to friends and family in Australia and Sri Lanka, her home country.

She only leaves the village to buy groceries, and is choosing not to see family and friends at the moment.

Ms Ashok told HelloCare it’s a “relief” to be living on site. Her house mates work in hospitality and aren’t so vigilant about where they have been and who they have been in contact with.

“When they go out, every time, I feel panic,” she said.

Living on site, Ms Ashok knows she’s protected. 

“I’m safe and then it’s also safer for the residents,” she said.

Ms Ashok made the decision to live on site after returning from overseas because the level of Omicron transmission in the community at the time was high. She thought it best to “stay away” from her housemates and move into the apartment.

Registered nurse Shiv Ashok, who is living on site in an apartment at Nellie Melba Retirement Village, with care resident Scarlett Joseph. (Image: Supplied)

Though it’s convenient living on site, Ms Ashok does find it lonely at times – but she says the residents look out for her.

“I get to go to work very easily. I just walk three minutes and then I’m at work,” she said.

“But then at the same time, it’s a bit lonely as well because I used to have a lot of my friends around me sharing the house, so it’s a bit quieter than what I was used to.”

She said the residents feel safer knowing some staff aren’t going out into the community.

“They’re very grateful,” she said.

Ms Ashok said she’ll stay living on site as long as the risk remains in the community.

“I think I will still stay until the situation is a bit settled in the community, when the risk is not too bad and I feel like it’s safe to move back to the house.

“Ryman is supportive, even before the pandemic,” Ashok said. 

“When I travelled overseas and came back, they made sure I got all the tests and the place [was] ready to move in. 

“They made sure that I’m supported and they provide meals and all these kinds of things to make sure that we are all OK living here,” she added. 

Staff situation treated on an individual basis

Moving into the village is not a permanent arrangement, but there’s no definitive timeline, a spokesperson for Ryman told HelloCare. 

The provider monitors the COVID situation in the community and manages it on a case-by-case basis with each staff member. 

Allowing staff to live on site was one of a range of measures Ryman took to help keep residents and staff safe.

“You become family”

Ms Ashok loves working in aged care and says the residents have become like family to her.

You can get involved in the activities with the residents and listen to music while you work. 

“It’s really good that you get to meet familiar people every day,” she said.

“You become family with all the residents. You’re very close to them.” 

“I am actually away from my family, so it feels good to have people who know me and who care about me as well. 

“You don’t get that in a hospital – that’s why I like working in aged care.”

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