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The Inspiration of Aged Care

16 May 2007

For Tracy Keeton, the care of the elderly has always been in the forefront of her mind.

After leaving school in Derbyshire in England after completing Year 11, Tracy, 37, of Mill Park, worked in a variety of odd jobs but also did volunteer work at an aged care nursing home as a Personal Care Assistant until she married at 20 years.

An 'old-fashioned' wife who thought her husband's career was more important than her own, Tracy had no clear career goal and 10 years ago, the family, with a daughter, Jodie, then aged two-years-old, migrated to Australia to embark on a new life.

Tracy helped her husband, Sean, run a family textile business in Melbourne until deciding to return to study this year to fulfil the 'calling' that had nestled in her mind for nearly two decades.

Both her parents had passed away from cancer, and it was the care her mother had received in a hospice in England that inspired Tracy to enrol in an aged care study program, with a long term view to work in palliative care.

She enrolled in the six-month, full-time Certificate III in Aged Care at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE 's (NMIT) Greensborough campus as 'it was time to help aged people and give something back to the community,' Tracy said.

Recognising she needed a formal qualification as the aged care industry was increasingly 'professionalising' itself, Tracy said 'it was inhumane to think we can just leave the aged alone at a time in their lives when they can be so helpless.

'Imagine feeling so helpless when you can't turn yourself over in bed, can't clean yourself, feed yourself and can't even ask for what you really need. We, as a community, need to recognise the needs of people in that state.'

NMIT runs both the nationally accredited aged care certificate and another Certificate III in Home and Community Care (HACC) at its Greensborough campus, and is planning to offer students the opportunity to bridge from the Aged Care to the HACC course next semester in July. The HACC certificate is designed for people to work in the elderly's own homes, while the aged care qualification is to work in nursing homes or hostels and other similar facilities.

According to NMIT's Aged Care Program Coordinator, Sam Spadafora, both aged care and HACC services are now in great demand and a huge growth industry in Australia.

'It's become obvious at NMIT that aged care is an important area for development to meet the increasing needs in the community,' Sam said.

'There is currently a shortage of qualified staff in aged care for nursing homes, hostels and in people's own homes. NMIT's programs are designed to meet the shortage by now offering students the opportunity to complete both certificates in the same year.'

For Tracy, who also volunteers at the Banksia Palliative Care Service in Ivanhoe, the level of care needed to address aged people's needs demanded a professional qualification that covered so many areas such as personal care, nutrition, handling and medication.

'Today, education is everything and it's no good just going in without training. Certainly, you use your intuition to know something's wrong, but you need the professional skills and knowledge to give the people what they need.'

Tracy stressed while her family and friends suggested aged care work was 'depressing, I find it difficult to see it from that point of view because I see aged care work as inspirational.

'The elderly are still human beings and have needs as we all do.'

She added many people in society today were ignorant about the elderly, with some even dismissing them and turning away.

'Some people would rather not think about them, but we are forced to think about them as we all get older. Some people are too obsessed with the here and now, but I ask, how can you turn your back on the aged when they are in need?'

Tracy, who has never obtained a formal qualification in any tertiary study, said her NMIT program was 'a stepping stone to a qualification in pastoral/palliative care.'


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NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on seven campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.