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Adrian’s on the right track
July 17, 2019
Diversional therapist Adrian Onofrio ‘fell into’ his work in aged care. And he couldn’t be happier that a series of events and some lucky timing led him to Liscombe House, OCAV’s aged care facility.
Adrian works with Mandy Williamson, and a team of volunteers, to develop and run programs that meet the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of residents. This might be a LEGO making project with the Men’s Group, Christmas cake decorating, bingo, exercise classes or word games.
Working in aged care has taught Adrian the importance of Plan B. “I might have a program set out for the morning that involves word games. When I gather the residents together and find out that something has happened through the night or just some residents are not as cheerful as the day before, then I know we need to switch to something else that will help to engage them. We have to be organised and flexible,” he said.
Adrian came to aged care after a career as a pastry chef. Most of his working life has been creating wonderful sweets, decorating cakes and cooking for functions and private home dinners.
Several years ago after deciding he had had enough of the kitchen he went job-hunting, only to keep finding himself back cooking. One job he went for was as a cook in an aged care facility, but it also required a Certificate 3 in Home and Community Care.
“There was one spot left in the six-month course, which I took and then ended up doing a placement at Liscombe House,” he said. The placement led to weekend work in the Liscombe House kitchen and then a couple of days a week working directly with residents in the OCAV Lifestyle unit.
Adrian was working several jobs, including two at Liscombe House when he qualified as a Personal Care Attendant. Then four years ago he finally left the kitchen for good and moved full-time into Lifestyle at Liscombe House.
“It was good timing because I knew at that stage that I needed to focus my energy on one job, rather than several different jobs. But I worked hard and eventually this job came up and I enjoy working each day with the residents,” he said.
“I don’t see them as old people and I don’t feel sorry for them, because that’s almost disrespectful. I see them as people that I work with and that work depends on the circumstances at any given time, including emotional and physical issues.”
“This job is about working with people and I know that each day I might make a difference to just one person. That makes it a good job and I get paid to do it.”
Adrian’s creative skills are also put to good use developing programs such as the building of a village train set and the LEGO Sydney Opera House with the men’s group. Other programs focus on the residents’ need for tactile activities, physical exercises or cognitive stimulation. Often board games and quizzes will prompt memories, which will lead to great socialisation opportunities.
Adrian has continued his study and gained a Certificate 4 in Aged Care and is intending to do a Diploma in Dementia Learning.
Liscombe House is, Adrian believes, like a ‘mini village’ where the population is affected by what is happening in the village. The death of a ‘village’ resident affects the other residents and the staff, but is an unavoidable cost of working in aged care.
“When a resident dies, especially if it is someone I have developed a relationship with, it is sad. But my job is to support our residents through this time because we know our residents and we can respond to their needs,” he said.
“We try and make this place as much like the homes the residents have left. That’s why activities like cooking biscuits, Christmas cake decorating and making decorations are so popular because it is a ritual they can continue from the life they once had.”
Caption: Adrian with Liscombe House resident Norma Armaras.
"There is nothing I would change that would make my life any better. I have two loving sons and family and I thank God every day that OCAV took me in when I had nothing," said Jill Dale, Braeside Park resident.