When registered nurse Cristine Andana was caring for an elderly gentleman in the final days of his life, the emotional care she gave to his only remaining family member, his daughter, became just as important and meaningful as the clinical care she was providing.

“I was looking after a resident who was dying. His wife had already passed and it was only his daughter he had left,” Ms Andana told HelloCare. 

When it became clear the man would pass away soon, the daughter didn’t have anyone to phone, and that left her feeling sad and alone.

So as Ms Andana cared for the gentleman, keeping him comfortable and reassuring him, she also began providing emotional support for the daughter. 

This is what nurses do, she said. “As a nurse, we need to go through this process of dying emotionally and physically with the family. You have to be there, and support the daughter as well as the resident.”

Nurses also have a role in explaining what is happening to the resident, what to expect, and answer any questions they might have, especially in cases where a patient or resident is dying, as most people will not have experienced the death of a loved one before.

“You need to make sure your resident is comfortable and their loved one is comfortable with the dying process and is aware of what’s happening,” Ms Andana said.

Ms Andana believes nurses need to look after the “whole” person, taking care not only of their physical needs, but also the emotional and mental side of what they are experiencing.

Grandparents inspired a love of aged care

Ms Andana was originally inspired to go into nursing because of the human connection she enjoyed growing up with her grandparents. 

“Having grandparents figure in your life is very important to me. Having that human connection, that elderly figure there, was a very important part of growing up. You get a lot of wisdom and life advice.”

Eventually, Ms Andana’s grandparents became too old to travel and they remained permanently in the Philippines. Ms Andana credits their influence to her desire to work in aged care.

Originally an assistant in nursing, Ms Andana was encouraged by a more senior nurse to obtain her Bachelor of Nursing degree, which she did as soon as she could. 

She has worked in oncology, but found her calling in aged care. 

Ms Andana has been working with Opal Aged Care for six years. Beginning as a registered nurse, she moved up into the role of clinical nurse educator, and she is now care manager for one of Opal’s new homes in Western Sydney.

“I made the shift into aged care because I love to form relationships with residents and families and I loved seeing them happy. 

“It gives me reason to go to work each and every day.”

Aged care for our times

Working in an aged care facility, Ms Andana is aware she is working in people’s homes and she tries to be as close as possible to family for the residents. She prefers this type of setting to the more clinical environment some nurses favour in hospitals, for example.

“I manage a nursing home that people call their home. I look after residents where we call them family, or owners.”

At Opal Winston Hills, Ms Andara’s goal is for the residents to manage the home themselves so they can continue to live a similar lifestyle to the way they’ve always lived. 

“Of course we need to take into consideration everyone’s health, safety and well-being, but when a resident has control and a say in how their lives are lived, I think this encourages the best quality of life,” Ms Andana said.

When a resident moves into the care home, Ms Andana doesn’t like the idea of them having to follow “rules”. She wants it to feel like “home”, where residents can live a good retirement, attending and enjoying activities, eating meals cooked for them three times a day, relaxing with others, and even helping with chores around the home if they wish. 

“This is my vision,” she said.

The team has your back

Ms Andana says her team helps her through the tough or sad times, such as when she cared for the dying gentleman and his daughter. They hold a debriefing session at the end of every day that includes all the team, including managers, AINs, general service officers, cleaners.

“It’s like a family dynamic, really. We sit down, we talk about what happened for the day. We talk about any feelings anyone is feeling so they can offload all of these emotions before they go home.”

They also discuss opportunities for improvement, such as if something has gone wrong, or better ways to handle situations. 

“We have each others’ back. We always support one another when it comes to these events,” she said.

“We find that if we don’t debrief, and we don’t talk about our feelings before we go home, you take it home with you, and you continue to feel sad or down. If we sit down and talk about what happened, we go home happy to our loved ones and we go to work the next day fresh.”

“Love what you do”

Experiences such as caring for the gentleman in his final days and supporting his small family are what makes nursing the career she loves.

The daughter of the gentleman was deeply grateful to Ms Andana and her team for their support.

“She was so thankful we went through the journey together. She thanked myself and the other nurses that were looking after him and her at the same time.

“It was amazing to see. It’s so important to physically, mentally and emotionally be there for the resident, on top of everything else you have to do as a nurse.”

Nursing is a wonderful career if you go into it for the right reasons, Ms Anada said.

“If you put all your heart into nursing you’ll have an amazing career. If you envision improving somebody’s quality of life, and if that makes you feel better as a person, then your career will slide into place and you’ll have fun and you’ll really love what you do.”

You can read more about Cristine Andana on Opal’s website.

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