No stretch of the imagination is needed to see that Soutthida Savatvong – affectionately known by the staff and residents at Goodwin aged care as “Sue” – is the kind of aged care worker dreams are made of.
The Laos native grew up in a culture that held the elderly in the highest esteem.
Raised by her grandparents, Sue cared for them until they passed away in her teen years.
Shortly after, while accompanying a friend to Centrelink she saw an advertisement for traineeships in aged care – and something inside her clicked.
“I thought, ‘I might try it out’, because I had a passion for working with elderly people,” she says.
“I got in, completed my traineeship with Goodwin and have stuck with them ever since.”
Twenty-five years on, Sue is still the beaming face walking the halls of Goodwin House in Ainslie and faithfully applying her personal philosophy of “respect, dignity, empathy, compassion, support and patience” in all her interactions with residents.
“Sometimes I see them sitting by themselves and I go over and talk to them, make them smile, maybe make them laugh,” she says.
“It might just last a few seconds, but I love seeing them happy. Then I’m happy.”
Though these quiet, day-to-day interactions are what makes Goodwin feel like her “second home”, Sue’s vigilance and training has kicked into action to keep residents safe more than once.
“When I was about five years into my time with Goodwin I saw one of the residents lying down on the floor,” she recalls.
“I came close and saw his necktie had somehow become too tight. I ran over and quickly loosened his tie and thankfully, he recovered.
“Another time, this lady – very fragile and a bit unsteady – was about to fall backwards. It was like slow motion but I knew if she fell, her head might hit the floor, which could mean grave danger.
“I didn’t think of anything else; I dropped my medication tray, jumped over, grabbed her and pulled her back up.”
But according to Sue, the arrangement is mutually enriching.
“I’ve learnt from my time as a Goodwin employee that while people may have many differences regarding their personalities, beliefs, cultures, et cetera, we all share the basic need to feel respected, loved and, particularly with the aged, that they are recognised as still having value in our society,” she says.
“I have formed many amazing relationships with residents and staff over the years. I have gained an acceptance that the people we care for, love and form bonds with, will inevitably leave us in one form or another.
“The countless residents I’ve bonded with and cared for and who have then passed away taught me a lot about how to process grief.”
Sue says she has stuck with Canberra’s longest standing aged care provider because the organisation’s core values aligned with her own.
“They’re modelled around respect and dignity,” she says.
They’re values that have transferred into the organisation’s new residential care location, George Sautelle House in Farrer.
George Sautelle House has 81 beds and the adjacent retirement living village has 169 independent living apartments.
The new facilities are the latest outcome of significant growth and expansion Goodwin has undergone over the past decade, according to its recently appointed CEO Stephen Holmes.
“Goodwin’s guiding philosophy is always to put our residents’ and clients’ needs at the forefront of our planning. After all, our organisational vision is that every person should have quality of life and opportunity to stay productive in their community,” he says.
The new facility has a dementia-friendly building design. With nurses onsite 24/7, onsite health and allied health specialists, an in-house pharmacist, an aged care specialist nurse practitioner and numerous health assessments, residents’ health and wellbeing are prioritised.
Residents enjoy chef-cooked meals prepared fresh onsite, beautiful gardens all year-round, multiple communal spaces and quiet corners, a gym, a hydrotherapy bath, an onsite hairdresser and daily activities on and off-site.
The luxury women’s only wing – The Brindabellas – is a first-of-its-kind in Canberra, offering a range of exclusive additions for women who enjoy the finer things in life.
“Choice is also one of our central values, ensuring residents always have the first say in how they live their lives,” Stephen says.
For more information on George Sautelle House and other Goodwin facilities and services visit the website.