Celebrating Sharon McMahon – 30 years of excellence in aged care
With over 30 years of experience working in aged care, Sharon has grown up with the Albury & District home.
When Sharon McMahon first walked through the Tanderra nursing home in 1985, it would have been impossible to foresee the impact that this decision would have on her life. Having known about the home through a friend of her parents’, who ran a pub nearby, she asked if she could work weekends, to help support her young family, as a kitchen hand. She started the next week, thus beginning an incredible relationship that would span over three decades.
As Sharon explains, the role of kitchen hand is just one of many titles she has held, working in residential aged care in Albury.
“Over the years I have had many roles – kitchen hand, relief cook, laundry manager, activities assistant, volunteer, and president of the fundraising committee for over 20 years,” Sharon said.
It wasn’t until 2014 however, when the Albury & District home opened at Glenroy that she moved into lifestyle fulltime.
“I had been working in the laundry for 15 years, relieving in the kitchen and working a couple of shifts in the activities department,” Sharon said.
“I had decided I would ‘retire’ from the laundry and do lifestyle and kitchen duties until the opportunity to work 5 days a week in lifestyle occurred.”
In her current role as the Lifestyle Assistant, Sharon runs activities, assists with planning the monthly lifestyle program, provides support to residents and their families, and assists with Albury & District’s bi-monthly newsletter.
“It’s important to me that we build a relationship with residents and their families which enable us to provide varied activities for everyone to get involved in,” she said.
“We create opportunities for family members to assist with lifestyle and spend quality time with their relatives.”
It’s been an opportunity that Sharon has grasped with both hands to the undeniable benefit of all at the home, and a year ago, she was rewarded by being asked to become the Dementia Champion at Albury & District.
As Sharon explained: “This role requires me to try and support staff, residents, family members and carers through the difficult journey of a resident who has dementia.”
“I endeavour to be available to provide information, support, empathy and understanding as required to whoever needs it.”
It’s a role that she has made her own, as demonstrated by a wide range of activities and programs she has helped to implement. These include themed days, where residents are encouraged to dress up to celebrate a certain theme, to music therapy, which has proven cognitive benefits for people living with dementia.
Being able to see the benefits of her work is one of her favourite things.
“Watching the residents participating in activities, their faces, their smiles that can light up a room when they are enjoying what they are doing,” Sharon said.
It’s also, understandably, what drives her.
“It’s the honour of sharing the journey of the residents and their family members as they reside at Albury & District and knowing I can make a positive difference in their lives,” she said.
Sharon said that the time she has spent at the home has also made a positive difference in her own life.
“When I first started (in 1985) I was a quiet and reserved person who only spoke when spoken to and only answered with a few words,” she said.
“I feel I have become a more rounded person in many areas. I feel I am a more empathetic person who now listens more and makes themselves available to use my knowledge and life experiences to help where I can. Working at Albury & District has provided me with the opportunity to meet some amazing people and make some lifelong friends, who have influenced the person I am today.”
This transformation hasn’t been by accident, either. It’s come from giving things a go – everything from rostering to cleaning.
Sharon’s achievements aren’t limited to what she’s done at Albury & District. At the age of 52, she remotely completed a Bachelor of Social Science (Social Welfare) at Charles Sturt University. She also is passionate about helping her community wherever possible, including making homemade goods to sell, supporting the Cancer Council, and helping other local families in need, including helping to raise $36,000 to help purchase a local family a wheelchair accessible vehicle for their adult son.
As a result of her contribution to this volunteering and community work, she has been nominated three times for the Albury Citizen of the Year. For one ceremony in 2007, she invited three Albury & District residents with her to the awards, as she felt that they were the reason for her nomination.
“This (nomination) was very humbling when you are just doing what you love and feel you can make a difference in their lives,” Sharon said.
When asked if she had anything to add, Sharon said: “I would like to thank everyone I have met over my 33 years of working at Albury & District, as I have met many people and learnt so much… I struggle to think about leaving Albury & District!”
Congratulations Sharon for all of your fantastic work over a long period of time, inspiring those around you, and most importantly, thanks for improving the lives of our residents in such a profound way.