Sue Hollis works out of the St Agnes’ Village Management Office in Lochinvar Place but is rarely ‘in’ the office as her role in resident support, more often than not, sees her out and about building relationships with Village residents.
When Sue started with the Parish 16 years ago, she worked in what was then called the ‘Catholic Aged Care Packages Service’. After three years in this role she joined the Village Management Team, where she has been ever since.
Blessed with the gift of making people feel comfortable, Sue says her core purpose is supporting the village residents and looking out for their wellbeing.
“I enjoy my work and get great satisfaction from it. Every workday is different. I don’t know what will happen on any given day – emergencies, happiness, health complications, laughs and plenty of relationship building. Mostly, there are lots of laughs, and I really try to make people happy in what can be a very lonely world sometimes,” says Sue.
Sue spends her days immersed in the life of the village community. Her job is wide-ranging and always interesting.
“At various times, I deliver newspapers (it got up to 57 a week during the COVID shutdown), birthday cards, anniversary cards, newsletters throughout the village, which allows me to see and hear what is happening and to check in with people, particularly those living on their own.”
“I am an extra set of hands when the carpet bowls need to be packed up. I cook for our morning teas. I look after the library books, coordinate bingo, and am the first port of call for Safety Link Vital calls.”
“I carry the emergency phone, which alerts me to any emergencies in the village. This often means I am a first responder, providing vital support to residents in their villa until help arrives.”
“In situations like this, I always hope that seeing my familiar face will help them feel they are not alone in those scary moments as we wait for the ambulance, family or extra support to arrive.“
Sue’s familiar face is a great comfort and significant benefit to residents of the village, especially when they are unwell or experiencing personal loss. One of the most frequent greetings in her day is, “Oh, I am so glad you came”.
Sue understands better than most how important human connection is to those who are ageing. She found the COVID shutdown particularly hard and missed the physical contact with residents. That didn’t stop her from staying in touch with regular phone calls to see that residents were doing okay.
Sue has lived in Port Macquarie for 40 years, which often helps her find a familiar connection or link to local families and friends. She gets to know, not only residents, but their families as well.
“My own Mum is a resident in the village and in some ways, I feel like part of a family that has 254 parents and many treasured pets!” says Sue.
“I feel fulfilled and know I am doing a good job when I make a difference to someone’s day. It means so much to me when I see the simple and heartfelt gratitude of residents.”
“We do have tough days in the village, particularly when we lose a resident and we have to say farewell; tears are often shed, but we come together and support each other.”
Margaret Goggins, who has been a village resident for 24 years, says Sue makes such a big difference to village life.
“Sue has a vibrance about her that is catching! She understands what matters to me. For example, Sue knows that my daughter, who has a disability, lives at Emmaus and she knows just when I need some extra support,” says Margaret.
Sue with Margaret Goggins
Gerard Buchtmann, a relatively new resident who moved into St Agnes’ Village in September 2020, is just as effusive in his praise for the care and attention Sue brings to each Village resident.
“I didn’t know anyone when I came to the Village and Sue was just marvellous – she helped me connect with people and to join in with the activities and opportunities of village life – now I am the President of the Social Committee!” says Gerard.
Gerard Buchtmann shows Sue his Fire Brigade memorabilia
Sue also holds a special place in the hearts of Rex and Anita Fletcher (and their friendly whippet, Kyro), which is especially evident when they rib each other about their support of different football teams.
“We’ve been residents for 8 years in November and we love the relationship we’ve built with Sue – she is amazing – she cooks morning tea for residents, calls bingo and brings such a sense of community and fun to the village,” says Rex.
When residents make the decision to transition to the next level of care, Sue is there supporting them every step of the way.
“Making such a move is daunting for the person involved so I do my best to provide reassurance to them at this challenging time,” say Sue.
“Another chapter ends, but we know that they are in good hands as they settle into one of our Residential Care facilities”.
“Over time, I have developed an acceptance that saying goodbye is a part of life. This knowledge has very much shaped me in my role, a big part of which I see as helping residents make the best and most fun memories.”
“I love the reactions and raw emotion of residents when I dress up in costumes or burst into song – their laughter and joy is contagious.”
Feeling privileged to be part of people’s lives, Sue says, it is definitely a two-way street as the residents enrich her much in return.
Sue visits with Rex and Anita Fletcher (and Kyro)