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People with dementia and their carers appreciate
the activities and outings we run as it gives them a
break and something to look forward to.
As volunteers we enjoy the walking group, socialising
and get a buzz from knowing we are helping others
SINGLETON S CATHY GEE, administration
officer and friendly face of Calvary Aged
Care & Retirement Services Cooinda, is
passionate about the 36-year-old hostel and
day respite centre. "Cooinda is an Aboriginal
word that means 'happy place'," Cathy
explains. "Cooinda is filled with the smells
of cakes baking and laughter. It's a home,
it's a community, and it's a place filled with
caring and professional staff and volunteers,
wonderful elders and supportive families."
Still receiving messages of congratulations
more than a month after winning the Aged
Care Support Staff of the Year Award
at the Hunter Aged Care Achievement
Awards, Cathy jokes that she's had to use
her winner's cheque to pay the fines she's
copped at Rotary for appearing in the local
media so frequently.
While she's worked there since 2003,
Cathy's relationship with Cooinda extends
well beyond those eight years. She
recalls proudly the involvement of her
grandmother, May Abrams, in the original
establishment of the hostel and says that
the land on which Cooinda was built is
where her primary school self made daisy
chains at recess.
Cathy, like Cooinda, has become a
respected constant within the tight-knit
community of Singleton. Raising three
children and holding a handful of jobs
throughout the years, Cathy's a familiar
face to many within the area. "I've always
got my ears open because networking is
one of the biggest things around here," she
explains. "We're lucky in Singleton with that.
We can all work together and refer between
Karen Bailey, Care Manager of Cooinda,
says Cathy's experience and knowledge
are key assets for the hostel. "The general
knowledge Cathy has of Singleton, you just
can't put a price on it," Karen said. "She's
there for all staff. Just knowing who to
call or where to go for something -- it's
Cathy is quick to downplay her aptitude for
activities that extend too far beyond the
front office. "I know there definitely must
kitchen or make beds," Cathy laughs. "I
know they must be desperate."
In aged care, Cathy has found that she
needs to be adaptable and ready for
anything. "You really need to be open and
think laterally because it is the residents'
home -- it's not just your workplace," she
said. "It's our residents' home and we're the
ones who have the privilege of sharing that."
It's this attitude that has not only seen
family reunions and a christening take
place at Cooinda but also led Cathy to
start creating memorial DVDs of residents
on their passing. Featuring photos of the
resident's time at Cooinda, their favourite
colours and pastimes, set to their favourite
music, these DVDs become a keepsake
for families that give insight into their loved
one's life at the hostel.
Making the DVDs from home, Cathy sees
this as a way to emphasise the real
personality of Cooinda to families. "We're
able to show the resident's family that we
actually knew 'Mum' really well," she said.
"We feel the grief too and we have a love of
the people in our care."
Calvary Cooinda offers flexible
care options including permanent
accommodation, extended respite care
and also features a government funded
day respite program. For more information,
please call (02) 6572 1537 or visit
A Singleton girl, born
and bred, Cathy Gee
and Cooinda share
plenty of history.
Part of the family By ELIZABETH NILAND
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