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A tough goodbye, but she’ll be back

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One of our long serving and much loved staff members, Joan Sweetnam of St Catherine’s in Bathurst, received some local publicity recently on the eve of her retirement.

Joan, a Diversional Therapist, has worked at St Catherine’s for the past 23 years. Her retirement marks the end of a career in aged care spanning more than 40 years.

The Western Advocate in Bathurst ran a story on Joan and her amazing career. The article is reproduced in full below.

There was a lot of emotion in the room on Thursday as staff and residents of St Catherine’s Aged Care farewelled a special team member, Joan Sweetnam.

A morning tea was held to acknowledge the retirement of Ms Sweetnam, a diversional therapist, after 23 years at St Catherine’s.

It marked the end of a career in aged care that has spanned more than 40 years.

Ms Sweetnam couldn’t picture herself working in any other job, enjoying the opportunity to help people on “the journey of life”.

While it’s a very rewarding job and one she’s always been passionate about Ms Sweetnam acknowledged that it wasn’t always easy.

“When residents are dying and you sit with them, that’s tough, but if you give 150 per cent when they are okay you’ve got no regrets,” she said.

“It’s a lovely place, a lovely job, and I’ve met so many people, it’d be thousands I guess in that time.”

At 77 years old, Ms Sweetnam felt it was “time to make way for the younger people” and came to the decision to retire.

However, she won’t be making a clean break from St Catherine’s.

She plans to come back a couple of days a week in a volunteer capacity, something she is really looking forward to.

“I don’t think I can stay away too long, because it’s my life. My husband’s passed away. Mum’s gone of course, and the kids don’t live here, so it’s become my life,” Ms Sweetnam said.

It will be a delight for staff and residents, who got quite emotional as they reflected on her career on Thursday.

One resident recounted how Ms Sweetnam had cared for other members of his family and now she was caring for him, getting choked up as he told the room how much he would miss her.

St Catherine’s residential manager Angela Stocks spoke highly of her colleague’s compassion and dedication to her work.

“She has a passion for her work and actively lives this value by offering herself to those who need it,” she said.

Ms Sweetnam, who expressed feeling a sense of belonging at St Catherine’s, said she didn’t realise how much of an impact that she’d had.

In her eyes, she was just simply doing her job.

For more information on St Catherine's Residential Aged Care visit - www.catholichealthcare.com.au/residence/st-catherines/