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Diversity and Inclusion series: Zac’s story

Welcome to our special series celebrating Diversity and Inclusion in MercyCare’s employees, volunteers and service users. Our stories are accompanied by Steve Wise’s remarkable photographs, that show how these ordinary, yet extraordinary, people are individually effecting change for themselves and the people around them. We hope you enjoy their personal stories.

Zac Abdullah – MercyCare Residential Aged Care Therapy Assistant

Zac Abdullah has 105 extra grandmothers and grandfathers, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s not every teenager that chooses to work in aged care. But then, Zac Abdullah wasn’t your typical 16-year-old.

“At 16, it was pretty normal for me starting as a therapy assistant in a place like Joondalup Residential Aged Care,” Zac said.

“My mother is a nurse. During the school holidays I went to the nursing home with my Mum and she dropped me off at the therapy department and said ‘have a fun day, do some exercises’. Pretty much ever since then I’ve done therapy.”

Career and cultural influences nudged Zac towards aged care.

Born in Perth, Zac’s heritage lies in Malaysia and Vietnam where often the onus for aged care is with family.

Growing up, Zac had a special relationship with his grandfather, who he thinks of as a father figure.

Together this has built in Zac a respect for the elder members of our society, a lesson he is passing onto his own young son.

“I enjoy the happiness that comes from the residents. They are happy to see you, they are thankful for what you do for them. It is just like having 105 extra grandmothers and grandfathers.

“My son comes in on a regular basis and runs around and has chats with the residents. He doesn’t say much obviously, but it is good for them. Sometimes they don’t get to see any of their grandkids.

“When kids come in and you see a heartfelt emotion, the smile comes from their eyes.”

Zac’s passion for intergenerational care was also fuelled by seeing the success of MercyCare’s intergenerational program, with visits from students at Belridge Secondary Education Support Centre.

“Both parties get equal benefit. For the kids it gives them that confidence to approach someone and have a chat. For the residents it is letting that person into their world.”

Zac just celebrated 10 years at Residential Aged Care Joondalup, which he combined with a few stints elsewhere.

As a therapy assistant, Zac said he takes care of the fun outings, exercise and social activities to give residents a sense of home and community.

“When you are in an acute aged care setting, there’s not a lot familiar from when you were at home. We try to make the place seem as familiar as possible for them.

“Just having someone to talk to allows them to keep their identity for a lot longer.”