“I’m not your everyday care worker. I’ve done different things and have different stories”
Katja is redefining the ‘norm’ – and his clients love it!
Picture this; a charismatic young male with a super cool name living his best life as a Community Support Worker. That’s right, we said a ‘young’ person – with an X and Y chromosome – who loves his job working with seniors. So, what made Katja Russell pursue a career in aged care, and do the people he supports really welcome someone outside the industry stereotype into their lives with open arms?
You bet they do.
Age is just a number
Five years into his role providing home care services at Feros Care, Katja speaks with sincerity and an enviable passion for his job.
Previously working in the poultry sector in a variety of capacities, it was time to shake things up.
“I felt like I needed something different,” reflects Katja. “I took a year off to travel and also did an aged care course because I like helping people and I’m really comfortable around older people.”
Growing up, Katja was very close to his grandparents and realised from a young age that seniors can be unappreciated and misrepresented.
“From the age of 7, I lived with my grandparents so I know how society can view the older generation,” he says.
“They aren’t always treated as people just because they’re older, but what many don’t realise is that in their heads, they’re still 25,” something which we’ll all understand in the years to come.
“Even if you’re 85, you may not technically be young, but you can still feel young.”
Community support work – so much more than meets the eye
Katja enjoys the variety of work he does as a Community Support Worker, which extends far beyond simply cleaning seniors’ houses.
“I do lots of different things to help them stay living at home as long as possible. That’s the end goal because the longer they can remain at home, the longer they’ll stay healthy both physically and mentally.”
In addition to domestic assistance, personal care, and providing community access services, Katja builds meaningful connections with people who enrich his life as much as he enriches theirs.
He speaks fondly about a client with macular degeneration whom he would take to the beach to utilise her other senses. Soaking up the calming smells and sounds of the ocean, they’d eat ice-cream and chat in depth about her childhood.
He recalls another who wanted to go to the Feros Care office in Coolangatta to meet the team. “She still talks about that day three years later,” he says, explaining how the small things can make such a big difference to his clients’ lives…and subsequently, to his too.
“I didn’t realise young men did this?!”
Initially, clients sometimes assume that Katja purely transports people to their respective appointments.
“I tell them, ‘I do all the things that the girls do!’” he smiles.
“I think they appreciate that I’m different. I’m not just your everyday care worker, I’ve done different things and have different stories.”
“I actually find that I connect with a lot of the women as their husband may have passed away, so they really enjoy talking to a male.”
Gaming, gardening and guardianship (of some furry friends!)
So, just who is Katja outside of his community support work?
When he’s not forming connections with clients, he’s often doing the same with his five resident cats, one chicken – and three possums.
He also loves a spot of pool, getting out on the weekends in his large fruit-tree filled garden, and is an avid gamer.
In other words, he’s just like other young people living a full life – both on and off duty.
Working to your team members’ strengths and pushing the envelope
Recognising Katja’s passion for gaming and his savvy tech skills, Feros has incorporated these strengths into his role.
As part of Feros Care’s ‘Let’s Get Technical’ support program, Katja teaches clients about technology and how to use it.
“Feros really works to our strengths,” he says. “They really take care of you as a person both personally and professionally.”
“There’s opportunities to improve and further your career and more leeway to write your own path.”
“And, as an organisation, they don’t just sit back. They want to improve things and I really value that.”
“They’re just like you and me”
Once again, Katja refers to the misconceptions which have long existed about working in aged care.
“The clients are nothing like the stereotype – they’re just like you and me. They have much more knowledge and street smarts than people think, and they can teach you things about life.”
Summing it up with pure poignancy, Katja says this:
“People tend to forget that a grandma was once somebody’s granddaughter, and a grandfather was once somebody’s grandson.”
“It makes me feel good to show them that they still have so much to offer, and so much living to do.”
It’s a two-way street
When asked about Katja’s work ethic and how he’s received by the clients, Feros Care Customer Service Liaison Steph Wilson says she always hears glowing feedback about Katja.
“He will always put his hand up to go the extra mile, like running back to a client’s home if they need their meds.”
“And, he has a knack for winning over everyone. The clients love him.”
Working with seniors and learning from their wisdom and life experience brings depth, purpose, fun and joy to a person’s life – irrespective of their age, gender, culture, or any other demographic factor.
Just ask Katja – he’ll tell you.
Not your typical aged care worker? Good, because we’re not your typical aged care organisation.
Apply your skills in a career that makes a difference in the lives of seniors. Find out more and view our job vacancies here.