Palm Lake Care Bethania residents are more like aunties and uncles to Fern
Have a think about how much laundry your average family produces in one week. There are shirts and shorts, socks and jocks, more underwear and even more outerwear. Then there are the pillowcases and sheets and blankets to consider. In most family homes, “laundry” can be a swear word. But not in Fern Markwell’s laundry.
It’s Fern’s job to manage the smooth running of the laundry at Palm Lake Care Bethania. Now let’s take a minute to do some math. There are 150-odd residents who call this aged caring community home. That’s 150 full sets of clothing each and every day, more bedding than you can poke a stick at, and even the odd random handkerchief – just to throw in that extra layer of complexity. Imagine collecting all that laundry from 150 separate suites, transporting it to the on-site commercial laundry facility, moving it through the complete laundering process – sorting, washing, drying, folding, ironing – before returning all those separate items back to their rightful owners – and all in the quickest time possible. It can add up to around 30 commercial-sized loads on any given day. It’s a job that takes an expert in managing operational systems as well as an organised mind. And that expert’s mind belongs to Fern.
Fern has worked for the Palm Lake Group for nine years now and has held a variety of roles from cooking in the kitchens and housekeeping, to personal caring. But it’s the Palm Lake Care Bethania laundry that this self-professed “jack of all trades” says she “adores”. Yes, you read correctly. Fern “adores” her job.
It’s not the normal word you’d expect from a person who, for the past three years, has been in charge of all that never-ending washing but hers is a role where Fern’s innate capacity for organisation, time management and systems is challenged on a daily basis and rewarded.
“I’ve worked since I was 15 and I’ve never enjoyed a job as much as I have here at Palm Lake Care,” Fern says. “I really enjoy the residents and it makes me feel great to be able to go over and above to impress them.”
Fern relays stories about how protective her residents are of their clothing. Besides the furniture and precious trinkets they display in their suites, the residents’ wardrobes are a big part of their identity. And you must remember that these residents come from a generation where properly pressed clothing was non-negotiable. Fern has been asked to iron the wrinkles out of nighties before now – and she does it with enthusiasm because she knows how important it is for that particular resident to look and feel great – even in her nightwear. And she also knows how important it is for that resident’s family to know that their beloved matriarch’s requests and choices are being completely respected by the people entrusted to care for her.
Fern takes pride in delivering a pile of cleaned, folded clothing back into the hands of its rightful owner at the end of the day – right down to the handkerchiefs. She says her job is rewarding because the residents are ever-so grateful.
“It can be physically hard work but I enjoy my job because these residents are more like aunties and uncles to me,” Fern says.
And the Palm Lake Care ‘family’ is grateful to have dedicated people like Fern on the team – where every job, even the seemingly mundane, is completed with impressive skill, enthusiasm and a smile.