Did you know that a recent survey found that 40% of nursing home residents have not had a single visitor in the past year. That is why volunteers like Tricia are so important.
Tricia has known hardship of her own and she finds that in helping others she helps herself.
She uses her piano skills to keep residents of a Berala nursing home entertained every Thursday.
Tricia was recently presented an award by IRT Group which runs the nursing home. The award recognises the important role that volunteer workers play in aged care facilities. IRT has about 800 volunteers all up. Tricia won IRT volunteer of the year for the Sydney Metropolitan area.
Some old people who speak English as a second language may lose the ability to speak it if they experience dementia. This is why it is important that multilingual volunteers like Tricia come visiting each week. It really brightens their day!
Tricia can converse with the residents in Cantonese, to keep them culturally connected and help them feel less lonely. She also speaks Malay and Mandarin though her German is a little rusty!
Tricia started out helping with sing-alongs in 2016 but nowadays runs Tricia’s Music Appreciation Activity at Berala on the Park.
‘I like volunteering because the residents are so appreciative especially in the high care facility. I know that at least I have given them joy. They clap and wave their hands and have so much joy. That’s why I keep going.’
‘We sing old popular songs like ones by Frank Sinatra, plus songs like Moon River and even Walzing Matilda! I do requests as well. I play them all without music, but I bring my Mum along and when I forget things she will hum a few bars to remind me!’
Tricia is a classically trained pianist who can play contemporary and old time music.
‘I also play Clarinet, Saxophone and Flute,’ says Tricia, ‘however, unfortunately the medication I am on interferes with my embouchure so that I find it hard to play these instruments as well as I did before, but I still want to keep on playing.’
Tricia is highly qualified at music, having attained Fellowship Level with Piano, Bachelor of Music in Clarinet, Licentiate level in Saxophone and Grade 6 in Flute.
‘I started learning piano at seven and I really hated it. I wanted to go and ride my bike. Later, my brother had some success with music and that spurred me on to take it up again when I was eight!’
Tricia likes Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart. She plays Beethoven piano sonatas (like ‘Waldstein,’ ‘Pastoral’ and ‘Moonlight’) and has also played Mozart’s famous Clarinet concerto. As recently as 2013 she played at a United Nations Buddhist Celebration held at Sydney Town Hall.
Working in the bush
After Graduating from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 1995, Tricia went to work in the bush at Charles Sturt University.
‘I took up saxophone and Flute while I was working in the bush, in Forbes, Parkes and Grenfell. I had a lot of spare time.’
Several years ago, after teaching music at a private school for 13 years, Tricia became very unwell and felt she could not continue in that role.
She was facing great difficulties in her life at the time and was in and out of hospital. ‘It was really terrible. I was housebound, unable to go out of the house for four months at one stage. We all have dark places’ she says, ‘and it takes time to get out of them.’
‘I was completely isolated. I felt totally, totally broken’ she says. ‘I had a heavy workload as course coordinator, teaching, being the piano accompanist for students, organising concert programs.’
Learning about recovery
‘Fortunately I have learned a lot about recovery in the past few years.’
‘I still learn new pieces. I would like to go back to playing on stage in an ensemble. One day I would like to go back to teaching if possible.’
One of the things Tricia says is important for her recovery is the spiritual side.
‘I helped out at the Buddhist Temple, with cooking, embroidery, music, washing up and teaching at Saturday School, teaching people how to sing Temple songs.’
‘I have also attended Bible Study for four years with my friends.’
In 2015, for Mental Health Month, Tricia exhibited a painting at the fifth Annual Recovery in Art Exhibition held at The Muse, Sydney TAFE, Ultimo. It was attended by NSW Governor David Hurley and NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley. Tricia even gave an impromptu piano performance to entertain the audience.
‘I heard about Flourish Australia by word of mouth. A friend recommended I contact Clare Evans who coordinates employment service programs. Currently I am working part time At Flourish Australia head office doing administration work.
‘Plus since 2017 I have been doing admin work at the National Breast Cancer Foundation. I really enjoy working. People really look after me! I would like to increase my skills and my work load.
‘One of my favourite classical works is Beethoven’s symphony number five. You know the one, da-da-da daaa! The sound of fate knocking on the door. When I was very unwell it used to make me feel bad, but now that I am on the recovery road I have started to like it again!’