Juliet Smith was a very popular choice for taking out ‘Caregiver of the Year’ at the 2020 Ryman Awards. Her zest for life shone through on the night of celebration.
Having been born profoundly deaf in both ears she has worked hard to improve her communication, life and work skills. Juliet is described by colleagues as someone who gives 110 per cent.
On awards night, she and the other caregiver nominees, gathered in anticipation of the big night ahead but also knowing that they represented the 2,500 caregivers working for Ryman and providing more than 3.3 million hours of care each year.
Juliet was thrilled to win, happy to be seated amongst an ecstatic Woodcote team and her close family members including her husband Wayne and daughter Jessica, who had flown up from Invercargill to be by her mother’s side.
The award nomination noted Juliet, as a Senior Caregiver, was always willing to go the extra mile for residents. Jessica shed a few tears of joy for her mum, and host Hilary Barry summed it well with: “What a lovely winner, what a lovely way to start our evening.”
Juliet was happy the ‘Caregiver of the Year’ award was the first to be given out, so she could relax for the rest of the ceremony. She also described the exhilaration to initially hear she was a nominee for the category.
She sums up her job as “trying to make sure the residents are happy”. This includes ensuring they have physical and wellbeing needs met to the utmost and that there is constant communication.
Juliet initially started with Ryman at Rowena Jackson village as a housekeeper, working at the Invercargill village for seven years. She moved with her husband to Christchurch, because of his work, and then five years ago started with Woodcote. She has happy memories of working with Trudy Shepard, then Village Manager at Rowena Jackson, and now loves working with a team including Woodcote’s Village Manager Liz Hampton, who was there to congratulate her on awards night.
Woodcote Clinical Manager Nicky Anderson says it was wonderful that Juliet was at Woodcote on the night with all her co-workers so they could all celebrate.
Juliet says despite her hearing loss, from early on wanted to be part of the hearing rather than the deaf community. During her schooling she received about an hour each day of assistance to help her with lessons. Eventually, having raised a family and moved into a care career, she got the chance for a cochlear implant in one ear. The implant was fitted in 2014 and took about a year for her to adjust to the modified sense of sound provided by the technology. She remains using a hearing aid in the other ear.
Her husband, Wayne encouraged her to take on a caregiver job. She has since grown into the role and enjoys the time spent each day with residents. Caregiver training has been provided by Ryman and tertiary institutes and she has great empathy for those she works with. Woodcote is a real community, she says.
“I just love it here. I love the residents, the caregivers, the staff, the nurses. They’ve been so fabulous with me, and very, very helpful.”
She worked hard to keep her communication skills finely tuned, including during the precautionary mask-wearing period of the COVID-19 lockdown. While she loves the additional hearing the implant allows, she still uses lip reading skills and likes to think her caregiving skills are always improving. “Because I love working here, I’m very driven. I want to do things better. I’ve worked very hard to get where I am.” She was also helped with her communication skills when she was younger by her mother, who was a speech therapist for the IHC.