Over twenty years ago, while living in Germany, Fiji-born Tukai became caregiver to his mother-in-law who at the time was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. He recalls the memories as they supported her through the final three months before she succumbed to the disease. There was a language barrier to deal with, but he found ways to connect with her and support her the best way he could.
“There was a lot of pointing and sign language but we got through. I just thought of things to please her, to make her happy,” Tukai says.
A call came one day asking him to come home to help care for his mother who had a stroke.
“It’s a duty you can’t forego as a son, so I went home to look after her. That’s just what you do,” he says.
She passed away shortly after but Tukai was glad that he could be there for her in the end.
Back in his homeland, Tukai spent many years working as a massage therapist at Namale Resort and Spa in Fiji. Then an opportunity came for him to move to New Zealand in 2009. He started working as a farm hand for an egg farm in Masterton. He admits that it was very different to the work he was used to. He has always found that he likes connecting with people.
While working on the farm, he took up a second job as a kitchen hand at Lansdowne Park Lifestyle Village in Masterton. There he got to know the elderly residents who quickly warmed to him. He realised then that he would be happier supporting these people in a different way.
Tukai applied to be a caregiver at the retirement village. It has just been over a year in the job but he couldn’t be any happier. He is doing on-the-job training at the moment with the support of his workplace and Careerforce to achieve the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Level 3) (Health Assistance) qualification.
“Training is very rewarding, especially when you have passion for what you’re doing. You can blend together what you learn and what you’re actually doing to do a better job.”
Already, he’s picked up tools that he can use to improve his practice and enhance his interactions with the residents.
He is interested in understanding dementia a bit deeper. Tukai has set his goal that after completing his level 3 qualification, Advanced Support Level 4 is the next step for him.
He gets up in the morning excited to go to work, to see and bond with the residents. “I look forward to work and always have a good laugh [with the residents]. Every day can be both challenging and adventurous. It’s up to you what you make of it.”