Resident Peg Plowman bonding with caregiver Filimone ‘Tukai’ Rainibogi. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Masterton Caregiver Filimone ‘Tukai’ Rainibogi didn’t expect his first-hand experience supporting loved ones through difficult times would eventually lead him to a career he can now call his passion.

Over 20 years ago while living in Germany, the Fijian born 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,” Mr Rainibogi said.

“I just thought of things to please her, to make her happy.”

A call came one day asking him to come home to help care for his mother who had suffered 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 said.

She passed away shortly after but Mr Rainibogi was glad he could be there for her at the end.

Back in his homeland, he spent many years working as a massage therapist at Namale Resort and Spa in Fiji before 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 which was very different to the work he was used to – he had always found that he liked 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 he would be happier supporting these people in a different way and applied to be a caregiver at the retirement village.

He has now been in the job for just over a year and he couldn’t be any happier.

He is doing on-the-job training 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,” Mr Rainibogi said.

“You can blend together what you learn and what you’re actually doing to do a better job.”

He has already picked up tools that he can use to improve his practice and enhance his interactions with the residents.

As he has now developed an interest in understanding dementia a bit deeper, Mr Rainibogi has set his goal of achieving Advanced Support Level 4 as the next step for him after completing his level 3 qualification.

In the meantime, he continues to get up in the morning excited to go to work and 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.”