EVER since she was a child growing up in Ginger Hill, St Elizabeth, Fay Petgrave has had compassion for the elderly.
Today she lives her life ensuring that seniors get the best last years of their lives they possibly can, caring for them at the Eulice Utton Home for Seniors in Manchester, which she opened in 2005.
"I get on extremely well with old people," Petgrave told All Woman.
"An aunt of mine once said I get on well with old people because I was not threatened by them. If that's the reason then that's the reason, but I don't feel threatened by anybody, to be honest. But they are wise. And they have gone through so much in their lives that they don't have time for dishonesty."
Petgrave is a trained nurse with a master's degree in health facilities planning, with specialisation in providing care for seniors with Alzheimer's disease.
"When I look at many of our residents they have actually had some of the best last years — even months of their lives — that they could possibly have," Petgrave said.
"The staff here is very carefully chosen and trained, and they are very empathetic and love is a big part of what we do here. There are lots of hugs, lots of kisses, lots of caring. And we care for the relatives as well, because it's not an easy decision for them to make to leave their loved ones with us."
She said they look after a lot of seniors whose closest relatives live abroad.
"We also have people who have lived and worked abroad but who want to spend their last years in Jamaica, and especially in Mandeville because it's nice and cool," she explained.
Petgrave said she and her staff of 13 full-time workers care for 10 residents full-time. However, the home is able to accommodate 14 persons over the age of 60.
"Sometimes we look after people while their relatives are abroad, or on holidays, or just to give a spouse a break for a couple of weeks. And we also help people with day residence as well. So persons can leave their relatives with us and come and pick them up at the end of their work day."
It was in 1973, after completing high school in Mandeville, that Petgrave migrated to the United Kingdom where she was trained in midwifery. However, she never worked as a midwife.
Following her training, she worked as a sister on night duty at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge before heading off to university.
On completing her university education, Petgrave worked with mothers and babies in a European Union experimental facility to try and break the cycle of abuse. This she did for three years before working as a health planner in two health authorities in the UK.
She then left the health field to take up a job with an accounting and management consulting firm in London as a management consultant, specialising in government services and in particular, health services.
From there she moved on to KPMG in London, but resigned soon after to return to Jamaica in 1992.
"Basically I didn't want to be in the UK for longer than I was in Jamaica. So I came back and worked with Blue Cross (now Sagicor) for a year in their projects department," Petgrave explained.
While in Jamaica she worked with KPMG in Kingston for seven years before she was recruited by the Ministry of Health to set up their new regional health authorities.
"So I was regional director for the Southern Regional Health Authority which encompassed Clarendon, Manchester and St Elizabeth," she said. "So I was the pioneer to set up that health authority and that was an exciting time. It was quite a challenge and I feel very proud of our accomplishments because we were able to establish the regional health authority and establish quite a few ways of modernising the accounting services, the operations, etc."
This was when she decided to fulfil her dreams of opening a nursing home named after her father, Eulice Utton.
Petgrave also does real estate sales to supplement her income.
"I am a licensed real estate salesperson because there is not much money in the nursing home business, so I have to do that to try and keep body and soul together and also help to subsidise the nursing home," she explained.
Petgrave said one of her greatest inspirations is her mother Mavis, who turns 80 this month, and who was a partner in the Eulice Utton home when it just started.