Variety is the Spice of Life in Aged Care
14 March 2019
There is a sense of freedom that comes with having options.
Knowing that you have the ability to make decisions regarding the way that you choose to live your life, allows you to be comfortable with the type of existence that you have.
As a person ages, their amount of viable life options can begin to diminish, and this can result in an individual being told what they can do, rather than choosing what they want to do for themselves.
BlueCross believes that giving the elderly a variety of options to choose from, is the key to finding the lifestyle that actually suits them.
With over 2500 residents spread across 33 aged care residences, and more than 1000 clients being cared for through home care, BlueCross is taking the concept of person-centered care to another level.
Services including both Residential Care and Home Care ensure that they have the ability to care for the elderly in an environment that suits their lifestyle, and the option of respite care means that primary carers can get a break knowing that their family member is in good hands.
And while the flexibility of this range of services does mean that clients have access to high-quality support throughout the entire continuum of ageing, it’s the variety of options and activities within their residential aged care residences that truly showcase just how good an elderly lifestyle can be.
BlueCross' Regional Manager of Residential Care, Jane Jenkins, believes that having a variety of choices regarding activity and lifestyle is essential to having residents retain the control of their life and live in a way that makes them happy.
“Everyone is different, and this means different backgrounds and different preferences. And in order to cater to everyone personally, you need to have a lot of options to choose from, ranging from activities and learning, through to food and medical treatment,” said Jane.
“As a person ages, it’s not uncommon for an individual to feel like they are losing their identity as their health or mobility declines. We try to open as many doors of possibility as we can for our residents and try to find them things that they are able to do, and most importantly, things that they want to do.”
Principle and Values
While having many options for residents to choose from is obviously a good thing, there is not a single priority within the confines of any BlueCross residence that is more important than care.
And their strategy for delivering quality personalised care is derived from a core set of values that underpin everything that they do, which are known as the STARFish Principles.
These principles are integral to the sustained success of BlueCross and are based around the positive character traits of their specialised staff. Because according to Jane Jenkins, attitudes create atmospheres.
“The first principle is ‘Be There’, and this refers to listening and engaging with residents. A person’s sense of self-worth comes from how they are treated by others, and we want all residents to understand how important they are. And every resident gets our undivided attention,” said Jane.
“Next, we have ‘Choose Your Attitude’, and this is a choice our staff makes every morning. Everybody has issues outside of their workplace, but to pass through these doors, those issues must be left behind. Good care comes from a positive mindset.”
“Thirdly we have ‘Make Their Day’ which is a pledge to look for the moments and instances where you can go above and beyond for a resident. Sometimes even the smallest of gestures can become the most memorable, and these are the things that let residents know that they mean something to us.”
“And last, but certainly not least is ‘Have Fun’. Energy is infectious, and we want our staff to enjoy their workplace. This positivity can be felt by everyone and smiling residents are the greatest award any employee can receive.”
Smiles are not the only reward for great service though, with residence managers routinely rewarding colleagues who exemplify the qualities of the STARFish Principles with certificates and gift cards for their exemplary approach to resident care.
There is also an annual STARFish award winner who receives a $5000 travel voucher for shining the brightest amongst a workforce that is committed to going above and beyond.
“This is a great place to work, and that’s what makes it a great place for our residents to call home. Person-centered care starts with attitude, and that attitude filters through to the quality of the application.
“Residents who feel comfortable and appreciative of the staff are more inclined to be vocal, and this communication lets us get a better understanding of what their preferences are and how to care for them in a way that they want,” said Jane.
Meeting Individual Needs
Caring for an individual is a task that requires sustained focus and an eye for the details and nuances that may indicate problems before they occur.
Everyone is different and so are their needs, and the key to meeting these needs is getting as much information about your residents as possible.
BlueCross’s philosophies regarding care are inclusive of all residents regardless of their state of physical or mental health, but when it comes to residents who are living with dementia, being proactive instead of reactive is always the best policy.
“We put a lot of focus on our dementia care model and we work with both Dementia Australia and Dementia Training Australia to make sure that our procedures are based on the most current and evidence-based dementia information available,” said Jane.
“The effects of living with dementia can impact a resident rather quickly which may require us to change our care strategy for that person. And noticing these changes require staff who are attentive enough to notice changes early.”
BlueCross encourages workers to learn about residents’ past lives and encourages conversation about who the resident is and what they were doing before they arrived at their residence.
This helps staff identify activities and experiences that they may be interested in, and can also be an indication of the type of care that suits them the best.
Food has long been an area of focus for BlueCross, and serving over 10,000 meals and snacks on average per day has ensured that they have a very thorough knowledge of what residents find appetising and what is best for their nutritional needs.
“Some people may need vitamised or mashed food because of swallowing difficulties, but this doesn’t change the fact that they want food that is visually appealing also. And that’s why we began using texture concept foods almost four years ago. And the results have been tremendous.”
“This means that even though a resident’s carrots are mashed, they have been molded to look like normal carrots, and the macaroon they are eating still tastes like a macaroon, but it’s softer so they can eat it. People eat with their eyes first,” said Jane.
Activities and Options
While there are many residences that can lay claim to having residents that are well cared for, there are very few that can boast the catalogue of activities and events that BlueCross utilises to ensure that they are happy.
Extravaganza Parties have become a much-loved staple of residents’ calendars, and there has been a variety of dress-up theme days across the last few years that have managed to put big smiles on the faces of residents.
South Pacific-themed dress-up parties have brought the fun and feeling of the tropics into the lives of our residents, while Rock ’n’ Roll parties seem to ensure that the dance floor is never empty.
Bollywood, Carnevale, and the Sound of Music are also favourites within homes, and it is not uncommon to see residents and staff that resemble Dorothy and the Tin-Man when the Wizard of Oz themed party takes its turn.
Residents who can sew also take great pride in helping to create the costumes for these special days.
Cutting edge technology is not something that is usually associated with aged care residences, but there are a number of examples within BlueCross residences that prove that modern technology is extremely effective when used to assist with human experiences and not replace them.
“Some residents love to travel, and there are others who unfortunately never got the chance to travel at all. We have virtual reality (VR) headsets that we give residents which allow them to have a virtual tour of many of the world’s most amazing places from the safety of our residence,” said Jane.
“All of our sites also use a robotic-baby-seal that has an amazing effect on residents living with dementia who may be agitated. It moves, it coos and even recognises residents and responds to them individually. And the calming effect is amazing.”
Despite the numerous events, activities, and experiences that residents can involve themselves with, BlueCross has always prided themselves on their ability to cater to the individual.
So when a resident has a passion or interest that transcends the normal realms of the activities on offer, they do absolutely everything possible to ensure that this person has the ability to find their happiness.
“We had a resident who had basically turned his room into an art studio, due to his love of painting. So we assisted him in creating a gallery of his artwork in one of our foyers to display his work and put on an art show. He even brought in his own violinist!”
“The resident actually sold some of his work and he decided to donate 50% of his proceeds to the Cancer Council, and he kindly did so on behalf of his home to acknowledge the fact that he felt at home, which was very sweet,” said Jane.
If being able to live a lifestyle of your choosing is the key to happiness, then BlueCross is doing everything that it can to ensure the wellbeing of those who are lucky enough to call one of their residences home.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma around ageing that suggests that getting older should mean limited choices and less opportunity.
But providers like BlueCross who have focused on increasing opportunity for their residents have managed to reopen the doors of laughter and life that so many assume are closed just because of a person’s age.
So if variety really is the spice of life, then BlueCross is well and truly a smorgasbord.
(source: published in HelloCare on 13 March 2019)