A new horticultural program, school-based traineeships and a dementia socialisation robot are just a few new initiatives gracing various aged care facilities around the country.
The Excellence in Age Services Awards, organised by Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA), recognises people, organisations and projects in the aged care industry. The awards aim to encourage the development of forward-thinking aged care programs and technologies – an area brimming with untapped potential.
“We are incredibly proud of all our finalists across Australia. They demonstrate the calibre of age services employees who devote themselves to the heartfelt care of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents, each and every day,” says LASA CEO Sean Rooney. “Every one of them deserves our gratitude.”
Awards span five categories: the Organisation Award, Team Award, Individual Award, Rising Star Award and the new Next Gen Young Leader Award.
Here are some of the finalists in each state. The Victoria/Tasmania awards took place earlier this year.
‘Let’s Dig In’ is a finalist in the Team Award, a horticultural program rolled out in Bolton Clarke homes in collaboration with the Maggie Beer Foundation. Gardens are planted and residents pick vegetables for meals as well as flowers for their rooms. The weekly gardening activity is focused on increasing social engagement, physical activity and overall mental wellbeing.
In pursuit of educating the next generation about aged care services, Peninsula Palms Retirement Village has partnered with Mueller College to run mutually beneficial student-based traineeships.
The facility’s registered and enrolled nurses started the program, which sees secondary students undertake aged care certificates by spending one day a week at Peninsula Palms, supplemented with theory learning online. There are currently 30 students involved in the program. Mueller College’s primary school students also visit Peninsula Palms to perform and read with residents.
New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory
RSL LifeCare’s nomination recognises its crisis management response to the 2019-2020 bushfires. The organisation’s planning allowed its aged care facilities in vulnerable bushfire areas to be evacuated within 12 hours, with ambulances, SES, charter and RSL buses on call. RSL LifeCare was able to protect about 1500 lives across 10 of its locations.
The Next Gen Leader Award is a new category to the LASA awards this year; New South Wales physiotherapist Simon Kerrigan is one of the nominees. Kerrigan developed ‘Get Up Guide’, a series of daily exercise videos aimed at strengthening the lower limbs of older people, while increasing overall balance and mobility. The program is free and available to any aged care facility that is interested.
The need to support those living with dementia is evidenced in the Western Australian shortlist.
The Specialist Dementia Care Unit at Brightwater The Village is the first of its kind nationally, caring for nine residents who would otherwise need to be in a hospital. Brightwater Care’s research centre develops solutions for those living with dementia, including a socialisation robot named ‘Alice’.
Also shortlisted is Caitlin Burnett who is dedicated to enhancing sensory experiences for those living with dementia, evident in her work with the Silver Chain Group. Burnett has forged a partnership with Dôme Cafes to create Living Well Cafes. The specially designed, dementia-friendly environments allow people to forge vital social connections and enjoy a few goodies while they do so.
South Australia and the Northern Territory
Nurse practitioner Keyur Anand is passionate about the end-of-life journey. Her palliative care virtual reality platform strives to educate and assist staff and volunteers in communicating with patients and families when it comes to end-of-life matters – with extensive consideration for cultural sensitivities.
Helping Hand Aged Care is a finalist in the Organisation Award for running a student program that supports practical workforce development. Students who undertake studies across allied health, nursing, medicine, pharmacy, engineering and business work alongside personal care assistants – in observational and working capacities.
The program, which has an intake of 500 students per year, increases understanding the hopes and needs of older people, to foster a strong aged care landscape for the future.
Victoria and Tasmania (winners already announced)
Winners across Victoria and Tasmania were announced in February this year. The Organisation Award went to Princes Court Homes in Mildura, a community-owned organisation home to about 100 residents and 76 independently living retirees. The organisation is celebrated for the Mallee’s Living Histories project, which publishes the often brilliant stories of residents and retirees thanks to writers at the Mildura Writers’ Group.
Julie Folan of Cooinda Village received his year’s Individual Award. Folan’s journey at Cooinda Village started as a nurse 22 years years ago. Now, she is the Executive Manager of Quality and Compliance. Folan spearheads several community events, including the Benalla Cancer Foundation’s Light the Night event, raising awareness and funds for leukemia, alongside Walk and Wake Up to Dementia – Cooinda’s dementia awareness event.
The remaining award winners will be announced on Aged Care Employee Day on Friday August 7, with a live broadcast at 1:30pm (AEST). Head here for more information.
Title image by Ramón Salinero at UnSplash