Date published: Tuesday 24 April 2018
BY MARCIA BALZER
Donela Perry decided to become a registered nurse at the age of 40, and it was on a student placement in a Baptcare aged care home that she discovered an abiding passion for working with older people.
"Working in aged care is a privilege," Donela says. "It's very special to share the journey with people in this part of their lives.
"Starting with something as simple as a smile of greeting that brightens someone's day, I love seeing how staff build relationships with residents. Working in aged care is more of a calling than a job and it gives you a lot more satisfaction than most jobs.
"When I was a student, people told me I'd end up working in a hospital, but I tried that and I just kept coming back to aged care. I love it!"
I met Donela last month when I attended the opening of Baptcare's new Brookview Community in Melbourne's Broadmeadows, where she's taken on the role of Residential Care and Services Manager.
Donela's passion was a joyful reminder of exactly how critical getting the right people is to the success of any kind of aged care.
Unfortunately, it's not always easy finding the right people to work in aged care. And we know the problem is set to get worse. Over the next 40 years, the number of people over the age of 85 is expected to increase from 2 million to 4.9 million.
The Federal Government's Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce has the job of making recommendations to help deliver the skilled workers we're going to need to meet growing demand for aged care services.
The Strategy will address five imperatives - leadership, organisation of work, skilling, innovation and the practical application of research and technology. Already, an Aged Care Industry Reference Committee has been announced to help ensure the education and training system stays ahead of industry and community expectations. The workers themselves have also had an opportunity to provide their perspective through the Annual Aged Care Survey 2018.
The Taskforce will deliver the workforce strategy to the Minister for Aged Care by 30 June.
Fortunately within the Baptist Care family, there are countless others with the same passion and vocation as Donela. Earlier this month I visited another new residential facility, this time Carinity Cedarbrook on the Gold Coast.
It was an opportunity to hear about the joys and challenges of getting a new facility up and running.
"It's lovely to have a fresh new facility with a great feel about it. But it's the workers who make the difference in turning a facility into a home. Getting the right staff with the right attitude is definitely the main hurdle," said Residential Manager, Kathy Nicholls.
"Of course, our workers need to have an instinctive understanding of the approach we are taking to caring for our residents. They need to be part of the culture we're creating of supporting the residents in choosing how they spend their day.
"We've been very lucky to find excellent staff who have this attitude, and also who are able to teach and mentor the new staff who will be coming on board in the next few months as our number of residents grows," Kathy said.
Client Service Coordinator Lisette Minisini was my tour guide, and she clearly thrives on her role at Cedarbrook. So I asked her about the best part of her job - what gets her up in the morning and enthusiastic about the day.
"I really enjoy showing the families around. They come in, often worried or feeling a bit guilty about their relative coming to live here. I get to reassure them, show them around, and help them feel better, knowing that we'll take good care of the person they love," Lisette replied.
The commitment and passion of the people I met in these two new additions to our aged care services were so very inspiring. I hope we find many more like them to help meet the growing need for quality aged care services in the years ahead.
Lisette Minisini (Client Service Coordinator) andKathy Nicholls (Residential Manager)from Carinity Cedarbrook