LIFESTYLE COORDINATOR, ALWYNDOR AGED CARE, ADELAIDE
I've worked in aged care for 36 years. I began my aged care career as a gardener actually, helping rake up leaves at my local care home when I was very young. I was grateful and really enjoyed it, and soon after I started they offered me a full time job.
I actually did many jobs in my time in my first facility, there was lots of scope to change my role. I worked as a carer which I did for nine years, in admin, as the quality manager, the receptionist, in supervisor roles and then about eight years ago I started as a lifestyle coordinator.
After 32 years in one facility I decided it was time for a change and I've been at Alwyndor for five years now, where I’m the lifestyle coordinator for 134 residents.
I've loved every minute of all my jobs working in this industry, and whilst it was something I somewhat stumbled across I really feel as though I found the perfect working environment for me.
I find our older generations so interesting and always love talking to and being around them. It comes quite naturally to want to ensure all our residents feel part of a homely and enjoyable living environment - which we generate simply by listening to them and trying to do what they want and need from us.
When I arrived at Alwyndor there was only one lifestyle program, but since joining I’ve facilitated the development of a program for every unit so we now have three or four activities a day, offering the residents a variety of opportunities for participation on a regular basis.
At the moment we're focusing on healthy living so we have about eight exercise classes a month per unit, and also offer 1:1 visits, volunteer visits, we have the library come in, we do bingo every weekend because the residents love it! We also do craft, we have five bus trips a month and take the residents to a different hotel every month for lunches, we go for walks for example down to Brighton jetty, we have regular happy hours so it’s a very full programme.
Mostly the activities are developed based on residents’ feedback. At every resident meeting we give the opportunity for them to input and say if there's anything they want added, and then we try and act on their wish lists so we can cater for what they want as much as possible.
Whilst we have some of our key ‘staple’ activities like bingo, we also always look for new things to add to the programs. For example we're introducing a poetry and reading activity because we’ve identified that we have a lot of people who have really poor eyesight but love reading.
We run YouTube sessions which are always great for a laugh, the residents love it and find it hilarious what you can find on there, so that is now a regular activity. In fact we offer quite a few technology based activities. We have a number of larger A4 sized tablets and soon will be introducing virtual reality glasses – which when we did a trial we received overwhelmingly positive feedback for. One resident just kept saying ‘I cannot believe I’ve just been to Paris!’
With so many activities it’s sometimes hard to keep it going but we have a lot of volunteers, 47 in fact, who I oversee and who support the delivery of our activities. This is really important, especially as we’re now welcoming people from our broader community to join in with our lifestyle activities. It all works to extend friendships and build social networks for our residents and for people who might otherwise be socially isolated at home.
The feedback we’ve had from both residents themselves and from our accreditation visit, was that the residents love the program but there's too many things on there they don't know which one to go to! I take that as a positive because it means we are giving the residents the choices they want. When you get such lovely and overwhelmingly positive feedback like this it’s hard not to truly enjoy working with these people on a daily basis.
What older people need the most is someone who takes the time to sit and listen to them, understand their needs and offer the support required to help them to live the best quality life they can, no matter where they are.
That’s my main aim, to improve the quality of our residents’ life for each and every one of them.
To thrive in this industry you’ve got to be friendly, a great communicator and willing and able to build a strong rapport with both the staff you work with and those you care for. You also have to be positive and be able to adapt to change because we are forever changing to meet our residents’ needs.
But you will never be disappointed with what you get back. You get such a good feeling from going the extra mile for these people and doing what you can to make it the best for them.
For me personally, just hearing the lovely stories and the feedback that our residents give, telling me what a fantastic job we do and that they’ve had a great time is enough to know I’ve done as much as I can to make them happy.