LIFESTYLE MANAGER, CaSPA CARE, SOUTH MELBOURNE
I’ve been privileged to work in the aged care sector for approximately 30 years now, starting in a not-for-profit facility to assist in the Lifestyle Department. I’ve never looked back.
I’ve worked for corporate, local government, not-for-profit, private facilities and extra services over the years as a Lifestyle Manager, building the lifestyle department into a dynamic area for all residents to enjoy.
My aim has always been to create opportunities for residents, giving them something to look forward to each day whether it be something small, or for some actively regularly participating in a wide variety of activities on a daily basis.
I've had first hand experience of a family member going into care - having seen both my mother-in-law, who had advanced Alzheimer’s, and then my beautiful mother who had many physical ailments requiring additional care - so I can really empathize with how it feels and what it means when families bring their loved ones to an aged care facility.
Because of this my goal has always been to make a place where everyone wants to be, where the lifestyle program is the reason people come to the facility. And I know we have done that at CaSPA. We have people who were previously in respite who are now permanent residents because they were so happy with the lifestyle and the wonderful day to day care on offer they, or their next of kin, chose not to go back to their previous home.
This generation we’re caring for now are just a wonderful generation of human beings who hold so much knowledge, wisdom and inspiration. What they can share and what we can learn from them is just amazing. I'm so passionate about my job and put 110% in because I truly believe these people deserve it. And when we can empower these people and put smiles on their faces that makes our day genuinely worthwhile.
Being in aged care isn’t just about the care support we offer with daily tasks like helping to shower, getting dressed etc. It's about what we do with residents for the rest of the day that’s most important to me, because when you come to an aged care facility it doesn't mean your life stops. In fact for a lot of people, especially people in the facilities I work in, their lives just begin because there's so much opportunity. I like to say that it is like reading a good book, we turn a new page each day!
I joined CaSPA Care in Melbourne, a new not-for-profit facility, approximately eight months ago as Lifestyle Manager. I came from another extra services facility where I had set up a very successful lifestyle program over eight years and was quite comfortable to stay on. However this opportunity was offered to me, and because I loved the home model of care CaSPA Care provides I knew the opportunity to improve and enhance the lifestyle program would provide a true challenge I would really enjoy. I believed I could make a real difference.
That's what I love most about my role, really making a difference to older people's lives. Getting positive and humbling feedback from the residents themselves, their family members and staff about how much they are enjoying themselves and what our lifestyle activities mean to them makes myself and my team very proud.
It does require a lot of hard work but having said that small things that don’t cost a lot of money really do make a difference. For instance I enjoy the garden and will often bring flowers from my own garden in for the enjoyment of some residents who equally share a passion for my hobby. Seeing their faces light up in appreciation is so worthwhile. When you see appreciation like this for such small things you just think ‘why wouldn't i do that for someone?’. Our team are often going above and beyond providing the little extras for our residents, which brings much joy to all - ‘This I call a WIN WIN situation!’
But I couldn’t do it all on my own. Working with such a dedicated TEAM and all our staff “makes that point of difference” for us all.
I am blessed to have a great team behind me and a wonderful group of volunteers, who by all working together help make this possible. We all work closely and support each other to be the best lifestyle team we can be, ensuring we deliver only the best every day. Everyone has such different talents and skills and it’s so lovely that we can find ways to share these with our residents.
We all have a lot of fun together, both residents and staff, and I really encourage the staff to interact and engage with the residents, because when you have happy residents you have happy staff, happy families and it all just comes together beautifully.
I have always had an open door policy with families and have developed many great relationships with family members to ensure there loved ones’ needs are met. Allowing families to be involved in how we care for their loved ones is so important.
Example of some of the types of activities we offer include special in-house luncheons prepared by our chef, where we dress up our boardroom with beautiful decor and the residents enjoy beautifully themed lunches or beautiful summer buffet luncheons which work really well mostly for those who find it difficult to go out now.
We hold iPad and apple computer programs, Zumba gold classes, yoga and meditation, beautiful concerts, art classes, guest speakers dance recitals, wonderful bus trips, Greek Opa-cize dancing, variety of church services, gardening programs, Harp Recitals, Great Classical Composers sessions, in-house shopping and so much more.
We also have a regular Men’s Group where they enjoy a documentary in the cinema followed by drinks and nibbles with a discussion session of the doco and Saturday night at the movies sessions with a glass of champagne.
It’s a wonderful feeling to see residents when they throw their shoulders back and smile with confidence, often grinning like Cheshire cats, because they're proud of what they're doing and what they've achieved.
Residents, NOK, families and friends are so grateful for the variety of different activities we provide here and the opportunities it offers them, but for me it’s just what I do. We are often being thanked and complemented on how wonderful our activities are, but I always say to them they have to understand how much joy and pleasure it gives us to provide these opportunities for them.
I truly believe anyone working in this industry needs to portray genuine empathy, compassion and a great understanding of an older person’s needs, and the more genuine a person is the more they will get back from working in aged care.
I’m 100% dedicated to embracing these wonderful people and giving them a purpose for getting out of bed. I genuinely feel privileged to work in aged care which I truly love, with people I deeply care for and respect.
I can honestly say I love getting up each day myself and coming to work.