Committed To Excellence with the BlueCross Advantage

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-By Tracey Hilderley

With Australia’s population growing older in significant numbers, more and more people are casting a critical eye toward their options for aged care. With 22 residences throughout Victoria, with 600 bed licences in development stages, and a commitment to provide “the highest possible quality of life with the best health outcomes for each individual,” it is easy to see why someone approaching their golden years would consider residency at one of BlueCross’ fine established facilities.

BlueCross CEO Carol Allen explains, “We provide residential care to 22 sites and close to 1400 people living in Victoria, and most of those sites around Melbourne. Our Care at Home business provides services to approximately 1000 clients around Melbourne as well.”

Carol feels that BlueCross has a true edge in the field, as the organisation prides itself on what it calls The BlueCross Advantage. A key element of this philosophy is that BlueCross “provides both community and residential services, so if someone needs assistance at home, we can provide that, and that assistance can range from somebody just needing home care or home duties, or they might need personal care or nursing care. So we provide all of those services for people both through funded packages or private funding. There are a range of funding models provided through Government departments, for example Community Aged Care Packages (CACP) and Veteran’s Affairs packages,” says Carol.

“Our direct care workers are carefully matched with clients to provide a suitably qualified carer that best meets their needs. Our personal care workers who deliver services to our residential clients are trained and qualified with certification. Our staff are our most important resource. The way our staff engage with our clients day in day out ensures a superior level of care for everyone. Our residential services cater to low and high care needs and we also have specific sites where we provide what we call memory support environments for people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.”

As the aged care demands of the nation are in fact changing, Carol is seeing that many people wish to stay in their own homes longer. “There has just been a major review undertaken over the last two years, Productivity Commission Inquiry into Aged Care, that was recently released,” she shares, “discussing funding and looking at how people can be supported to stay in their homes longer, and this is certainly something that BlueCross is committed to, which is why [we offer] both in home and residential services. Often there is a transition between the two. There are elderly people still living at home whose families are going away on holiday or unable to care for them and they will come into one of our residential services for temporary Respite Care. This may span a couple of weeks or months and then they will go back home with our Care at Home services as well.”

Adds Carol, “There are a number of Government initiatives such as Tele-health where doctors can actually do consults and have conferences in the residents’ rooms by video or mobile phone and Skype. There are so many things happening in the digital world pertaining to how we service people better.”

At BlueCross, it is not just the residents who are well cared for; staff members are highly valued and are part of a team working toward a unified goal. Carol explains how she has helped to develop a program that aims to keep staff members happy and engaged in providing quality care to residents and clients. By following the STARFish principles, in conjunction with the 4 ‘P’s – Passion, People, Principles, Performance – BlueCross aims to create an atmosphere where all its clients and staff are engaged, have fun and most importantly, get the most out of life irrespective of age or ability. The four aims of the STARFish principles are to “choose your attitude,” to “make somebody’s day, every day,” to “be there for each other and be there for the residents,” and to “have some fun.” Carol believes that if BlueCross staff members work with these values in mind, they can actually change the way aged care is delivered across the state. Many positive stories from the residents and families confirm that this philosophy holds true.

Of course, the residents and clients are at the heart of BlueCross’ service offerings, and the organisation is continually developing programmes to engage and appeal to its residents. The company runs innovation programmes where good ideas come from people working on the floor and where the residents have input and can give ideas that will be voted on. BlueCross holds an annual conference every year where 300 of the staff come and a series of nominated innovations receive funding and are integrated into the schedule.

“Playgroups have started in our residences,” is one example. As well, “We have had schools come in and do digital storytelling and the students come in and interview the residents and then gather photographs the residents might have to create a digital story using computers or iPads. These stories are then presented to the residents and the families. It’s a great way for them to discover things that they may not have known about this person.

A grand annual event BlueCross warmly calls “The BlueCross Extravaganza” gathers close to 600 residents, family and staff together to have a themed party. “This year’s theme is Hooray for Hollywood. Another year they did ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and the residents practise singing and dancing and all come together in October and happily complete with each other.” Carol cheerfully shared, “The residents start planning for this in February, which songs and dances they will do, and many of the residents make and design their own costumes. Some residents do their own choreography and even write their own songs. This is really something truly extraordinary for clients and residents to focus on as they can plan and look forward to the event and their performance for hundreds of their peers and families. So from February to October, this helps them focus and have fun and stay engaged with what they can do, not what they can’t do. Then up to 20 of the residents from each site gather and have this fabulous day at Melbourne Park Function Centre.

Some very special moments can occur in residences, sometimes when you least expect them. When “Quilts Made With Love” was started last year in February by a volunteer at Anglesea deciding that she wanted to make quilts for everyone, something extraordinary happened. At a Christmas Party this group of quilters made 60 unique quilts to hand out to each resident. One lady who has dementia had not spoken since her admission. Her husband and the staff were astounded when handed her beautiful quilt she spoke up and said “what a lovely quilt.” Her husband cried tears of joy at her happiness.

“To keep up with the ideas and input,” says Carol, “we have resident meetings once a month at all of our facilities and they can put forward an Action For Improvement. So the resident will then fill out that form, with assistance if needed, and their ideas for change can be implemented if passed.” Both the residents and the staff continue to feel engaged and empowered by being allowed to have this type of input and freedom in the residence.

An impressive additional programme BlueCross offers to meet human resource challenges is the Graduate Nurse Programme. “Funding was allocated by DoHA this year to commence a graduate nurse programme where new graduates who have qualified as registered nurses are provided with specific training for 12 months working under the direction of one of our registered nurses at our sites. At the end of that year they have a graduate certificate for working in aged care. This is the first year this has started and we now have three nurses working at three different sites. This is a great initiative,” says Carol.

Carol wants the BlueCross residents to feel that coming into a residence is not the end of their journey but just another stage in their life and that they can still be engaged and feel that it is worth getting up in the morning. She is very proud of the staff and managers working for BlueCross and the commitment that they all have to making a difference in residents’ and clients’ lives. Carol was happy to say that the company has gone through an accreditation process and has received a 100 per cent rating at each one of the sites for the past five years. She feels that BlueCross meets and even exceeds those government standards and expectations.

“BlueCross,” she concludes, “has a strategy, to increase our services both in residential and in the community. We have three large residential developments that are in development and will occur over the next five or six years increasing our numbers significantly. We are aiming to meet the community’s increasing aged care needs and offering a much broader range of services as we move into the future. We do see it as a growth sector and need to continue to be innovative and to look at the changes that are happening and to move forward while keeping our focus on the residents and our community clients. This year our slogan is ‘Believe It and Achieve It!’”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

June 19, 2018, 8:08 PM AEST