A Culture of Caring

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-By Mark Golombek

Graham Reed is the Executive Director of Living Care, a not for-profit church based organisation providing aged care services throughout metropolitan and regional NSW. The organisation’s objectives centre on enabling older Australians to enjoy their later years and find a sense of belonging within a caring Christian community. This is accomplished through affordable and high-end residential care and a broad range of community based services. Living Care also operates a number of retirement villages, and is expanding to meet the needs of those who are likely to benefit from its services.

Graham Reed himself has worked in aged care for 27 years, and has seen Living Care grow in stature and excel as an organisation.

“What sets Living Care apart,” according to Mr Reed, “is its Christian values and its focus on caring for its staff.” Living Care maintains generous staffing levels, and places a strong emphasis on staff development, recruitment, and retention. Out of 808 employees, only 10 per cent have left in the past six months for various reasons, lower than the industry average.

It is interesting to note that when Living Care staff members attend seminars and training events and mingle with staff from other facilities, they come back appreciating who they work for. “The grass is not necessarily greener on the other side, and our staff are often very thankful to be working with us,” says Mr Reed. Living Care makes working for the organisation truly worthwhile, offering career pathway opportunities for its staff, providing scholarships and encouraging staff to specialise within their areas of interest. “It is a culture of developing from within; a number of our staff started off as assistants in nursing or front line carers, and are now proceeding with further nursing and / or management training.”

Mr Reed also recognises that Living Care, like all aged care organisations, faces a number of challenges that must be managed. “There appears to have been an unfortunate and growing trend of bullying and harassment amongst staff as detected through our annual Staff Culture Check Surveys,” he explains. “We have a zero tolerance to bullying and harassment in the workforce,” so compulsory training and awareness raising has been rolled out for all staff in order to assist in dealing constructively with any workplace conflict.

“As a society we are becoming much more culturally diverse,” says Mr Reed. “The same is true of our staff. At the Ashwood residential care community, for example, we have amongst 120 staff a total of 42 different nationalities – that’s one in three staff who come from different ethnic backgrounds.” It should also be noted that staff members are often from different faiths and beliefs. If anything this can be seen as further testament to Living Care’s open and accepting workplace culture.

Another important aspect of delivering individualised responsive care at Living Care is the depth of its volunteer network. As Mr Reed indicates, “we fundamentally believe that life is best lived where people choose to spend time with you, and not where everyone is paid to be with you. It’s sad to think that potentially for some, the only people in their life are those who are paid to be there. What does that say about their value as a person? So volunteers are a critical part of our service delivery. They are part of the family.” In some cases that is literal, as some volunteers have members of their own families in Living Care services and programs.

Living Care aims to serve not only the residents who live in its residential services but also those living in the broader community as well. “We recognise that most older Australians would prefer to stay at home to receive care,” says Mr Reed. Living Care operates a number of in home support programs throughout New South Wales catering for over 500 people. Now funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, these programs include Community Aged Care Packages (CACPs), Extended Aged Care at Home (EACH) Consumer Directed Care (CDC) and a purpose built home-based dementia day care service.

In mid 2010, Living Care acquired a new retirement village, Henley Brae, and has plans to build 11 new villas at the village located in the Southern Highlands area at Mittagong. In June 2012, the organisation acquired a 92 place residential aged care facility known as The Glen located in beautiful Bateman’s Bay at Catalina. Mr Reed says his organisation was attracted to these acquisition opportunities not only because of their great locations and quality accommodation but also because of the shared values of the previous owners.

As Mr Reed explains, “these acquisitions are part of the organisation’s growth strategy, recognising that a number of single site operators with one facility really struggle to maintain robust support systems in what has become an increasingly complex, highly regulated environment.”

Living Care has been in existence since 1938, and has maintained through its commitment to upholding its Christian values a reputation as a trusted and respected provider. “These values are embedded in our management structure and code of conduct for staff,” explains Mr Reed. “Staff is required to not necessarily be Christian, but to sign off that they can work within these Christian values.” Living Care regularly tracks its staff culture believing that this is one of the most important drivers for the consistent delivery of great care.

For almost 75 years Churches of Christ in NSW has provided care for the elderly. Mr Reed believes that one of the significant strengths and distinguishing aspects of Living Care is that the organisation is part of the church and not run as a separate business. “This means that those of us who work in the organisation are in effect standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. All of us in our generation of leaders are responsible for leaving the organisation in better shape than when we arrived. It’s part of that caring culture that says we are not just here doing a job, but we are actually part of a tradition of caring.”

As part of the organisation’s stewardship of its resources built over many years, Living Care is planning to update and redevelop some of its older style accommodations over the next five to seven years to ensure future generations will benefit from being able to enjoy comfortable, purpose built and welcoming living environments.

Mr Reed is adamant when it comes to the specific message that Living Care tries to convey to its clients, staff and the general public; that “every individual is unique and special. If we truly believe this then there is a higher likelihood that we will treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves. If this belief is behind everything you do then ultimately you will be the sort of organisation that others will want to be a part of.” The Executive Director of Living Care has seen positive workplace cultures and negative ones, and believes, “the most important thing is to encourage staff to understand and appreciate working within a positive workplace culture where staff care for each other and those they provide care to.”

Through this philosophy older Australians can rest easy knowing that through organisations like Living Care, their best interests are looked after.

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?

January 18, 2019, 3:27 AM AEDT