Living Life to the Fullest

St Andrews Village

St Andrews Village, an aged care facility under the guidance of the Presbyterian Aged Care umbrella and a part of the Church of St Andrew, has been providing care to the elderly of NSW and ACT for almost 70 years. The organisation is governed by two foundational principles. The first is “a commitment to excellence inspired by the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ,” General Manager Peter Fyfe reports. The second is maintaining not-for-profit status, which ensures that “all of the funds that we receive go back into the provision of care of the elderly.”

The Village is home to 176 residents who may choose from a variety of housing options that best suit their needs, including independent living townhouses, aged care studio rooms and facilities, and dementia specific facilities and care services. The organisation also offers respite care for elderly people needing a short-term care. “Respite is an important part of what we provide at St Andrews Village,” Mr Fyfe explains. “It is a good way for people to experience life at St Andrews before they make the commitment to come in permanently. Or, it may be that their carer or family member is going away on holiday or needs a break.”

Regardless of the length of stay, St Andrews is committed to providing the highest quality care to each resident and to making sure that everyone at the Village lives as full a life as possible. “We understand that there is more to the individual than simply medical care,” Mr Fyfe adds. “We have a wide range of activities to keep people as active and engaged as possible.”

The organisation offers individualised, “bespoke” care, in order to best meet each resident’s specific needs. “We expect that all staff recognise each resident is an individual – and that they must be treated as such,” Mr Fyfe explains. “We encourage our staff to get to know residents – their personal history and their personality – to help us tailor our care accordingly.” Furthermore, the elderly at St Andrews Village are encouraged to continue living active, rewarding lives, just as they did previously. “Residents are free to do as they wish at the Village,” Mr Fyfe insists. “This is part of our overall concept to encourage their self-expression and impose as few limitations as possible. Moving into Aged Care is a new chapter of their lives, not the closing chapter by any means.”

Residents are encouraged to communicate any concerns and to have a voice in management decisions. Mr Fyfe explains that many residents have held senior positions in the public and private sector – high ranking diplomats, war heroes, leaders in academia and the law – and enjoy maintaining a leadership role. “We have some really fascinating and interesting people,” Mr Fyfe says. “And they still utilise their considerable skills.”

For example, St Andrews has a hostel residents’ committee and a townhouse residents’ committee that work collaboratively with management to problem solve and implement new initiatives. Some residents have attended rallies at Parliament House and are active in aged care reform. “They are very vocal,” Mr Fyfe adds. Residents’ ages range, on average, from 85 to 95, but, Mr Fyfe insists, “There is many a sharp pin still in the box. It is quite fascinating to see the way these inspirational people function at this age.”

The organisation embraces the ageing in place concept, which allows most residents to stay at St Andrews Village for as long as they wish, even as their care needs increase. Dementia is often a factor necessitating an increased level of care, and the Village is particularly well equipped to handle those needs. Most employees have experience in dementia care and many are currently undertaking studies in this area. This includes the Director of Care, who is currently undertaking post graduate studies in dementia.

St Andrews Village boasts two memory support units that specialise in caring for residents with dementia. The units offer a safe, secure environment, and have recently been upgraded to best meet the particular needs of the residents. Special flooring and furniture has been added, and an outdoor area is being developed to help residents suffering from memory loss and confusion best navigate and enjoy their environment. “We want residents to be as active and as engaged in the life of the Village as they can possibly be,” Mr Fyfe explains. Our residents are not just observers of life. They are participants and we want to give them every opportunity to do that.”

Another aim of the upgrade and outdoor entertainment addition is to enable residents to visit with family members as they would if they were still in their own homes. “We are trying to create places where families can interact in a more natural way,” Mr Fyfe explains. “When we visit any of our family members we do so in privacy and in comfort and that is what we are trying to create here.”

Another recent upgrade St Andrews has undertaken is the implementation of an electronic medication management system. Mr Fyfe calls the move a “great success” that has improved accuracy in administering medicine and ensures the safety of every resident. The advancement is just the first of many that will utilise technology to improve the quality of care at the Village.

While top notch medical care is a priority, the team also understands that residents need to stay entertained and active to get the most out of life. The Village holds regular activities including visits from local school children, outings and special events such as Christmas lunches and concerts. The organisation also celebrates special events such as the AIM centenary, wedding anniversaries (one couple recently celebrated 65 years of marriage!), and a recent black and white ball honouring residents 94 years and older.

Overall, the Village is committed to continuous improvement and best practices. Mr Fyfe explains that the organisation is “constantly” measured against four main standards and 44 outcomes to maintain accreditation. Visits by the accreditation agency are often unannounced and involve a thorough investigation of the operation to verify that the standards are being met. “Each time we pass with flying colours,” Mr Fyfe reports. “Not only do we meet the standards, we exceed them.” He adds that much of this success is owed to “the dedication and commitment of our wonderful, wonderful staff.”

Mr Fyfe says that most staff members work at the Village because they genuinely care about the residents and want to make a difference in their lives. He adds that, because there are limited funds for compensation, financial gain is usually not an aged care employee’s primary motivation. “We would love to be able to afford to pay them much more, but we can only pay in accordance with the funding that we receive from the government and from our residents. And that is very limited,” he explains. “Many of the people involved in this industry do it because they love what they do and that shows in all of the work that they do.”

Mr Fyfe adds that many staff members find working at St Andrews Village to be particularly rewarding and that employees who leave the organisation for other aged care opportunities regularly return to the Village. Returning staff members often cite the generous staffing levels and high quality, individualised care at St Andrews as their reasons for coming back. “They find it easier to do what they do in this environment than in other places that they go to work for,” Mr Fyfe explains. “I think if you have staff that leave you and come back you are doing something well.”

The Staff are not required to be of the Presbyterian faith, or indeed even Christian, but they are required to work within the Christian values that are foundational to the organisation. Likewise, the organisation is committed to treating employees with kindness and respect. “We feel that this reinforces a culture of ‘being treated well, I will treat others well,’” the St Andrews Village mission statement summarises.

In fact, St Andrews Village boasts a culturally diverse staff, which ensures that residents from all backgrounds feel comfortable and creates a more stimulating environment overall. For example, an employee from the Pacific recently entertained and educated residents with traditional dances and artefacts from her home. “Residents have a really interesting time,” Mr Fyfe says of cultural events like these. “In many cases they are seeing things that they have never seen before and in some they are revisiting cultures seen many years before.”

Maintaining the high level of care and personalised attention that the Village offers isn’t easy. The greatest challenge, Mr Fyfe says, is balancing the budget. And this feat is becoming even more challenging under Aged Care Reform. Recent government changes to aged care funding are rapidly making an “already difficult situation very difficult indeed.” But, no matter how difficult the financial situation or how inadequate the funding, the team is committed to giving every resident what they need. “People come before finances,” Mr Fyfe insists. “Yes, you have to maintain financial viability – and we work really hard to do everything that we can to improve our financial position. But, it is all with the aim to give the best possible care.” The team is constantly brainstorming and strategising to offer residents the most enriching environment possible, regardless of financial limitations.

Ultimately, the team looks to the organisation’s Christian principles and commitment to individualised care when making decisions, financial or otherwise. “We focus on what you would want for your mother or father, or what you would want if you were living here,” Mr Fyfe reports. “You cannot think of people as numbers. They are individuals. They are human beings. They are entitled to consideration and respect and that premise underlines everything that we do.”

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?

December 16, 2018, 6:42 AM AEDT