Live the Possibilities

Lifeview Residential Care

According to Chief Operating Officer Madeline Gall, the leading figures in the Lifeview brand already had a considerable background in running the homes. She says the five homes presented themselves as suitable for acquisition, first because of their locations: Wheeler’s Hill, Chelsea, Emerald, Keysborough, and Cranbourne. “We saw something special in them as they were all around the 60-bed mark and we wanted to operate residences that retained the family feel about them, rather than those double the size, which can become too institutionalised. The licence is for low-care ageing in place, enabling continuity and security for residents who do not have to move out once they become infirm.”

In any case, the aim of the group is to provide a superior experience for residents in either permanent or respite care (all homes provide both services). The organisation is committed to providing a level of service that is “a world away from the traditional nursing home model,” explains Madeline. The principles defined in “LIFE” (please see sidebar for further details) are intended to support that philosophy, and guide everything from the management of staff and services to the ways in which staff communicate and interact with the residents. Madeline says the life of the residents has been radically improved by the adoption of these measures, so simple in outline but more complex to implement on a day-in, day-out basis. According to Madeline, since the group adopted the LIFE principles, complaints have decreased by more than 70 per cent, while compliments have increased.

Laughter is an important part of our lives, so why should people have to stop laughing when they are old? “Laughter is about constantly looking for ways to have fun while we are working,” says Madeline. Staff members come up with the ideas: crazy-hair days, for example, or pyjama days. It must be like living in one long Feydeau farce or pantomime, surely—isn’t it a bit of a trial for any resident who is not quite so outgoing? Madeline suggests that it is almost the other way round: aged care, she says, needs to change in order to treat senior citizens less gravely and lighten up a bit. “Less doom and gloom. It doesn’t have to be like that,” she says. Indeed, the residents themselves have a say in it and this aspect is the one where they have given most positive feedback. “It lifts their spirits.”

Madeline makes the point that the residents have the choice of whether to move into this environment and that nothing is forced upon them. “90 per cent of them want to come to our residences,” she says. “If they were to say they were not into laughter, dress-up and so on, that’s OK too—they are not forced to be part of that, but they can still feel the [beneficial] effect of the laughter.” It seems that if residents are not convinced, perhaps shy or even scared of such a concept, they usually see how much fun everyone else is having and soon want to join in.

On the staffing side, Lifeview is dedicated to being an employer of choice. “It’s generally not about remuneration. We go above and beyond in other areas to attract and retain good staff,” says Madeline. The workplace culture includes an awards scheme that recognises outstanding staff at an annual awards night. There is a special week when staff get free meals and other privileges, and a whole raft of training seminars and opportunities for them to enhance their career paths. A number of staff members are studying for Diploma of Nursing qualifications at the company’s expense, and there is a two-month full-pay Enrolled Nurse mentoring programme. Against the background of an industry-wide shortage of good qualified staff, it is a little easier for Lifeview to attract good staff than it is for most competitors, according to Madeline.

Another annual event is the Positive Ageing Celebration, which involves the local community, friends, and relatives. October saw a take-off of the “Australia’s Got Talent” TV show, with eighty residents doing song-and-dance routines in a concert at a local theatre. It creates a talking point both within the homes and around the community, word of mouth being an important part of building demand. Surely it must be exhausting to be a resident at Lifeview? “They certainly sleep well at night,” laughs Madeline. “They absolutely love it.”

Two points of difference at Lifeview are lifestyle and hospitality. If the former is represented by laughter, then the latter is all about food. Menus are regularly overhauled, and the aim is to make it more of a dining experience, with buffet-style breakfasts and more choices and options at other times. “The feedback from the residents has been tremendous,” says Madeline. “It is easy to understand why most of the Lifeview residences have extensive waiting lists to get in.”

What the new company has been able to bring to the party in terms of management is economies of scale and back-office commonisation of support services. “We have had a great deal of success in our reviews of relationships with contractors and suppliers since forming one brand and we are forming good partnerships with contractors, who are very supportive of the activities of our residents.” The latter have come out as winners, Madeline says, because there is greater consistency and continuity with single suppliers now servicing all five homes.

The transition was far from seamless and involved a lot of hard work, she says: “It was more than just re-branding. It was about a change of culture. We stripped the businesses back to basics and looked at what our principles and our organisational goals would be, what would be our point of difference and what our vision was going to be.” Planning was done during the recent financial crisis, so although the financial climate now is hardly favourable, things are brighter than they could have been. “We have been able to streamline our systems and processes and increase our headcount to ensure we are providing better services operating under the one name. That has been beneficial for us as a group.”

Lifeview has come a long way in just over one year, and the “bedding-in” process of putting five sites together is nearing completion. There are plans for expansion at two of the residences, and the company has another piece of land that it is looking to develop. Although the company is not currently seeking to acquire more homes, Madeline does not rule this out in the future, but is first looking at all the implications of aged care reform to determine how best to complement the services Lifeview already offers.

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, 3:31 AM AEDT