When caring for elderly aged care residents, there is typically a core focus on looking after their health and wellbeing, which is understandable. But what about the wellbeing of the staff and carers who are expected to care for this vulnerable population.

In recent times, there has been a surge in health issues for workers – both physically and mentally – in the aged care workforce. And one aged care provider is looking to help their staff care for themselves, as they care for others.

“One of the things we’ve observed over time is that the staff working for us, on average, are fit and healthy and look after themselves well,” Ross Ferris, CEO of Autumn Care.

“But there’s definitely a trend with nurturing workers who are drawn towards health-related jobs who are looking after other people that are frail and vulnerable to extend their energy looking after other people and not looking after themselves as well as they could.”

Autumn Care has been operating for 14 years and has about 300 staff working across two facilities. With its current growth, it’s predicted that the current staff workforce will be 600-700 staff in about 5 years.

The provider is now giving back to their staff in a new “Living Well – Health & Wellness Promotion” for their staff.

“There’s a real opportunity here to encourage the staff to think of themselves a bit more and to give them some recognition – and to give them some financial incentive to prioritise their own health,” says Ferris.

“What we decided to do was say, anyone who is working with us three or more days a week, we will give them up to $600 a year towards health initiatives of their choice.”

To process the claims, which are managed by the Quality and Education Coordinator, the providers will reimburse quarterly for expenses upon evidence of the costs incurred.

“We’re not dictating whether they join a gym, or engage in a quit smoking program, or undertake a DNA-medication compatibility test, or a weight loss program, or whatever else they come up with – we’ll support them.”

Autumn Care are also offering myDNA health and nutrition profiling, along with a session with a pharmacist, which allows staff to see how their body will uniquely respond to some medicines, to foods and drinks, and how the exercise.

Though the initiative was only introduced at the start of February this year, the benefits are already being seen.

“One of our staff members has commented that she’s got so much more energy now. People are doing swimming, yoga, meditation, they’re seeing a dietician or joining team sports. They can choose whatever they want to do,” says Kim Dyason, Executive Director of Nursing at Autumn Care.

“We’re seeing positive changes already with healthier meals in the lunch rooms, more salads and less saturated fats.”

“We find that the more positive we are with the staff, the better they respond.”

Creating a Community of Care

Autumn Care’s goal and focus goes beyond the staff and, rather, focuses on the whole community. According to both Dyason and Ferris, you can see the positive impact this has on the residents.

“Healthy, happy, positive staff make a huge difference. You can just tell,” says Dyason.

“People feel cared for – what they do all day is care for other people, and for us to give back to them, it’s going to end up improving their home life and the care that they give to residents.”

Ferris says that as an organisation they are all about “living well” – this encompasses everyone from residents to family members to staff. And they intend to include everyone.

For the residents, Autumn Care have offered those who are subjected to polypharmacy – who are on 16 or more medications a day – access to the myDNA test.

“That’s another significant improvement, we’ve seen some amazing results with people reducing their medications.”

The facilities themselves have also increased the amount of fresh food they serve, and significantly decreased the amount of processed food..

“Not only with the staff, we’ve also done a lot of work with the residents as well.”

“We’re promoting and encouraging everyone to choose healthier lifestyle choices.”

“It’s involving the whole community. It’s about us all becoming healthier,” says Dyason.

“Aged care is so focussed on illness and clinical care, we want to focus on that but we also want to focus on making people feel better about themselves and being the best they can possibly be irrespective of what medical condition they have.”

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