Aged care providers have been faced with two daunting challenges in 2020 – keeping COVID out of facilities, while somehow managing to keep resident morale up.
St Vincent’s Care Services has managed to do both of these things.
At the time of writing, the provider has recorded zero COVID infections in its 20 residential aged care facilities across three states – and they have achieved this while still posting a 7-point increase in resident ‘satisfaction’ levels, recorded in monthly surveys completed by residents.
Chief Executive Officer Lincoln Hopper says St Vincent’s achieved this result by keeping clients and residents at the centre of their actions – seeking to keep them safe, happy and engaged during what could have been an isolating period.
A focus on outcomes
“We kept asking ourselves, ‘Alright, within these guidelines and rules, can we find a way to still achieve quality outcomes for people? What more can we do?’ And that was the challenge, because many of those things we needed to work within were very black and white – and we weren’t going to ever step outside of that,” he said.
Video platforms like FaceTime and Skype played a big role in keeping people connected, while activities such as virtual sing-alongs, world tours and cross-facility bingo competitions were embraced across facilities.
“The last thing we wanted to see happen was the sadness in the wider community find its way into our facilities,” Lincoln added.
“We worked really hard to keep activities moving, busy and interesting.”
300,000 text messages sent to families over six months
Ensuring residents remained in touch with family was also a key focus for St Vincent’s.
“We simply didn’t want to go offline with our families and then pop-up months later, so we have done a whole lot more work in communicating with family members than we’ve ever done before. From March to September we sent out more than a million emails and three hundred thousand text messages keeping families informed – and I can go on!” he said.
Visits also continued, even during the toughest lockdown restrictions.
“While we’ve seen some situations where people who feel they needed to visit weren’t allowed, within the restrictions framework we still managed to facilitate more than 50,000 in-person visits including for compassionate and exceptional circumstances, that were COVID-safe and compliant with the rules set in place by the government.”
Lessons learned under difficult circumstances
Also key to their success was the buy-in from staff to commit to positive outcomes for residents.
“That’s a big lesson for any leader; when the chips are down, you really hope that your people will rally together for the cause and commit themselves to getting the job done. And that’s been my privilege – to watch and lead an organisation where that took place. My two thousand St Vincent’s staff, in partnership with our residents and families, deserve all the praise,” Lincoln concludes.