With 70% of Australian Covid deaths in nursing homes, there is a need to understand what happened. Causal factors suggested include a lack of planning, lack of PPE, insufficient staff training and carers who work in multiple sites. There are many other reasons that will be unpicked in the coming weeks, but what's clear is this is a systems failure that requires a joined-up solution and systems change, and that's what the Royal Commission is looking into. Many aged care facilities were already at breaking point - 60% are loss making, so have very real concerns about sustainability.
A big part of the answer is inevitably going to be found in the role of the care workers. In Australia, similar to most countries, most care workers require little mandatory training (a 6 week course to get a certificate is the most common, and even then quality concerns still remain). There is a paradox between the importance of the roles of these careworkers - dubbed 'essential workers' after all - in the health of our loved one, and their low wages, low level of training, low job satisfaction and high churn rates (often over 100% a year). This paradox is at the heart of a new project - Elevating Caregiving - that we've kicked off as part of The Collective, Aging2.0's membership program.
Amica Senior Lifestyles, a premium senior living operator in Canada focused on innovation, excellence and collaboration, and has stepped up to kick off this project. The project is a natural fit for them, as they're known as an innovation leader, having already invested significant time and resources into trialing several new innovation programs. Their record during Covid has been impressive, protecting residents and team members alike with extremely low infection rates. This was not a coincidence - an outbreak in Vancouver crippled a neighbouring residence, when many of their staff were fearful to return to work, while Amica's team members continued to work throughout the outbreak.
In a pre-event conversation with Stephen Johnston and Marc Niemes, Director of People Katrina Mulholland shared some of the strategies and tactics they're using to elevate their workforce and minmize the impact of Covid. Katrina will be joining the Aging2.0 Melbourne event this coming Tuesday 1st at 8am Melbourne time (8/31 @ 6pm ET) to discuss these and other practical steps. Discussion will then shift to how to deliver systems change in care, using Victoria as the focus, featuring Elaine Saunders, as well as input a number of local startups (including Hayylo and UMPS).
- Amica 'Work Anywhere' app to manage staffing and switch people from working multiple sites to a single site. It included a communication module that enabled people to communicate to front line team members.
Empowering team members. Team members are offered the opportunity to take on roles such as interviewing local leaders and frontline candidates as part of the recruitment process, and being 'Covid Champions', as a peer-influenced approach. They're also asked to innovate ideas - bubbling up new processes and best practices.
- Collapsing roles. Covid required shift changes so they created 'utility' team members performing multiple roles. People were assigned to a ‘tight pods’ to limit infection risk.
- Paying staff for self-isolation. Making it easier and more affordable for team members who needed to self isolate to do so.
- And many more...
Katrina and her team know that this is just a start, and continue to explore ways to elevate caregivers' roles further, and would be interested to hear from Australians about what's working, what's not working and whether there are other local organisations interested in joining Elevating Caregiving so we can form a truly global collaborative effort on this important topic.
REMINDER: REGISTER AT AGING2.COM/MELBOURNE AND SEE YOU VIRTUALLY AT SEPT 1ST AT 8AM (6PM ON MONDAY AUGUST 31ST).