Empowering residents’ voices: Key to transformation in aged care

Last updated on 10 April 2024

Jacqui Marden, CEO, Queen Victoria Care. [Source: Supplied]

This article was written by Jacqui Marden, CEO of Queen Victoria Care.

At Queen Victoria Care (QVC) we often discuss new ways to do things; transformation is more than a buzzword for myself and the team, so what does that mean?

We need to look at revolutionary projects, workforce strategies, service model re-designs, partnerships with our residents and families, and continue to be agile and transform.

To begin working towards any kind of change, we must first start to diversify and plan for the future vision of our organisation as a whole so it can grow and remain relevant to the future community needs it will serve.

Resident involvement

How are residents, their families, consumers, stakeholders, staff, and the local communities involved in these new directions?

Engagement is about more than clinical care delivery, especially in our person-centric and caregiving-natured sector. Taking this into consideration, we have now permitted our aged care workers to take off their masks after consulting with our residents and families. Our residents and staff are once again feeling the freedom that comes with showing off their beautiful full faces and carefree smiles.

Our staff are deeply and genuinely involved in our residents’ wishes, hearing their voices, valuing their perspectives, and shaping care around them. 

We can get a little complacent at times when life gets in the way. There is a perception that if you are doing well then there is no need to look at doing things differently. I personally believe we need to focus on doing things differently and actively focus on making extraordinary solutions with the simplest methods at hand.

We need to start hearing the needs of our residents’ voices and constantly work towards providing great opportunities for cultural integration between staff and the residents. 

There is often this disconnect between care and the other parts of life: social, spiritual, wellbeing, meal choices, interests and the requirements of people within our organisation. Engagement is often looked at as certain people’s roles or jobs or not at all, that it relates to quality or doing a survey or a complaint or care delivery.

Governance and leadership can see it as something they just get the minutes to or the result of the survey to make decisions on behalf of the resident; it’s something that they do once a year or pop into a function or a sausage sizzle. 

Well, I have to tell you it’s so much more! 

These are examples of why engaging, connecting and understanding our residents in residential care, the retirement village or in-home care, is what matters for the whole organisation. Sometimes we have to make a quick decision, but it is when we constantly do not involve the resident that we go off track. Empowered resident voices to me means to incorporate decision-making into the hands of the residents.

Consumer centred care

It is easy to say that our organisation is consumer-centred because our care model is considered consumer or person-centred. But they are not the same thing. It is time for us to think about the purpose of caring for someone and not just as something we do for people as a job. A resident’s involvement goes well beyond just their needs and wishes. Their voices and opinions should be heard throughout the whole organisation. 

Creating this shift is a longer-term process and potentially very challenging, but it’s a journey we need to get on board with as providers for the vulnerable in our communities.

I started this journey of transformation at QVC the minute I walked in the door three years ago with quality control and compliance checks. It was on the verge of a takeover and there was poor morale. I started listening sessions with our residents and staff which turned into our consumer-led governance model partnership. This created lots of questions at all levels and everyone wanted to know what this actually meant and what the final framework was going to look like. It created robust debate within our organisation at all levels. 

Something I am passionate about is empowering resident and staff voices through innovation, and I believe that should be our mantra. Our goal as an organisation to strive. A consumer-centred organisation builds processes around people. 

Placing the consumer at the centre of our organisation means more than just thinking about what is best for them and restricting ourselves to making decisions while keeping them in mind. 

It means creating processes for decision-making around residents in practical ways so they are actively involved. These processes need to ensure that people are consulted and genuinely heard.

This requires a shift in how we handle decision-making, planning and projects. This process, including planning and resourcing allocations, needs to allow for genuine contributions by stakeholders and our residents in particular.

There is no singular approach to this. 

There are several ways we can engage to understand our residents’ needs and perspectives and we need different approaches at various times for different people and different decisions. The ways we are used to engaging with residents, their families and support networks may no longer be enough. We must identify ways to involve what works for them, fully facilitate their involvement and ensure that diverse perspectives are heard. 

At QVC, we continue to create a vision with all the avenues for engagement, so we are across what techniques are functional and what our capabilities are. Over the years I have realised that our own people don’t realise what avenues are available to us. As a result of this oversight, our resources are not well understood or valued. This is where engagement with our governance, customer and staff-centric systems need to be promoted and understood by all.

Coordinated strategic approach

Big changes may be required, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We need a shared vision for resident roles in the organisation and it has to be more than a policy or aspirational statement from the executive or board. 

It has to be prioritised and resourced throughout the organisation in practical terms and that is what I did at the very beginning of my tenure. Now it’s time to further articulate and be informed by a real understanding of what consumers want from us.

Commencing our Consumer Engagement Committee with Board Directors interfacing with the consumer representatives with a focus on strategic directions is a great start. 

But how will consumers, their families and carers be involved in these new directions?

We are making an organisation-wide commitment and making greater efforts to build the understanding of every member of the organisation about their role. Each person must understand why the vision matters when it comes to their own daily work and how it looks for them in practical terms. 

We have commenced creating this shift and it is a long-term process – a more sustainable and inclusive approach that makes the most out of existing strengths and knowledge. Working towards that vision will take a while and like any improvement process, it should be a learning experience. I am looking forward to exploring how we can engage further and strengthen what we have and keep asking the question ‘How have you involved the people?’.

The sector is changing the standards and these new strategies will be reflecting this consumer lens. But as Carmen Rocchia, our Executive Manager Business Strategy and Innovation, puts it – ‘It’s more of a kaleidoscope of opportunities!’.

Jacqui has worked in aged care executive positions for over 10 years in Brisbane and the last five years in Tasmania. She is passionate about driving positive change, focusing on service improvement and enhanced financial, quality of life, and cultural outcomes. Jacqui has a track record of creating big-picture strategy and bold plans for future success within aged care organisations.

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Jacqui Marden
Queen Victoria Care
resident voices
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