How to Put People First in Aged Care

Senior receiving care

When you are planning out your aged care options for the future or looking for aged care for a parent or your loved one, there are many aspects to consider. Value for money, the quality of staff, the physical facilities and proximity to family are usually high on the list of criteria in making a choice. However, it is equally important that the aged care facility looks after the emotional wellbeing of residents and ensures that they are fully engaged and continue to have a meaningful life.

We talked to Brett Mullen, the Managing Director of Yukana Private in Toowoomba, to understand how they try to deliver exceptional service in terms of the human side of aged care.

What are the Key Ingredients of Really Making Residents the Centre of the Organisation?

Seniors enjoying coffee in their care home

We have to set out with the right objectives and the right frame of mind. In our case we are passionate about delivering exceptional service to our residents every single day, but there is no simple answer or one way of doing his. There are many aspects to making our residents comfortable and truly feel that Yukana Private is their home. Like any home, there are some physical aspects to making this a success, but beyond this it is the way we treat each other and the interactions we have between us that makes the difference. When it comes down to it, I always apply the ‘Mother / Father Test’. I ask myself if this is the way I would like my own Mother or Father to be looked after? If the answer is ‘no’, then it’s not good enough and it has to be improved.

How Would You Like a Loved One to be Treated in Aged Care?

Seniors receiving care

I think the answer is contained in our corporate credo which is to treat everybody as people and friends who deserve, “Respect, Dignity and Honour”. We make sure that this is the standard that every person in the organisation lives by, irrespective of which area they work in or how long they have been here. We have a very rigorous recruitment process, making sure only those people with the right attitude join our team. Everyone on the team has to be willing to forge meaningful relationships with residents. It is for this reason that we don’t use agency staff. We want that relationship continuity that only an in-house team can provide. We also want to be absolutely certain of the attitude and basic caring nature of the individuals working with our residents. It is a high standard to deliver each and every day / night.

What are Some of the Things You do to Foster Relationships Between Residents and Between Staff and Residents?

Seniors receiving care

One of the great benefits of joining an aged care or retirement community is that there are many more opportunities for socialising than you may get if you decide to stay in your own home or with a relative during this phase of life. We have a variety of both formal and informal activities for residents. Whilst exercise, crafts, talks, movies and other entertainment are an expectation in most good aged care facilities, there are a few things that we do rather differently. For instance, the activities are organised in consultation with residents even though we do have a Lifestyle team. The physical design of Yukana also helps a great deal to evoke a sense of community. Even though we have a large number of apartments, they are designed to form smaller courts creating community environments. Each community has its own dining and recreational area, encouraging the development of friendships. We have flower displays in some of the courts which are changed every three months or so.

Not only does this encourage discussion between residents, it helps to bring the outdoors inside for those unable to take a stroll through the gardens.

We help residents to make friends and bonds outside of the village. Residents regularly enjoy morning tea with those from another Toowoomba village. While events are normally reciprocal visits between the villages, they also enjoy an occasional activity to other external locations. Just recently they visited Picnic Point to enjoy the beautiful mountain vistas, all the while taking advantage of the chance to build and maintain the external friendships they have developed over time.

Residents are invited to regular monthly events, hosted by management and staff. These special events are designed to assist in building relationships between residents, as well as residents and staff. Everyone in attendance is able to socialise and interact in an informal and relaxed setting. This allows residents to speak openly to staff and for staff to be able to listen to what is most important to the residents. It makes for some great conversations and assists in maintaining a strong and happy community.

Not all issues are to do with relationships. There are many other challenges and some are deeply personal.

How Do You Deal with Emotional Care?


We have a relationship coordinator and team who are available to all our residents and many take advantage of this. We help with all areas of life, including discussions on life’s challenges, provision of support, and basically anything that is needed by the residents. However, central to what we have been doing in terms of emotional care is to nurture the sense of purpose that makes our residents want to get up in the morning and be active and engaged. There are many ways in which we do this, but I’d like to share a recent innovation. One of the things that has worked really well is to celebrate the life journeys we are on. Each one of our residents has a remarkable story to tell and recently we have started recording the stories of residents and sharing them on Facebook. It is inspiring to hear about the challenges and achievements people have had. The program provides a sense of appreciation and dignity for the residents themselves.

We also believe that the life experience and wisdom our residents have should not be kept under a bushel. We take every opportunity for our residents to engage with our younger generations. This is achieve through intergenerational activities such as visits to local day care centres, visits from overseas students, and attending school musical performances. Through this, we are seeing some exciting developments in each group’s vigour and enthusiasm for life.

Making an aged care choice is a decision which is going to impact you or your loved one for a number of years. The physical aspects such as the size and style of room and the quality of meals are all important factors. However, it is the day-to-day relationships we form, the dignity and respect with which we are treated, the activity packed days and the sense of meaning in life that makes us feel great in any part of life’s journey.

Australian Over 50s Living & Lifestyle Guide

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