More COVID lessons on leadership from aged care CEOs

Australian Ageing Agenda recently asked four aged care CEOs what COVID-19 has taught them about how to respond to an emergency and leadership.

Australian Ageing Agenda recently asked four aged care CEOs what COVID-19 has taught them about how to respond to an emergency and leadership.

In this second part of this report, Doreen Power, CEO of Lyndoch Living, and Jennifer Lawrence, CEO of Brightwater Care Group, share their responses.

Values and leadership

It is important to focus on values and build leadership, writes Doreen Power.

We’ve faced many emergencies, but none compares in size or scale to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst we have been focusing on managing the threat of COVID-19 in our own organisation, it has not interrupted our long term planning.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we needed to be flexible and agile and to align our care and business imperatives. It has also taught us the importance of strong and informed leadership in order to make hard decisions.

Doreen Power

As part of our emergency response, we held daily executive briefings that focused on the current environment, the national and state government updates, clarifying the difference between recommendations and directives, understanding risks, keeping our community informed, and implementing a robust pandemic plan that can be adapted across many scenarios.

We made staff and resident safety and wellbeing a priority. All our communication and directives were calm and considered in order to reduce uncertainty and anxiety.

In our daily briefings, we worked closely to develop supportive initiatives that included:

  • team members having the ability to work from home 
  • conducting zoom question and answer sessions with the leadership team where staff can raise questions
  • the reskilling and redeployment of staff through innovation and training support
  • providing free coffee and food with discounted meals through our Living@Home Meals service
  • discounted hair appointments at our onsite Pure Living and Hair beauty salon 
  • providing health checks and focusing on fitness with free yoga and mindfulness sessions
  • developing innovative programs to entertain residents
  • setting up alternative forms of communication to ensure social connectedness continued
  • offering access to confidential financial and emotional support where needed.  

Strengthening our communications with digital media for our community enabled quick and efficient two-way dialogue. We kept them informed on regulatory requirements and any revised operational processes. We also celebrated stories of kindness and care demonstrated by our residents and staff.

There are some great stories. Resident Lyn Bruce designed and developed shout out, clap hands “flower power’’ pins for our staff to proudly wear. It was Lyn’s way of saying “thank you for keeping me safe”. 

Other residents have developed banners as a thank you to staff. Staff demonstrated many innovative ways to retain social connectedness and to display kindness and care to our community residents through the Many Hearts program. 

Great leadership is everywhere at Lyndoch Living. Every staff member is a leader and stepped up during the COVID-19 crisis by focusing on our values. This highlighted the importance of continuing to uphold them in everything we do.

By focusing on our values and long-term strategic goals, we have managed to provide certainty in uncertain times. 

Doreen Power is CEO of Lyndoch Living

Calm, agile and creative

Being calm, agile and creative have been key throughout pandemic, writes Jennifer Lawrence.

The impact of COVID-19 on our sector has been monumental. Hard decisions have had to be made quickly.

As a leader I had to act early to manage the crisis, and made some decisions that saw us go above what the Commonwealth eventually recommended. Whilst it was the right decision moving ahead of the Commonwealth, it was not an easy one. Reducing the risk to our clients was at the forefront of all of our decisions, but equally I knew the decisions we had to make were going to be hard on families, hard on staff and hard on our clients.

This meant too that regular and clear communication was paramount. It was essential we kept our staff, our families, our clients and key stakeholders regularly updated. As a result we have upped our communications significantly. I write to our staff each week, do regular video updates for all 2,000 employees across the business and have also updated our families and clients each step of the way.

Jennifer Lawrence

Being calm and consistent has been an important part of my approach in leading Brightwater through the pandemic. I know that if I am calm, my team is calm. In the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, we were all watching what was happening overseas and I know this had a significant impact on us all. 

Being agile has also been a key learning throughout the pandemic. The situation has been fast moving, and it has meant as an organisation we have had to quickly adjust our approach in a number of key business areas.

We took a proactive approach, and quickly drew on the pandemic plan we had implemented during the 2002 SARS epidemic, and implemented our pandemic response.

Key staff members were immediately separated into virtual teams. Skype and iPads were set up in our residential homes so that regular contact with families could be maintained during our visitor restrictions. We even implemented some new programs including Brightwater Buddies to give residents a connection to the outside world.

As people who look after our most vulnerable, the COVID-19 pandemic has without doubt been a difficult period for our industry, the clients we look after and their families.  And I know our new normal will look very different.

However, I am proud of our team at Brightwater in their agility to respond, their ability to be creative to find new ways of working and their overall desire to ultimately protect the people in our care.  

Jennifer Lawrence is CEO of Brightwater Care Group

Read the first part of this report, where Rachel Argaman, CEO of Opal Aged Care, and Marcus Riley, CEO of BallyCara, share their learnings here.

The full version of the article appears in current AAA magazine (July-Aug 2020).

Comment on the story below. Follow Australian Ageing Agenda on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, sign up to our twice-weekly newsletter and subscribe to AAA magazine for the complete aged care picture.  

Tags: aged care, Brightwater Care Group, COVID19, Doreen Power, jennifer lawrence, lessons from covid, Lyndoch Living,

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