After 50 years since starting work in the sector, Jacinta Geraghty has retired from her role as executive manager of Queensland provider Carinity Aged Care.
Ms Geraghty started her aged care career at the age of 17 as a nurse. “I always related very well to elderly people and had this burning urge to be a community nurse,” she said.
Ms Geraghty’s career was put on hold when she got married and had children. Once they grew up, it was time to re-enter the sector. “Over 19 years I gained an enormous amount of experience in community nursing, specialised in palliative care, and even went to Malaysia to set up a home care program in Kuala Lumpur,” said Ms Geraghty.
Later, she transitioned to residential aged care management and joined Carinity Aged Care in 2009. “My first job was to make changes that would improve financial viability. In such a situation, the first reaction is often to cut wages as staff costs are a significant expense for our business. However, I knew that doing so would jeopardise the level of care we provided to residents, so I looked for other solutions,” said Ms Geraghty.
One solution was to analyse the levels of government funding Carinity was receiving so as to ensure the not-for-profit provider was claiming everything it was entitled to.
“I then set about upskilling our care staff and upgrading equipment so that we had the capability to cater for residents with higher care needs – which in turn generated an even higher amount of funding from the government,” said Ms Geraghty.
While she admits it was “a lot of hard work”, it set the stage for Carinity to become the organisation it is today. “At the time, we had seven aged care communities. By looking outside the usual response of cutting staff and instead investing to create a more skilled workforce, we’ve grown to having 12 aged care communities across Queensland,” said Ms Geraghty.
However, Ms Geraghty is quick to point out that she didn’t do all the work herself: “I had a great team of people around me to make it happen,” she said.
As executive manager, Ms Geraghty was keen to embrace the latest equipment available to minimise the demands on staff time. “All sites have electric beds, our pressure relieving mattresses are of a very high standard and ceiling hoists have been implemented in our new aged care buildings,” she said.
Ms Geraghty also ensured Carinity staff were able to utilise the latest electronic tools. “The technology has improved with medication now managed via an electronic tablet and managers have access to up-to-date information on any incidents that occur at the site, ensuring they are across any concerns in a timely manner,” she said.
After 50 years in the sector, Ms Geraghty has some wise words for anyone thinking of a career in aged care. “Understand it’s a challenging job which is not highly paid, but your rewards come in other ways,” she said. “The elderly are very appreciative of all that you do for them, and you become a very important part of their life. They show you a lot of love, and that in itself is a great reward. Money can’t buy that.”