Ventriloquist dolls, pen pals and an ‘ageing abroad’ international exchange program for staff were among the 41 winners of Better Practice Awards announced today by the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency (ACSAA).

The annual Better Practice Awards recognise quality improvement and better practice in aged care, and serve as exemplars to encourage improvement and innovation across the industry in five award categories:

Health and personal care

Resident lifestyle

Staff development and retention

Environmental management/living environment

Innovation

The Agency’s Chairman, Jim Harrowell, congratulated all of this year’s Better Practice Award winners.

“Their efforts are testament to the high quality care in Australia’s residential aged care industry and they are deserving of recognition,” Mr Harrowell said.

“The managers and staff at Better Practice Award-winning homes are going above and beyond in providing the very best care for their residents, and in many cases, residents themselves are active participants in these innovative programs.”

When ventriloquist act Gerry Gee and Ron Blaskett visited Melbourne’s Baptcare Strathalan Community in Macleod in 2008, they were an instant hit. The home has incorporated ventriloquist puppetry into their music program after finding many residents connected with the ventriloquist doll to a greater extent than they normally expressed in day-to-day life. 

Some residents, who rarely spoke or interacted with their surroundings, spoke directly to the doll, often in an altered pitch, and often having animated and complex conversations with the doll. 

Baptcare Strathalan Community now has four ventriloquist dolls, which are integral to its resident lifestyle programs, and ventriloquist dolls have also been introduced at other Baptcare homes.

Mercy Place Parkville, like many aged care employers, is managing a culturally diverse workforce with staff often having to return to their country of birth at short notice, or to attend a cultural or family event that is integral to their identity.

When they do, they are encouraged to visit an aged care facility, and are given a tote bag containing gifts, donated goods, resident-made handcrafts and a handwritten note. Many of the staff also use their visit to pass on some of the education and training they have learnt at Mercy Place.

Mercy Place Parkville’s ‘ageing abroad’ program has so far reached 26 countries including Nepal, India, the United States of America, Papua New Guinea, Japan and Nigeria.

The Whiddon Group Kelso, near Bathurst NSW, developed its ‘PenPals’ project for residents interested in reviving the lost art of making new friends through writing. Residents have formed new friendships, and the ‘PenPals’ program has also helped the home find out about care innovations at other homes elsewhere in Australia and overseas.

Since 2007, more than 350 letters have been sent to residents in aged care homes across Australia and the United Kingdom. The ‘PenPals’ group meets monthly and involves staff and residents working together to correspond with their new-found pen pals across the world.

Click here to see the full list of Better Practice Award winners and profiles.

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