‘I love the people I work for’

Aged care executive Julie Folan is driven by ensuring residents have a positive experience, she tells Sandy Cheu.

Aged care executive Julie Folan is driven by ensuring residents have a positive experience, she tells Sandy Cheu.

Julie Folan is passionate about providing residents a comfortable aged care journey. Today she is executive manager of quality and compliance at Cooinda, a community-owned aged care facility in Benalla in north-east Victoria.

But Folan, an enrolled nurse previously working at a hospital in Benalla, joined Cooinda in 1998 in an administrative role. However, shortly after she found herself in a managerial role due to her clinical training following the sudden departure of the facility manager.

As challenging as the manager role was, Folan says she couldn’t leave knowing there wasn’t someone else to fill the position.

“I’d leave work late at night and thought, I can’t do this. This needs someone who knows what they’re doing and who is trained and skilled. But because I knew they didn’t have anyone and they were advertising for it, I couldn’t walk away from it,” Folan tells Australian Ageing Agenda.

“It would have left them in a worse predicament,” Folan says.

Cooinda appointed a new facility manager eight months later and Folan stepped into an assistant manager role.

“I was put in the role of assistant manager because I had learnt so much in that eight months and I felt comfortable with being an assistant manager,” she says.

In 2000, Folan commenced her current role, where she is responsible for quality improvement and industry benchmarking. “I manage and oversee all the quality systems, audits, checklists. I also oversee accreditation and our standards,” Folan says.

But her favourite aspect of the role is managing the waiting list and undertaking pre-admission interviews.

Julie Folan

“I manage the residents coming into Cooinda to help them find out what life’s like here. It’s getting the residents here and helping them through that process, I love that part,” she says.

“It’s just connecting with families and residents, which is the part that really inspires me; their stories and being able to work through the process with them.”

Moving into aged care is a big step Folan enjoys being a part of. “I love being able to make it as easy and nice as best we possibly can for them.”

Every day is different at Cooinda, she says. “You can come in with plans to do so many things, but it often doesn’t pan out, but it’s always a fun day.”

Folan likes to spend her time interacting with residents.

“My role isn’t just about sitting in front of a computer, it’s a lot more involved with the residents, and that’s my choice, pretty much in my own time. I had a day off, so I planned a walk with about a dozen residents and I got someone else to come with me and off we went for an hour,” she says.

Folan has also been instrumental in ensuring residents remain connected to the community by involving them in events, such as the Benalla Street Parade and Let’s Find Our Voice choir.

She is also a founding member and former president of the Cooinda Achievers, a fundraising group made up of volunteers.

In recognition of her excellence over 22 years at Cooinda, Folan received the individual award at the Leading Age Services Australia Excellence in Age Services Awards at 2020 the Tri-State Conference in February.

“I was proud of that and I was humbled by it. But as proud as I was, I still felt I would not have been able to achieve that without the people around me.”

For as far back as she can remember, Folan has wanted to work in the sector.

“I love that we can do things to make this life chapter as best as it possibly can be.”

“I just had a passion for aged care. I love the elderly and I love that we can do things to make this life chapter as best as it possibly can be.”

Her goal is to make a positive difference to the lives of residents because ageing isn’t always a friendly thing.

“I know there is such a need to enhance the lives of older people because they get forgotten about and are a bit less important, but to me and to us at Cooinda, that is not the case. That’s what motivates me. It’s about wanting to be someone who can make a difference to them.”

Folan says she’s never woken up in the morning with thoughts of not wanting to go to work.

“I love coming to work and I just love doing what I do. I love the people I work with and I love the people I work for, which are the residents and their families,” she says.

This article first appeared in Australian Ageing Agenda magazine (Jul-Aug 2020).

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Tags: cooinda, Julie Folan, lasa, LASA Excellence in Age Services Awards, perspective,

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