Awards achievements & bittersweet news

Excellence in mental health care in aged care is rewarded but one of the most generous annual awards programs for aged care has come to an end with the final winners of the Positive Living in Aged Care Awards announced this week.

In this story:

By Keryn Curtis

After only seven years, the curtain has fallen on the final annual Positive Living in Aged Care (PLAC) awards. 

The PLAC awards program was an initiative established in 2007 by the Older People’s Mental Health Working Group in NSW Health, to recognise and promote good mental health in residential aged care homes.

Operating with funding from the NSW Ministry of Health, the awards have been managed by Aged & Community Services Association of NSW & ACT in collaboration with Leading Age Services Australia NSW-ACT, awarding over $300,000 in prize money over the seven years.

But the 2013 PLAC awards, presented at an event at Sydney’s Luna Park on Monday, will be the last.

CEO of Aged and Community Services Association NSW & ACT, Illana Halliday said the introduction of the Awards in 2007 had created an opportunity to focus on issues arising from mental health disorders including dementia, and generate greater awareness through projects designed to improve residents’ mental health and well-being.

“The Awards have recognised a range of remarkable initiatives across NSW, some of which have demonstrated a reduction in cognitive decline.

“With dementia set to be the leading cause of disability in Australia by 2016, it is imperative that we continue to promote and implement programs to ensure that people living with dementia live well with higher levels of engagement and enjoyment.

“While it is disappointing that the PLAC Awards have come to an end, I am confident everyone involved will continue to pursue and promote positive mental health in aged care to ensure that residents continue to be the real winners.”


This year first prizes of $10,000 each were awarded in two categories in 2013.

Jesmond Grove Hostel, an Anglican Care facility in the NSW Hunter region community of Booragul, received first prize in the category of a ‘strategy to promote the mental health and wellbeing of residents by increasing protective factors to reduce the risk of the development of symptoms of a mental health condition,’ for their ‘Nostalgic Pathways’ project.

Above: (L-R) Dr Roderick McKay, clinical adviser to the Older People’s Mental Health Policy Unit, NSW Ministry of Health; Judith Cornish, Manager; and Dr John Allan, NSW Health Chief Psychiatrist.

Based on research by the University of Melbourne, the Hostel developed a series of ‘activity nooks’ to increase positive social and environmental interaction for residents with dementia and improve their moods.

Manager of Jesmond Grove, Judith Cornish, accepted the award from Dr Roderick McKay, clinical adviser to the Older People’s Mental Health Policy Unit and Dr John Allan, NSW Health Chief Psychiatrist (pictured).

The awards program described a picture of meaningful engagement for the residents following the implementation of the Nostalgic Pathways project at Jesmond Grove.  “Residents are in the backyard rounding up the chooks and covering the coop; others sweep the paths of the mess left behind; some plant strawberries in the new raised garden beds; blokes are busy tinkering in the small work shed; another resident is bringing in the washing … busy is better than boredom,” it said.

Two other residential care facilities – Garden Village in Port Macquarie and Scenic Lodge Merewether, also operated by Anglican Care in Booragul – took out highly commended awards of $5,000 each.

Garden Village received their highly commended award for a program called Dream Weaving – designed to identify residents’ unrealised dreams and where possible, make them come true.

Scenic Lodge Merewether’s ‘Age of Technology’ project was part of an intergenerational program to improve the knowledge, skills and confidence of residents in using IT for communication and entertainment.

Special needs recognised

Above:(L-R) Dr Roderick McKay, clinical adviser to the Older People’s Mental Health Policy Unit, NSW Ministry of Health; Bianca Pegorin, activity coordinator; Genevieve McConnell, coordinator; and Dr John Allan, NSW Health Chief Psychiatrist

Balranald Retirement Hostel, a local shire run home in the southern Riverina town of Balranald, was awarded its $10,000 first prize for a ‘strategy to promote the mental health and wellbeing of residents with special needs by increasing protective factors to reduce the risk of the development of symptoms of a mental health condition.’

Its winning program, Saltbush Yarns, was originally established as a dementia-friendly, interactive outdoor space but has evolved to become an important part of daily life for residents with special needs.

Activity coordinators, Bianca Pegorin and Genevieve McConnell, accepted the award on behalf of Balranald Retirement Hostel.

Under the program, residents grow their own vegetables and are active in the care of fruit trees and making fruit fly traps which they also sell.  Some residents help in the kitchen while others are involved with the hen committee and the ‘working girls’ – the name given to the egg laying hens. “It is also a place which provides a calming, safe and neutral area for all.”

Highly commended in this category was the Shalom Centre, Macquarie Park, a Baptist Community Services facility for its ‘Long after the guns fell silent’  program to support and engage residents who are war veterans through a special men’s discussion group.

More rewards for mental health care

Still on the theme of recognising excellence in mental health care, UnitingCare’s Starrett Lodge in NSW’s Hunter region has won a gold award in the Special Achievement category at the Mental Health Service Awards for Australia and New Zealand last week.

Starret Lodge, a former winner of a PLAC award (2011), recieved the award for  ‘Authors at Any Age’ – a project dreamed up by 13 residents with an average age of 87, many of whom have a diagnosis of dementia and depression, while sitting around the kitchen table thinking about social activities to enhance their lives.

The residents decided to write a book entitled, ‘A Long, Long Look Back’. It involved each resident sharing stories from their lives and took 12 months to write. It was launched in March 2012.

Colin McDonnell, Service Manager at Starrett Lodge said the residents and the entire team were over the moon about receiving the award.

“It is a very exciting time for the team and the residents. Authors at Any Age was an amazing project to be a part of and to be recognised with a Gold award is unbelievable,” he said.

Mr McDonnell said the positive outcomes for residents, their families and staff had been immeasurable.

“It was a rewarding activity for the residents to remember aspects of their lives. We could really see the improvements in their memories and behaviour. For their families, the book provided a permanent legacy where they could treasure memories of their relatives.

“One daughter told me she felt better connected with her mum and that recapturing these memories had lifted her depression,” Mr McDonnell said.

The awards which are designed to reward and publicise different types of services that have shown innovation and excellence, were presented by the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Jacinta Collins at the Mental Health Services Conference Inc.of Australia and New Zealand, held in Melbourne 20-23 August 2013.

The Mental Health Service Award program for Australia and New Zealand began in 1992. It is designed to reward and publicise services that have shown innovation and excellence. Service awards are either Gold, Silver, Special or an exceptional contribution to Mental Health Award. Six panels, drawn from different disciplines including consumer and carer organisations assess applications. The panels are geographically spread across Australia and New Zealand.



Tags: illana-halliday, nsw-health, plac, positive-living-in-aged-care-awards, winners,

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