Home Aged Care Providers Aged Care CEO Receives Business Award for Approach to Care

Aged Care CEO Receives Business Award for Approach to Care

Margaret Williams, CEO of Medea Park Residential Care
Margaret Williams is CEO of Medea Park Residential Care, and the 2020 Telstra Tasmanian Business Woman of the Year.

Margaret Williams knows that running a successful aged care residence means balancing financial security and quality of care. The CEO of Medea Park Residential Care was named 2020 Telstra Tasmanian Business Woman of the Year for doing just that. “It’s very difficult,” said Margaret. And yet, so simple. “You’ve got to listen to the residents to make it work.”

Margaret does make it work. In the words of Telstra Awards Ambassador Alex Badenoch, Margaret has “made a huge impact, delivering positive outcomes and creating an exciting future for Medea Park, its employees and residents. Her strategic, considered approach to business is expertly balanced with her passion, compassion and empathy for her community”.

Margaret’s reasons for switching from acute care to aged care in 2001 reflect this balance. “I saw it as an area of growth,” she said. She also saw that aged care would involve building relationships with residents.

“And you know, it can be very challenging. but the main thing is it’s rewarding to be able to spend time with these very special people.”

Special Time With Residents is Important

Since 2001 Margaret has worked in several management or executive roles in residential aged care. For three years she managed 9 of 20 homes across Victoria and Tasmania before becoming CEO at Medea Park, where she’s responsible for the management and quality of care of more than 50 residents. Margaret says that in her experience, one-on-one time between staff and residents is essential to quality care.

“It’s very difficult. But to be honest, you’ve got to be tough, but you’ve got to be fair, and you’ve got to engage your staff and as I say, get them involved in decision making.”

“We have a certain amount of hours available. I say to the staff, “How do you want to use these hours?”, so they get to work out how their hours are used across the 24 hour period to optimise the care. So that, you know, hopefully they can spend some special one-on-one time with the residents.

But ideally, of course, every aged care facility in Australia would employ more people and get more special one-on-one.”

Margaret told me staff often devote time outside their shifts to spend with residents. For example, the previous day a staff member spent half an hour after her shift chatting with a resident. Other opportunities for quality time include events like regular hot breakfasts, a packed leisure and lifestyle program, and volunteer events that staff can participate in.

“You’ve got to engage your staff and get them involved in decision making.”

Placing Importance on Meals

Did I mention hot breakfasts? On a regular basis, Margaret enjoys helping prepare pancakes and other well-loved goodies for residents and staff to enjoy together. She says nutritious food is one of the most important areas of aged care. But how does she make sure all residents are happy with the menu?

“I constantly look for feedback,” she explains. “Give them lots of choices. One of the residents wants lasagne, so we’ve now got lasagne as a separate thing that the resident can ask for, and that we can get organised for her at any stage.

And just listen to them and follow through. It’s not hard, I don’t think!”

Difficult Decisions During COVID-19

Margaret’s focus on quality time with residents has been especially important during Covid-19 restrictions. In early April the Tasmanian government banned most visits to aged care residences. This has meant most residents haven’t met with their families in over a month.

Margaret bought extra technology so residents can video call their families. “Skype and zoom is just fantastic, and FaceTime and WhatsApp!” Margaret said. “All of those we’re using.” She often dedicates a whole eight-hour shift for a staff member to help residents use the technology.

“The most important part of aged care is giving the residents choice and showing them dignity and respect. They are the pillars of aged care, as far as I’m concerned.”

Big Things For the Future

Beyond Covid-19, Margaret has big things planned for the future of Medea Park based on her approach to care. In spring residents will be able to enjoy the facility’s new memory garden. Medea has also recently received a $1.18 million grant from the government which they will use to build 12 rooms. But they’re not increasing bed numbers.

“We’re now making every room a single room with a dedicated en suite, which again is critical for the residents’ privacy and dignity. I mean, at their age they don’t want to go down the corridor to a bathroom.”

Margaret says more government funding is essential for quality aged care in the future. “The vision has to be that we have to appropriately fund our aged care facilities, and make sure the funds are used in the areas that they need to be used in so that we deliver the highest care to these residents.”

“The most important part of aged care is giving the residents choice and showing them dignity and respect. They are the pillars of aged care, as far as I’m concerned.”

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