Seventh-day Adventist Aged Care grew organically from a very simple need, says Brian Swanepoel, Manager of the group. “The Seventh-day Adventist Aged Care – and more specifically the facility at Kings Langley Village – was started for the church to accommodate pastors that were retiring, so that they could have a place to retire,” he says.
The Church itself has a long history of providing for the health of the communities their churches operate in. That made their extension into an aged-care provider a logical conclusion.
About the organisation
“It’s a worldwide Church, and every Sabbath about 45 million people attend mass. It is quite a large Church and is represented in most countries,” explains Swanepoel. The Church is remarkable from most other protestant organisations for a few reasons – it holds its Sabbath services on Saturdays, it follows the kosher food laws, and it encourages vegetarianism as a healthy lifestyle. It also has been credited for the promotion, and invention of breakfast cereal. From its early days, health and wellbeing have been a foundational philosophy.
Each Conference of the Church manages their aged care facilities independently. “I manage facilities for Sydney, which is made up of five different facilities. We have three groups of independent living units, and we have two residential aged care facilities,” Swanepoel says. In the North of New South Wales, Seventh-day Adventist Aged Care has two more facilities, plus several more in South Queensland.
Swanepoel says it is a hard to put a number on the amount of high care and low care beds that they have at a given location, due to the fact that they employ an aging in place strategy. This means that they can bring an individual in as a low care ward, and as their needs progress, they can move them up as required – they do not have to worry about gaining a new license, nor do they have to worry about being able to provide the care needed at any time. For residents, that means staying in one familiar, comfortable living space.
Making the difference
Swanepoel has been with Adventist Aged Care since 2003, when he joined the ranks as an accountant. “In 2008, when the manager that was here was transferred to Kenya, I became the manager of the facility,” he recalls. He has excelled at leading the company, he says, because truly believes in what they are doing across all of their facilities in Australia.
“I think there are a few reasons we do what we do so well, the first is that the manner in which the staff support our management,” he explains. “We have a number of things in place that make a real difference. The first of these is that we have a motto that we live by: Aged care with love and dignity.”
Seventh-day Adventist Aged Care takes this motto very seriously. They implement policies and care practices directly in line with it. This is achieved through the simple recognition that each resident is an individual, and that their needs must be met as such. Swanepoel stresses that there is no cookie cutter method that meets the needs and wants of every person under their care, nor would they look for one. “We have survivors of concentration camps from the Second World War, we have school principals, we have people from every walk of life,” he says.
That individual approach – when combined with staff involvement – is what sets Adventist Aged Care apart in the industry. “We had our staff elect representatives, and then meet and decide what their guiding principles were,” Swanepoel recounts. “They came back with an acronym: ROLFE.” The R stands for respectful, the O for open, L for loving, F for friendly, and E for ethical. Swanepoel made sure that the statements translated across cultural boundaries, and is very happy to see that the staff have adopted all of these ideas into their everyday interactions with their residents.
Doing it for the resident
Everything Adventist Aged Care does is for their residents, says Swanepoel. One example of this is how they approach the resident’s living arrangements. “When they come into a room, we want it to be understood that this is where they live, it is not the place where we work. We are coming into their living space.”
Moving forward, Swanepoel describes the goal for the company as expanding while centralising their operations. “Adventist Aged Care has grown for many years. If you think of it as starting as a small house, we have been continually adding new rooms and floors,” he says. Currently, they are beginning the centralisation process by looking at their current model of administration and tweaking its operations. This process will commence at full speed in the next year.
On their Kings Langley site, they are also in the process of examining the possibilities they have to revitalise their existing infrastructure. Many people are living longer, and with that they are experiencing more difficult health issues. Swanepoel aims to address that. “We are looking to put in a dementia specific unit and specific palliative care rooms, which is something relatively new to the aged care industry,” he says.
Those initiatives will take Adventist Aged Care though for the next five years, at which point Swanepoel predicts they will be looking at purchasing new facilities as they come onto the market. With their dedication, care, and concentration on quality of life, Seventh-day Adventist Aged Care will continue to be a force in the aged care industry.