Woy Woy Community Aged Care is a first-class aged care facility providing high and low care, nursing and hostel accommodation and services in Woy Woy, NSW. It is a not for profit benevolent charitable organisation, owned and highly regarded by the community.
The organisation opened in March, 1989 as a 40-bed nursing home. Three years later, a 10-bed dementia-specific wing for high care residents was added to the facility. Then, after considerable lobbying and community support, approval was granted by the Commonwealth Government in 1995 to construct a 40-unit aged care hostel for people needing assisted living and support.
Construction of the 40-unit hostel was completed in 1998 and was designed to accommodate both high and low care residents. Later, in 2005, the nursing home underwent a $1.2 million refurbishment that included a new eight-bed wing comprising of eight single rooms with ensuites and an Education Centre. In July this year, a further nine single rooms with ensuites and lounge and courtyard areas were included, costing $1.1 million.
Today, Woy Woy Community Aged Care provides residential aged care to 94 residents – 54 high care, 40 low care – while offering respite care and dementia secure units.
CEO Jennifer Eddy joined the organisation the day it opened. Prior to the facility’s launch, she was following its progress in the media, and personally observed the strong, positive reaction it elicited in the community. “Until we opened in 1989 there was no nursing home in Woy Woy, it meant our frail aged had to move out of the area, often isolating them from loved ones permanently,” she says. “The community lobbied so strongly it looked like the local MP was going to lose his seat if the government didn’t listen. After many knock backs and successes and extensive fundraising it was with great joy we welcomed our first resident.”
Eddy had previously earned experience in residential aged care as Administrator of a large residential aged care facility in the Blue Mountains. Later, running her own business enabled her to develop the business skills that have contributed to the organisations success. “Being a small stand alone facility without any support from a large charity or church group, we have had to make it on our own financially whilst maintaining the level of care and services the community expects and ensuring those with greater needs are not overlooked,” she says.
After joining Woy Woy Community Aged Care, she ended up staying full-time, which wasn’t her original plan. Her initial intention was to stay for a few months, assist with the setup and then move on – but she fell in love with the facility and has now been there for more than 24 years. “It’s a place you don’t want to leave,” she says. “You become part of the family.”
A wonderful team
Woy Woy Community Aged Care is one of the few wholly community-owned aged care facilities in NSW – and that fact alone helps set them apart. Their Board of Directors consists of prominent local figures, whose role is to ensure community expectations are met. There is a strong management team with representation from clinical and non clinical areas of the organisation. Woy Woy Community Aged Care employs 100 staff members with a wide-range of skills – including registered and enrolled nurses, aged care nurses, therapists and clerical and domestic assistants.
Many of the staff have been with the organisation for a number of years. At the annual general meeting next month there will be presentations of recognition of service awards – some recipients will be up to 20 years of service. Staff members tend to stay that long because it’s “such a lovely place to work in,” Eddy explains.
Residential aged care is one of the most highly-legislated industries and it can be difficult to acquire staff, particularly registered nurses. It is imperative that aged care continues to attract caring dedicated people in the future to maintain a high level of care. “We have wonderful staff who have really dedicated their lives to this industry,” Eddy says
As an employer, Woy Woy Community Aged Care ensures staff have the skills needed to deliver services and recognise changing resident needs. “Having our own Education Centre and a Clinical Nurse Educator on staff ensures we are able to provide a diverse range of education programs.” Flexible rosters also allow staff to spend adequate time with their families.
“We do as much as we possibly can to make our staff feel comfortable and a part of our family,” Eddy says. “Residential aged care is unique, as it is our workplace but more importantly it is our resident’s home.”
About the residents
When a new person comes into residential care, it’s an emotional transition, so Woy Woy Community Aged Care involves the families in the care process – which is “a joint effort to provide the best quality care,” Eddy says.
“This can be a stressful time for families who have often been struggling at home, they need to feel they are getting the best care for their loved ones and we do our best to ease their anxieties.”
Relying on donations and funding to maintain the quality of our home is challenging, and that is why Eddy finds it very rewarding to hear comments from residents such as “I never thought I would be able to live in such a lovely place,” and “It’s like living in a resort, I wish I had come here years ago.” Even visitors say it is such a warm and friendly place to visit, Eddy says.
Woy Woy Community Aged Care has a diverse activities program. “We have our own bus so residents can go out on picnics, concerts and to the theatre and sometimes just a nice scenic drive,” Eddy says. “We also have an annual holiday, residents can choose the location. We are fortunate to have so many lovely places to visit within a two hour drive. For our animal lovers, our Pets as Therapy dog Blush makes regular visits.
“Preparations are well underway for our annual dinner dance,” Eddy adds. “It is very popular; residents can invite family and friends to dinner. It’s a theme night, and this one is a Rock and Roll night. We provide a three course dinner and entertainment in a restaurant atmosphere; it is a great night with lots of fun and frivolity.”
Also setting Woy Woy Community Aged Care above and beyond in the marketplace is their commitment to embracing technology. Recently, that commitment has resulted in upgrading their computer system so staff have access to – and can enter – the most up-to-date data on residents, from anywhere in the facility. They are also able to provide hotel style telephone to residents on admission at a very reasonable cost and are currently looking at in-house television.
Woy Woy’s technology commitment comes from every level of the organisation. Staff members have been trained extensively on their software programs, and carers who had previously never even used computers have come to rely on them. “It’s been a complete turnaround from not using it to not being able to live without it,” Eddy says.
To go alongside the new computers, Woy Woy recently launched their Internet cafe. Volunteers teach residents how to use the computer, browse the Internet, send e-mails and access social networking, among other technological skills. “It’s a wonderful way for residents to be able to keep in contact with their family and friends,” says Eddy.
A new activities program Library in the Sky also allows residents to travel anywhere in the world from the comfort of their lounge chairs, using a large screen TV. Previous and new travel locations are explored, residents are often amazed to see their old family home wherever it may be in the world, and this sparks some interesting conversation.
Even more, the organisation is also looking at adding other high-tech services, such as video conferencing with treating doctors and other medical specialists to ensure residents have access to the health professionals they need. Being able to get an on the spot diagnosis and treatment advice means that we can reduce the possibility of residents being transported by ambulance to hospital which can be very stressful. “We’re really trying to embrace technology as much as we possibly can to benefit our residents.”
Planning has commenced on the renovation of the last wing of the original 40-bed nursing home converting multi shared rooms to double rooms with en-suites to accommodate couples. Eddy estimates that construction on that project will commence mid 2013. Land opposite the site will be developed to include more levels of accommodation and care services for the aged. They want to develop low-cost accommodations to ensure older people are still a part of the community, while utilising the facilities services and can be close to their families and partners in care.
“We quite often get residents coming into care and their partner is home alone for the first time in their life. They could become lonely and isolated if we don’t intervene to support them,” Eddy says.
As for the long-term future of Woy Woy Community Aged Care, Eddy says they will continue meeting the needs of the community by focusing on aged care that enhances a resident’s quality of life. “We want to bridge the gap between community and residential care, demystifying aged care and promoting quality care, embracing the challenge of integrating increasing quantity of life with quality living.”