Cooinda Rated “A Great Place to Live” - Staff Recognised with LASA Excellence Awards

Cooinda is a not for profit award-winning provider of residential care, independent living units and in-home care services and has been delivering innovative “person centred” care to older people within the Benalla community since 1969. Cooinda staff members, Julie Folan and Amorette Smith were recently awarded individual Victorian / Tasmanian winners in this year’s Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) Excellence in Age Services Awards at a Roaring 20’s themed ceremony in Albury on the 25th of February 2020. Cooinda’s residents and their families have also rated the home a “A great place to live” in the recent QPS Benchmarking Resident and Relative Experience Survey results.


“I congratulate them on these fantastic achievements that represents all that is great about Cooinda. We should all be proud of the team we work in and the care that we give”, said Mr Alex McKenna, Cooinda Chief Executive Officer.


LASA “Individual Award”

Long serving Cooinda staff member of 22 years, Julie Folan, Executive Manager Quality and Compliance, was named winner of the Individual award category. The award recognises individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the age services sector, have used innovation and initiative to improve the lives of older people and delivered high quality care to the aged.


“Julie’s passion, dedication and commitment to Cooinda is immeasurable”, said Mr McKenna. “Over the past 22 years, Julie has touched the lives of many and her care and commitment to the community has been unwavering.”


“There are many examples of where Julie has put the wellbeing of others first, he said. Julie has been recognised for her genuine kindness and support of new residents entering care, initiatives to help Cooinda residents remain connected to their community, including the Benalla Street Festival and her commitment and dedication to Cooinda and its staff.”


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Cooinda staff Julie Folan, CEO, Alex McKenna and Amorette celebrate their LASA Excellence in Age Services Award Wins at the Roaring 20’s themed awards ceremony in Albury.


Making a positive difference to the lives of Benalla’s older Australians:

Cooinda is inspired by its motto of “a lot of living”, of which Julie believes because you are older, living in an aged care facility, you don’t stop ‘living.’


Julie is a vitally important pivotal person within the Cooinda team. She liaises across the whole community and informs and emotionally supports residents and families when first entering care, helping people understand aged care system, supporting staff with education opportunities and ensuring Cooinda, as an organisation, remains strongly connected to our community beginnings and that we listen and respond to its changing needs.


Julie’s passion for making a difference, demonstrated in her warmth, compassion and understanding when engaging older people and their families, is reflected in the standard she has set for the delivery of excellent person-centred care at Cooinda. A part of this has been initiating wellbeing activities for residents, driven through her empathy of putting ‘herself in their shoes.’


Ensuring Residents Remain Connected to their Community:

When people leave their own home to enter care, they can feel isolated from the community they have long been a part of. Julie has worked hard to ensure residents remain connected to community by involving Cooinda in events - Benalla Street Parade and Let’s Find Our Voice choir. She is also a founding member of the Cooinda Achievers, voluntary fundraising group. Residents look forward to help preparing sweet treats for the monthly cake stall. All proceeds purchase essential care equipment.


She is often the driving force behind many of these community events, including the Benalla Cancer Foundation’s Light the Night, where residents helped to fundraise and create the paper lanterns, with joining the evening event.


Julie encourages residents to set an entry theme and with help create the costumes and props for the Benalla Street Parades. Many residents join the day, parading up and down the main street on scooters, waving from windows of the Cooinda bus or pushed in a wheelchair. Residents, all with bright, shining eyes, enjoy fun and wellbeing that lasts long after the event has finished.


Julie actively supports Cooinda’s dementia community awareness event, Walk and Wake Up to Dementia, by encouraging residents of all abilities to participate on the day. She is passionate about educating the Benalla community about the personal loss dementia has on people living with dementia and the impact on their families and the wider community.


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Cooinda residents, staff and volunteers won “Best Theme Entry” at the 2019 Benalla Street Parade.


Supporting New Residents & Their Families:

Often when people enter care, they can be unsettled as they familiarise themselves with their new surroundings. On countless occasions, Julie has stepped above her role to ensure older people and their families are supported. In response to the need for support, Julie is excited to introduce “Cooinda in-house Carers Support Group,” providing carers/families of Cooinda residents with information, ongoing support, social contact and at times advocacy.


Educating the Workforce:

Julie also recognised the need for care staff to be more ‘job ready’ and be trained in Cooinda values. The introduction of “Certificate III Individual Support in Aged Care,” has resulted in over 30 local people undertaking the course, many of whom have been employed.


Under Julie’s guidance, Cooinda remains the facility of choice in the regional Victorian town of Benalla. Cooinda’s occupancy rate remains at 99% above the national average of 92% (2018-19). Julie also surveys residents and their families for feedback on Cooinda’s care, and in January 2020 the overall satisfaction rating was over 90%.


LASA “Rising Star Award”

Amorette Smith was named winner of the Rising Star Award. This award recognises an individual with less than five years industry experience who has made an outstanding contribution to the age services sector, has used innovation and initiative to improve the lives of older people and has delivered high quality care to the aged.


“Amorette is a newly Endorsed Enrolled Nurse, who has touched the lives of many residents and their families whilst providing care to many during her short career, said Mr McKenna. She speaks fondly about them all and takes great delight in being able to make a difference, often going the extra mile to find a way to help them reach a special goal or wish.”


“It is the little things that she does every day that residents and families remember. A simple act of kindness and a gentle smile or a listening ear brightens each day”, said Mr McKenna.


Amorette’s role as team leader involves being the role model and mentor for other staff, a role she does with great leadership and skill. On any day, Amorette will be providing care for up to 28 very frail residents, ensuring they receive the highest standard of person-centred care from all of the team. She provides hands on care alongside her staff, attending to all daily tasks including providing comfort, emotional and spiritual care to each individual person who call Cooinda home. People come to Cooinda to do “a lot of living”, which Amorette also lives by, as she plays a vital role in ensuring everyone is safe, happy and above all, have some fun each day.


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Amorette Smith with Cooinda resident.


Caring & Compassionate Palliative Care:

Provision of Palliative Care is an integral role of the care staff and Amorette has been very active in reviewing the resources and supporting both staff and families.


Amorette recognises each experience is different when a person enters Palliative Care, which is why she ensures their wishes and physical, emotional and spiritual needs are supported. She feels honoured to be present and comforting for a person’s final moment and equally is there to support the welfare and emotional needs of grieving family members.


Stemming from her passion to support people through a palliative care experience, which includes the palliative person, their loved ones and staff, Amorette has developed an all-inclusive kit that is ready for use at a challenging time. Amorette helps to maintain a palliative care staff information resource folder, which includes updated policies, education and advanced care plan audits for staff working in the palliative care area.


“Resident of the Day” Initiative:

She has also collaboratively developed a check list for “Resident of the Day”.  Each person living in Cooinda becomes “Resident of the Day” which includes a welfare check to hear how they are feeling about where they live and what is happening around them, which is noted on their file with their permission. During the visit stocks and supplies in their room will be reviewed, they will be checked for weight, height, dentures, hearing aids, spectacles and finally, clothes are checked, to ensure they all have labels.


There is a saying at Cooinda, “you don’t find Cooinda, Cooinda finds you”. Julie and Amorette have found their special, happy place where they make a positive difference to the lives of people in Cooinda.


Residents & Relatives Rate Cooinda “A great place to live!”

In a recent survey, residents and their families have again rated Cooinda as a great place to live.


Cooinda’s residents who were able to participate and some with the assistance of volunteers, happily responded to the survey, giving Cooinda an accurate account of resident experience.


Of the 94% of residents in our care surveyed, this year’s outstanding results included 97% said “staff are respectful of my lifestyle choices,” and 94% say “our staff are genuinely kind, supportive and caring” and that our dining area has a nice atmosphere and that they are happy with the quantity and quality of meals served.


When asked “What is the thing you like most about Cooinda” some comments included: “Cooinda has a family feeling, helping each other and being listened to by staff; Friendly and own privacy at all times; Its home, I feel safe and very well cared for; My nice big bed, I can fit everything in my room, I like that my room it’s so big.”


Family members of our residents also believe Cooinda is a great place for their loved ones. Of the 90% of family members surveyed, 95% say “Staff treat their relative with dignity and respect; and that staff support their relative’s overall wellbeing.”


“We are delighted with yet another great survey result, said Alex McKenna, Cooinda Chief Executive Officer. We continue to seek feedback through surveys and our Compliments and Suggestions forms to ensure we are meeting the needs of our residents and their families.”


Cooinda has undertaken QPS Benchmarking surveys annually for eleven years. The surveys gather feedback from residents and their families on the services we provide and ask them to rate how satisfied they are with the services Cooinda delivers. The results from the surveys are used to identify areas where suggested improvements can made. QPS Benchmarking compares Cooinda’s survey results against over 100 aged care facilities across Australia and New Zealand and our results continue to perform above the QPS industry benchmark.


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Cooinda residents rate Cooinda “A great place to live!” in this year’s Resident Experience Survey.