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My Home Life – Aged care leadership program launched in Adelaide.

Relationships are at the heart of an award-winning international aged care leadership program launched in Adelaide this month.Fourteen senior managers from South Australia’s aged care industry undertook the My Home Life (MHL) Leadership Support program at St Hilarion and ACH Group across two weeks.

The MHL England (Professor Julienne Meyer CBE, City University London) and MHL Scotland Director (Professor Belinda Dewar, University of West of Scotland) were invited to deliver the program by the SA Innovation Hub, a community of aged care providers who are working together to share knowledge, learn from each other and implement new ideas to support older people.

The program started 10 years ago in the UK and builds on the more traditional person-centred, customer-facing approaches by placing more emphasis on relationships and engagement.

“We believe that relationships are important, so that means valuing the staff members, family members and the person receiving the service, knowing that these people are interdependent and work together,” Julienne says. “We also focus on caring conversations, because we believe that relationships depend on the way we talk to one another.”

MHL began as a small project to pull together what is known about best practice in care homes, but grew into a social movement that promotes quality of life for people who live, die, visit and work in care homes. Starting in England, the MHL message resonated and quickly spread across the UK into Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

“People are going into care homes older, sicker and frailer, and the workforce needs to be supported and upskilled,” she says. “These issues are prevalent around the world. The way in which society often doesn’t value older people and their experiences has a knock-on effect on those who work in the sector. That’s what’s great about collaborating internationally; we can draw on each other’s learning and explore best practice together.”

Belinda says another point of difference with the program is its ‘appreciative enquiry approach’. “Our starting point is to work out what’s working well and to understand why, rather than focusing on problems and trying to fix them. We look at beautiful practice and why it is working well to give us the answers to solve the things that perhaps aren’t working so well.”

SA Innovation Hub executive officer Sarah Rhead says the MHL program is all about promoting cultural change within organisations. “Our sector is experiencing rapid social, technological and political change,” she says. “It is important that our leaders are ready to embrace that change and to create a positive future together.”

According to the latest Department of Social Services analysis of Commonwealth funded aged care workforce activities, over the next 35 years the aged care workforce will be required to triple from 352,145 people to 827,100 people in 2050.

The My Home Life program will return to South Australia next year. To find out more, please contact Sarah Rhead on 0428 871 839.