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Resilience and success while supporting aged care workers in unprecedented times

By Deborah Gardner

‘Unprecedented’. I’m sure that you are over-familiar with the word from the news. It has been applied to the challenges many of us have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The majority of us have never faced such circumstances in our lifetimes and we have all had to live and work differently to adapt. My small micro business was no different. Some communities, like the Blue Mountains community I live and work in, also had the ‘unprecedented’ bushfires that ravaged the eastern part of Australia early in 2020. So, it was like a double whammy – we were just getting over the fires and then COVID-19 hit.

Part of my small business supports an aged care consultancy in business and risk planning and report writing. We support the frontline nurses with their paperwork so that they can concentrate on caring for the most vulnerable Australians – aged care residents and home care clients.

There are times when operating my small business that I feel frustrated, like when I am preparing my company tax return and the system crashes. However, I just have to remember the aged care workforce and industry, and what they have faced in the last few years. There was the introduction of the Aged Care Quality Standards, which meant a rewrite and re-learning of policies and procedures. There was also the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality, requiring further regulation and legislative changes. Finally there was COVID-19, and the lives lost among our most vulnerable citizens. Throughout COVID-19, carers faced a lot of worry over those in their care, and whether they could possibly be infected and bring the virus home to their families. So, to say that the aged care industry and the workforce have been under stress would be an understatement. However, these carers continue their compassionate work to ensure the health and well-being of aged care residents and home care clients during these ‘new-normal COVID-19 times’, and I continue to support them in their work.

The importance of social support

It’s our family, friends, and colleagues who we live and work with, plus our networks and community that sustain and support us during challenging times. Social support and being able to share my challenges with others has really helped me get through tough times. It is also the dedicated health and emergency workforces that have inspired me to keep going, even when I think I may be having a challenging time in my small business. This is because I know that there are people endangering their lives to keep us safe – whether it is in the health setting or battling fires. Working with the aged care sector I have seen this first hand.

Resilience and self-assessment

What I have I learnt from these carers? To keep on keeping on – or in a nutshell, resilience.

As Health Direct state on their resilience page: ‘Resilience is the ability to cope with unexpected changes and challenges in your life. It’s not always possible to prevent stressful or adverse situations, but you can strengthen your capacity to deal with these challenges.’ I have utilised some of these tips to strengthen my resilience to assist me in operating my small business. Strategies include: ‘thinking about the big picture’ and ‘taking time out to relax’.

My message would be to work not only on your business, but work on your resilience. When I’m conducting training, I like to encourage my workshop participants to assess themselves with a tool to see where they can strengthen their resilience. A great resilience self-assessment tool is available from the UK National Health Service. This is also handy to revisit and make sure that you continue to work on those areas that need strengthening.

Circles of concern and influence

Be aware of your circles of concern and influence. This simply means that you cannot solve the world’s problems like COVID-19, or economic/social issues, but you can do your bit within your own sphere. This helps you to stop worrying about the things you cannot control. There are lots of resources on the internet about circles of concern and influence, like the Habits for Wellbeing site. The site also has one of my favourite quotes: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. As a small business owner, it is really important to accept the things you cannot control, and limit spending time on them. This has been relevant to many people during COVID-19. While we cannot control the pandemic and the impact it is having on our business, we can focus on adapting our business and changing what we can to keep going.

Reward yourself

Yes, I invoice for my consultancy services, but I believe you need to also reward yourself in a non-monetary way. I get away from my computer screens and read an absorbing book. I literally take time to smell my roses and take the blooms inside which also means I am pruning the roses too. I go for a walk in our lovely Blue Mountains where I see things like the rare pink flannel flowers in bloom which is nature’s case study in resilience, of surviving bushfire and drought. I make a proper coffee with frothed milk and chocolate flakes or a fruit tea in a china teapot and cup to enjoy with my husband before he goes to work. Or I take time out when my adult sons arrive home from work to find out about their day. It truly is the little things that count towards your well-being.

What does SUCCESS look like for me?

Whilst having a beach as well as my mountain lifestyle will ultimately be part of my future picture of success – for now I keep working on the following components of success for myself and my business:

Service culture to my clients
Unified team around me
Continued enthusiasm and authentic self
Commitment to quality outcomes
Emails attended to only during the day
Strategic planning time
Strengthen my skills and knowledge

I wish you every success in your business.

About Deborah Gardiner

Deborah Gardiner is the Director of Agile Pathway and has been in corporate services roles for over 30 years including senior positions and boards within the public sector.

This includes specialist experience in corporate planning, risk management, performance monitoring and reporting, quality assurance and compliance, survey development, implementation and analysis and governance. Deborah also conducts training and development workshops relating to corporate services.

Deborah’s educational qualifications include Bachelor of Economics, University of Sydney, Advanced Diploma of Leadership, Diplomas in Adult Education and Project Management, and many management and administration short courses. Agile Pathway provides agile and best practice strategies and initiatives for planning your pathway to performance.

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