Celebrating Life at all Stages

Juniper

As one of WA’s largest aged care organisations with a network of twenty-eight facilities across the state supported by 1,400 staff and 500 volunteers, Juniper has been providing residential and housing support, primary medical care, respite care, social and spiritual support to communities for almost sixty-five years. All of Juniper’s care services are fully accredited under the Australian Government’s aged care laws and regulations.

As technology evolves, so too must our outmoded attitudes – in regards to how we communicate, how we learn and, perhaps most importantly, how we care for one another. In a society where it is far more convenient to send a message from a handheld device out into space and back again than it is to walk down the street and speak face to face, understanding these issues and embracing their inherent opportunities rather than lamenting their shortcomings is crucial to effectively evolving as a society.

In particular, within the aged care sector, advances in technology, while remarkable, have made for rising healthcare costs and high demand for services – a difficult combination for not-for-profit organisations and commercial businesses alike to respond to.

While some organisations are clearly making progress in the face of the rapid advances our society has made, others yet are lacking in the way in which they have chosen to engage with modern technology and attitudes. Still others, such as the Western Australia based aged care provider, Juniper, are setting the standard for not just the aged care sector, but truly, for the continued growth of connected communities.

Proud of its extensive care network, Juniper is described in its own marketing as “a Christian, values driven, community benefit organisation that excels in social enterprise for the benefit of the whole Western Australian community.”

The organisation established its first residential facility – Hardey Lodge – in 1949 as part of an initiative of the Methodist Church. With two more facilities added over the next fifteen years (Rowethorpe, today Juniper’s largest facility, opened in 1961; and Subiaco Memorial Hospital, opened in 1965), Uniting Church Homes – Juniper’s original name – was established as a not-for-profit aged care organisation.

Currently, Juniper offers a wide range of care services, creating an inclusive community based on consumer directed care. Through Juniper Community, individuals who are still living in their own homes are able to access a variety of flexible programs which offer social, domestic and personal assistance to ensure continued independence. This program is also supported by Juniper’s Day Therapy Centres, which offer physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry and other services.

The Juniper Housing program offers a wide selection of residential accommodation for individuals over fifty-five, supported by common service facilities and community spaces, whilst the Juniper Residential care facilities cater to older individuals in need of support, ranging from low care through to full dependency. Juniper’s Respite program provides clients with short term residential respite care, available on a planned or emergency basis and, through Juniper Health, clients can access the Rowethorpe medical centre and its general practitioners.

“We’re quite a large not-for-profit organisation with a lengthy history working within the sector,” explains Chief Executive, Vaughan Harding, in a recent interview with us. “Today, Juniper is the 21st century iteration of a service provider that has proudly built on this history, experience and expertise to provide Western Australia’s ageing population with some of the most modern and forward thinking services available.”

Throughout this time, the organisation has remained true to its heritage as a Christian faith-based organisation – up until just this year, Juniper was known by its original name and is still part of the Australia-wide UnitingCare network. The recent rebranding, says Mr Harding, was initiated in order to create a more relatable image for modern society.

Furthermore, Juniper has been working together within its care communities to complete a massive redevelopment of both facilities and internal structure. “We have completed the upgrades and now we have rebranded to make our message and mission more accessible to a younger generation,” he explains.

That redevelopment has seen the introduction of residential retirement villages, styled in such a way so as to promote successful ageing – with grace, dignity, and something which is oft-overlooked within the aged care sector – a solid sense of vitality. According to Mr Harding, “We’re providing quality accommodation and care services while building community resources within villages to prevent people from feeling isolated.”

He adds that despite the increased pressures from the cost of taking up new advanced technologies, aged care – if properly resourced and made sustainable – can in fact help to reduce these costs.

Ultimately, Juniper has an eye to double its reach over the next decade in response to what Mr Harding identifies as “imminent community need. This may not mean growing in terms of facilities, but to develop our organisation’s capability and flexibility to respond to future needs through improvement and innovation. There will always be a need for residential aged care and so we will continue to grow and develop, refurbishing and renovating our facilities to deliver the high quality residential care expected of an organisation such as ours.”

Indeed, Juniper has greatly evolved over time which is due in large part to what Mr Harding defines simply as ‘listening skills’. “We’ve grown greatly through our ability to listen, to be engaged within the community. All of our staff endeavour to be appreciative of the needs of our communities at all times as they evolve.”

At the core of Juniper’s continued vitality is its talented and committed workforce. “Like many, many others,” Mr Harding enthuses, “we certainly see staff as our frontline resources.”

In helping to develop the foundational values which Mr Harding says translate into such stellar service as is provided by Juniper, the organisation has developed a remarkable internal leadership and development program for all staff – underpinned by an inherent multicultural appreciation as well as a strong morality code based on respect.

“We have arrived where we are today by building relationships within the organisation and our communities,” he says. “We have done this through maintaining access to services; Juniper enjoys a huge reach across numerous modes of care. We do wish to grow,” he adds, emphasising a continued commitment to meeting some of the more pressing challenges facing the sector.

In particular, the recent Wages Compact and the Federal Government’s responses to the Productivity Commission’s Report have introduced increased regulatory obligations which many people, including Mr Harding, believe make service provision difficult for community care organisations such as Juniper. Of course, as a not-for-profit organisation, Juniper’s focus is not on financial gain, but rather on improving access to care services throughout the community – whether specifically for people who are in need of aged care, or those who seek ‘age appropriate’ housing.

This community wellbeing approach is rather rare, and indeed sets apart Juniper from many of the other care organisations throughout Australia. In a sense, the organisation is working to de-stigmatise the notion of ageing – we all will age throughout the course of our lives, and so the services provided by Juniper are truly services provided for everyone.

As Mr Harding explains, “The whole community should benefit from the concessions enjoyed by not for profit organisations like Juniper through our taxation system.”

Mr Harding emphasises the fact that Juniper continues to hold a leadership role within its communities, helping to connect individuals with specific support and inspiring other community care organisations to do the same with an increased energy and determination. “We are very passionate about providing an essential not-for-profit service to our communities,” he states.

Mr Harding’s passion is the driving force behind his work with Juniper as well as his important role as national President of the peak industry body, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA). Through this position, Mr Harding aspires to motivate his contemporaries – others working with communities throughout Australia, and in particular, within the aged care sector – to join him in developing a strong and united workforce to face future challenges.

“There is so much we can do within the community from a large project through to a small community garden. We want to encourage these not-for-profits to really add value to the whole community.”

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December 12, 2017, 10:55 PM AEDT

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