Annie Schenkel shares what she finds rewarding, inspiring, and challenging about being facility manager of Oakland Lifecare in Tauranga.

I have had the pleasure of managing Oakland Lifecare for nearly one year. Oakland is a large aged care facility located in central Tauranga, situated in a park like setting with some very old, beautiful trees, where tuis gather to sing.

Prior to managing Oakland, I lived and worked in the Waikato for 10 years, managing aged care facilities during most of that period. My introduction to rest home management was not planned. However, it has been a very enjoyable career move! Prior to being a facility manager, I have had a varied career which included graduating as a hospital-trained registered nurse in 1981, holding operational manager roles in DHBs, and working as a practice nurse in GP surgeries.

My introduction to aged care facility management came about when I was visiting my grandmother, who was a resident in a Cambridge aged care facility. During my visit, I was offered the manager’s role. I accepted the offer, then had the privilege of seeing my grandmother daily, as well as working with an aunt who had worked there for more than 20 years as a registered nurse and held the position of clinical coordinator. My aunt’s daughter and my cousin also worked at the facility during my time there.

This introduction to aged care management contributed to my philosophy of managing facilities that provide care to some of our most vulnerable citizens, which is creating a family and homely environment.

The most enjoyable aspects of my job are leading a great team to deliver great care and services to our residents and their families and assisting families through the often stressful journey of selecting an aged care facility for a family member. It is also a pleasure managing a successful business.

A typical day for me involves whatever it takes to ensure the Oakland team delivers great service. I respond to enquiries via telephone, email, or in person from health professionals and families seeking a bed for an older person (Oakland also provides care to some younger residents). I liaise with senior staff regarding the day-to-day management. Oakland employs over 100 staff, which generates challenges at times.

A typical day will often involve completing reports and responding to internal and external requests, facilitating meetings with groups of staff, responding to requests from residents and families, planning staff education, and ensuring our cats are well cared for!

The challenges and frustrations I encounter are those which are perhaps shared by many aged care facility managers – they are all due to not having enough hours in the day to meet everyone’s needs and wants as well as trying to achieve a work-life balance!

During my decade working in aged care in the Waikato, I was a member of the DHB’s AgeWISE Advisory group for three years, where I learned a great deal about the direction aged care is taking in New Zealand.

My main concern for older people in New Zealand is for those who suffer from social isolation – or loneliness in layman’s terms. The loving extended family environment is an ideal one for older people to live in, however that is not available for many. Organisations such as Age Concern, which provides services including an accredited visiting service to older people living in the community, is doing a great job in reducing the social isolation for some.

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