Covid-19 Things to watch

Restrictions easing, but confusion for residents and village managers as opinions differ….

Since the Prime Minister announced the easing of the pandemic restrictions I have been contacted by a significant number of operators and managers to discuss the ‘right thing to do’ in opening up community centres and village facilities.

The whole the sector is taking a fairly cautious approach as they navigate these waters. 

Each state has slightly different phases of restriction easing; some states provide guidance for Retirement Village operators and other states don’t. Some resident communities are cautious and while others are not, it has been a minefield for operators to navigate.

Overwhelming many managers regardless of their approach are being met with challenges from individuals in their communities who do not agree with their approach.

In broad ranging discussions with operators around the country it does seem the best way to move forward is in consultation with Resident Committees. Here are some topics that may help guide your discussions and decisions moving forward.

Consideration should be given to:

  • the current information on older persons advice
  • Relevant state based Retirement Village Fact sheets, where applicable
  • Access the COVID Safe Plan requirements for your state
  • Understand how the sqm rule requirements will work in communal areas
  • Identify how physical distancing requirements will be signposted and monitored
  • How record keeping of access to community areas will be managed
  • How these requirements be met in the event the manager is not present on site to monitor
  • Understand how the cleaning protocol and hygiene requirements will be managed
  • Identify the likely extra cost of any decisions i.e. additional staff to monitor, clean or manage the activities. Additional costs for cleaning products, sanitiser, signage and other resources/tools required.

Importantly agree on a plan should there be an outbreak in the future in the local community or your immediate village community.

Key things to help you everyday Things to watch

Elder abuse is real: what to look for, where to find help and access to policies

Last month we wrote about elder abuse being a key focus for the NSW Retirement Village regulator. In this edition we share some insights and resources.

Monday was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and the CEO of Dementia Australia, Maree McCabe said:

“Based on international indicators, it is likely that between two per cent and 14 per cent of older Australians experience elder abuse in any given year, with the prevalence possibly higher during a time when people living with dementia were isolating at home.”

Some of the warning signs of elder abuse to look out for include:

  • Unnecessary levels of isolation by a partner, family or friend that go beyond government (COVID-19) restrictions
  • Changes in the older person’s behavior, with the person disengaging from family members, health, aged care and other services
  • The older person being prevented access to potential supports and modes of communication (such as phone or internet)
  • Large sums of money to pay for unspecified items are being requested or spent
  • Making threats of self-harm or expressions of hopelessness

Here are some hotlines that have trained professionals that can assist you with your concerns.

  • ACT – Older Persons Abuse Prevention Referral Line – (02) 6205 3535
  • NSW – NSW Elder Abuse Helpline – 1800 628 221
  • NT – Elder Abuse Information Line – 1800 037 072
  • QLD – Elder Abuse Prevention Unit – 1300 651 192
  • SA – Elder Abuse phoneline – 1800 372 310
  • TAS – Tasmanian Elder Abuse Helpline – 1800 441 169
  • VIC – Seniors Rights Victoria – 1300 368 821
  • WA – Elder Abuse Helpline – 1300 724 679

Elder abuse has been recognised by government and the village sector as an important component of the resident services that Village professionals provide. It is expected that operators have the required Elder Abuse policy and procedures to guide village professionals in these matters.

This will be especially so in becoming Code of Conduct compliant and/or striving to achieve Accreditation.

DCMI Village management professional development participants have access to templates for Elder abuse policy and procedures in the online Resource Bank. Check out our new DCM Institute portal here.

Key things to help you everyday

DCMI provides hands on support and resources to Village Managers with the introduction of our new Industry Links page

See here.

Unanimously feedback received from Village Managers across the country has been a desire to have a ONE STOP SHOP to seek support and resources relevant to their roles.

In a revamp of the new DCM Institute website the COVID 19 resource page has been bolstered with the introduction of a new Industry Links page enabling Village professional access to quick links in relation to:

  • Resident support
  • Legislation and regulation
  • Industry resources
  • Work health and safety
  • Trusted Industry Partners

Along with the existing COVID -19 page, these resource pages provide a great place to seek information in a quick and timely manner.

As does the Industry News section of the new website. It allows busy village professionals to search for past items of interest that may have appeared as topics in past Village Manager newsletter.


Watch: global deaths from COVID-19 overtake all other causes of death in 2020

This may be the best visualisation of the impact of the coronavirus that we have seen.

Check it out here.

As you can see, it traces the global causes of deaths including COVID-19 from January to May this year using data from the Global Burden of Disease study, Worldometers populations and the Johns Hopkins COVID repository.

In January, COVID sits at the bottom of the table with deaths from malaria (well ahead of the other causes), homicide and Parkinson’s Disease, drowning and meningitis topping the list.

But in early February, coronavirus overtakes natural disaster and begins to quickly rise, overtaking terrorism in mid-March and influenzas by 1 April.

COVID finally claims top spot above malaria on 25 April – finishing with just over 345,000 at the end of May, around 90,000 deaths in front of malaria with just under 257,000.

It’s incredible to watch – not least for the reminder that there are many other dangers out there including the flu and Parkinson’s Disease.

Latest industry developments

Village & care operator Bolton Clarke supports regional seniors as it expands its HOW R U? peer support telephone service check in service

This is a great service that you may find useful as a concept – and if you are in Victoria or Mid North Coast of NSW.

How R U is a program that matches older people who may feel isolated with a volunteer who will call them weekly or twice weekly over 12 weeks, or until social and physical distancing restrictions are lifted.

It is being championed by leading Not For Profit operator Bolton Clarke. Principal Research Fellow Adj Prof Judy Lowthian said the program was based on a pilot she conducted in Melbourne with older people discharged from emergency departments and hospitals.

“We know the importance of social connection for wellbeing – particularly at the moment,” Adj Prof Lowthian said. “With COVID-19 people are not having as much social contact as they did before.”

Under the program, which is already operating in Victoria, Bolton Clarke will work with volunteer organisation Friends for Good to match older people with volunteers who have similar interests.

“They provide social contact and talk about news, hobbies and shared interests. What we found in our initial program is that people felt they could tell their volunteer things they couldn’t discuss with their family, because there was a degree of anonymity. After 12 weeks we found people were waiting for the call and we were able to reduce feelings of loneliness and depression and improve wellbeing.”

The program is being expanded to be available to older people in the Lake Macquarie, Port Macquarie and Tweed-Hastings local government (of NSW).

The project is funded under the NSW Government’s Combating Social Isolation for Seniors during COVID-19 Grant Program.

If you are a Village Manager in these areas and know of residents that may benefit from this service, reach out to 1300 22 11 22.

What the research tells us

COVID-19: The positive influence on retirement communities….

On a weekly basis, I am delighted to receive emails from participants in the Village Management Professional Development program about the many wonderful initiatives that are being undertaken to support retirement living residents in their villages.

Tracey Palser, the Village Manager at Catalina Village on the NSW North Coast, shared with me a simple but yet very much appreciated strategy she has put in place for the dual benefit of residents and local food suppliers. 

On a Friday afternoon, the local seafood truck, a local Fruit & Veg truck and now a coffee van visit the village. This activity has created for the residents the opportunity to gather socially (social distanced of course), support local business and maintain their sense of community.

They have also run a Better Together campaign where residents are able to request or identify other residents in the community that may benefit from some help or just a kind thought.  

It really showcases the benefits of living in small communities where neighbours still help neighbours.

See the picture – a resident had been away nine weeks having medical treatment and upon return, one of their amazingly talented residents created the beautiful Welcome Home card, taking it around to be signed by sanitised hands across the village and delivered to her door along with these cheery balloons.  

This time in suburban Queensland, the team at Wesley Missions’ Wheller on the Park have been putting in place many activities to keep their community engaged.

Balcony exercises, pavement line dancing, a roaming poet, ladies’ choir sing-a-long, a musical duo – these all perform at various locations around the village. They also had a special appearance from Brisbane Jazz Club and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.  Watch the video here.

The effort and creativity that is being displayed around the country is absolutely heart-warming – there is certainly no shortage of ideas. 

Key things to help you everyday

Time to adjust sales strategies and techniques – some practical tips

Having witnessed from afar the impact on retirement living sales during the 1980’s recession and personally been knee-deep in the impact the GFC had on retirement sales, I am confident that along with the many changes we are facing to the operations of villages, we too need to be adjusting in our sales strategies during the pandemic phase.

These changes will not only serve you well in the current climate but may also instigate strategies that will remain in your tool kit for the long term.

1. Stop selling. Start helping.

No one likes being sold to (and definitely not during a global pandemic). But people do tend to be grateful for genuine help and concern.

Move your sales approach from being focused on you, your agenda, and your product to being focused on your client. How can you help them? What help or knowledge may your organisation be able to provide during the pandemic? After all we are skilled in assisting this cohort!

2. Ask open questions

Ask open questions that focus on them and provide greater opportunity for engagement and connection such as…

  • How are you and your family adjusting to social distancing measures?
  • What sort of activities have you been able to keep up? 
  • What do you miss most?
  • Have you watched or read anything good lately?
  • Is there anything you have found useful during these times?
  • Do you need help in finding information or services?
  • Have you been running low on any supplies or found them difficult to get?
  • How can I help/be of service to you right now?

Listen to their answers. This will provide great opportunity for you or your organisation to perhaps go above and beyond – and be sure if they need help, help them – get them answers to their questions, follow up in a meaningful way, drop off a care package at their door.

3. Make an effort to move from face-to-face to voice-to-voice to (virtual) face-to-face.

Put some thought into who and how you are going to connect with various groups in your database. Make sure you add in the addition of some virtual activities. 

Obviously, a phone call is more personal than an email but a virtual connection is more personal again than a phone call. If your clients are practicing social distancing, then there is a chance they too are craving the visual contact. 

For you it also allows you to continue to put the face to a name and use their visual cues as signals during your discussion.

Apps like Zoom or Facetime are already being used to keep in touch with family and friends, so they are poised to accept this sort of communication from businesses as well.

4. Include more virtual events in your overall event planning.

COVID-19 has taught us nothing is out of the question – socially many of us have been having wine nights, book club, craft afternoons, exercise activity via an app like Zoom. So, interacting in these ways for information sessions, interviews, meet the neighbor events or get to know the team afternoons are certainly not out of the question either. Be creative – let your imagination run free – nothing ventured, nothing gained!

4. Clean up/update your CRM – and keep it updated.

No more excuses. You now have the time to clean up your CRM – anyone who knows me well knows I am a passionate CRM junkie. In my own personal experience, I have seen the strong correlation between good CRM management and long-term sales success time after time.

Again, you have the time right now. So, after every call – even the long ones – get in the habit of immediately updating the contact record in your database with notes, info on the follow-up actions, and any relevant tasks.

Importantly, put some time and thought into the categorising of each individual client – this is key in maintaining the most appropriate communication strategy for each individual.  

5. Get to know your community

With a little extra time on your hands, use this time to establish authentic connections with local influencers – butcher, baker, chemist, café, dress shop, hairdresser, doctor, physio etc. Find out from them how you can help them attract your target market, share with them the benefits of community living, share how passionate you are about the new shop local campaign – the opportunities are endless.

Further to this, look for opportunities to work with local community groups or councils on joint initiatives or apply for a community grants to run a program from the village for seniors in the wider community.

I am sure your residents will be a great source of inspiration for this activity. Establish your organisation as a strong part of the local community fabric.

Reporting Results

Challenged for time to sign up and implement the Retirement Living Code of Conduct? Now you have an extension – provisional registration is now available

The Code of Conduct is an important step in professionalising the retirement living sector. It provides a road map for best practice in resident relations and operations.

It was formally introduced five months ago by Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) and the Retirement Living Council (RLC). More than 600 villages have now signed up – a great start. They include Bolton Clarke, Oak Tree, IRT, Goodwin, Southern Cross Care WA, Masonic Care WA, Living Choice, Ryman Healthcare, Aveo, Lendlease, Stockland, Australian Unity and RetireAustralia.

However, this leaves 1,600 villages to go. To help villages, a provisional period has been established, making it easier for you to go through the process.

The RLC’s Policy and Communications Officer – Retirement Living, Patrick Tilley, says the provisional period – which could range from six up to 12 months if approved by the Code Administrator, Dr Elizabeth Lanyon, will give smaller operators the time they need to become Code compliant.

Our DCM Institute Village Management Professional Development Program makes the Code a lot simpler; we provide participants with the tools and resources to become Code compliant.

Please get in touch with Judy Martin if you would like to know more about how to access these tools.

To find out more about the Code and Provisional Registration, click here.

Latest industry developments

We’re excited – you will be too, with our new, upgraded DCMI Knowledge Centre portal

It is really important for us to project the most professional image for Village Managers. A big part of this is the presentation and ‘smarts’ behind our website – for us and for you.

This week has seen the big achievement for our DCM Institute team with the launch of our latest in learning portals, the DCMI Knowledge Centre. Check it out HERE.

We think you will be impressed. It has been nine months in development since we discovered what we thought was the best when we were in Washington DC last year visiting Leading Age, the peak association over there and we saw their learning systems.

The new portal will offer existing participants in our Village Management Professional Development a truly great experience when you access your personal records – all of which have been transferred over from our old system, plus:

  • The latest learnings technology in our Knowledge Centre
  • The opportunity to personalise your learning journey
  • Retirement Living specific topics with a variety of learning elements – videos, articles, papers, interviews, resources and tools
  • An Online Resource Bank with over 150 operational resources, templates, policies and forms
  • An Online peer discussion board
  • 4 x Professional Development workshop days

Tailor your learning journey

It’s not just the launch of the new Knowledge Centre that is exciting but also the tweaks that we have made to the already successful annual professional development program. 

Over the coming months, the DCM Institute team will be working with a variety of Industry specialist partners to include additional topics of relevance to the Knowledge Centre, affording you the opportunity to tailor your learning journey to meet your individual skill development requirements and your interest areas.

These topics will further expand into areas such as sales, marketing, integrating care, infection control, business continuity, high rise asset management and more…