Covid-19 Key things to help you everyday

The ongoing impact of COVID is real….for residents and you

In nearly every reach out in our customer care calls to DCMI program Members over the last month there has been deep concern for your resident and team mental health. 

With Sydney well into its tenth week of lockdown, Melbourne on lockdown 6.0 and other states never knowing when the short snap lockdowns may occur, we are hearing more and more stories of exhaustion, worry, despair, anxiousness, and so many more feelings coming to a head.   

Real COVID impacts

These stories, rightly so, often start with concern for resident mental health as village professionals listen to resident’s sharing:

  • The impact of lockdown on their own physical health
  • The inability to connect with others
  • Unsure of when they may see family and friends   
  • Missing important milestones
  • Challenges of speaking & listening through a mask 
  • Not being able to give or receive family support
  • Missing that personal touch; and  
  • In some cases the ability to attend or continue with medical treatments/reviews   

You have shared with us the obvious and visible signs these impacts are having on resident mental health.  

How COVID can impact you

On top of these concerns, you are juggling the added worries about COVID coming into your village, keeping up with the ever-changing restrictions, implementing new legislative requirements whilst managing COVID and trying to have a plan to address the increasing non-essential maintenance that has had to be delayed. 

We have seen increased feelings of isolation, managing constantly changing and differing resident expectations, and of course your concern for residents declining during this time. 

Your oxygen mask

Hearing these stories reminded us of all of the great support tools that are out there to help support your residents, your teams and so very importantly yourselves. 

You will know the old saying “you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help others” in my experience it is so true.  

There are some great resources out there to help in these times and here are a couple that come to mind:

Perhaps check out the great advice and tools available at Beyond Blue specifically the webinar below developed for Retirement Village residents and teams, which we had some input.

There are also a number of great tips from The Black Dog Institute in dealing with the impact of COVID on mental health in this article –
10 tips for managing anxiety during COVID-19 – Black Dog Institute  

Or perhaps schedule sometime to grab a cuppa and reach out to a colleague (even if you have to do it on zoom). Chances are you are both feeling the same way and sometimes a problem shared is also a problem halved…  

We are thinking of you.

Covid-19 Key things to help you everyday

What’s ageism got to do with it?

The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately shone the spotlight on some of deep-seated ageist attitudes towards older people.

As village professionals it’s important to understand how we can offer support against this.

Next month, the DCM Institute will be running a session on this very topic with Jane Mussared, chief executive of COTA SA, and Mike Rungie, Director of the Global Centre of Modern Ageing, joining us for the discussion.

As a prelude, we recommend tuning into an upcoming session from Every AGE Counts.

In what is bound to be a great discussion between Ashton Applewhite and Jane Caro, this session will cover the impact ageism is having in today’s society and what we as age service professionals should be doing to minimise it.

The session takes place on Tuesday, November 24.

You can learn more here.

Covid-19 Key things to help you everyday

Living with the pandemic – Are you prepared for the second (or third) wave?

As some of you may already know, DCM Institute’s Judy Martin also happens to be the Chair of the Global Ageing Network (GAN).

This organisation seeks to enhance the quality of life for the ageing, connecting and supporting care and service providers around the world.

Recently, Judy was part of a worldwide discussions on lessons learned from the Global COVID pandemic so far, and how these might help us prepare for future waves.

While there were many lessons identified in the discussion, Judy believes five of these are key for the retirement living sector.

  1. The important role technology played as a communication medium
  2. The benefit of mobilising the sector together to work on solutions
  3. The interaction and division between health, aged care and social care
  4. A new spotlight on improving services for older persons
  5. How ageism impacted response strategies

The DCM Institute team has also reflected on the sort of broader pandemic measures we as village professionals should think about including in our long-term business continuity plans.

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Embrace technology both in your workplace and in your ongoing village communications
    1. Establish a preferred app or software program that will be your go to communication aid. Use this in day to day communications.
    2. Tap into local technology grants and programs that can help support residents to develop their technology skills.
  2. Mobilise together and develop relationships and networks that will be valuable in the future
    1. Establish a local village professional working group.
    2. Establish a village working group with residents and head office.
    3. Reach out to past/retired team members to assess their ability to assist in emergency situations.
    4. Consider joining the DCMI Village network meetings.
  3. Ensure that your plan includes support to assist to deal with health crisis
    1. Reach out and establish a working relationships with your local Public Health Network and hospital.
    2. Enlist the services of an emergency healthcare specialist. 
    3. Set clear boundaries of where the village’s role starts and stops in regards to healthcare, and make sure all staff are across these.
  4. Heighten your focus on services that can be provided to residents
    1. Keep an eye out for further grants and programs that can benefit residents and sign up to community grants scheme notifications.
    2. Consider which resident services will be maintained as business as usual, and which ones will need to be ramped up as needed.

Further to this, in the Village Network meeting this week held by DCM Institute there was healthy discussion about the importance of building business practices in villages that consider and reflect the ongoing pandemic and natural disaster risks as business as usual.

Learning from the lessons of the first wave is the best way to inform our future actions, and drive the best outcomes for our residents.

Covid-19 Key things to help you everyday

Take a deep breath – Time to focus on team and self-care.

I speak to many village professionals on a weekly basis and in recent weeks I’ve picked up a change in tone from panic to calm, to a sense of weariness.

After months of changed working environments, having to adapt and adapt again and continually stretching both personal resources and finances village teams are becoming weary.  

A conscious understanding of how you and your team are responding to this crisis/pandemic is vital. 

As my great colleague at Human Psychology Samantha Young most recently shared, “We all respond differently to crisis. Some of us switch into ‘action’ mode and become more transactional in how we interact with others. Some of us go quiet and withdraw.”

So how can you be supporting your team and importantly yourselves amidst this ongoing uncertainty?

Samantha offered the following options that focus on the basic human needs of fulfillment, belonging and security.

Make your community a safe place to work

Are your employees concerned about the cleanliness of the environment they are working in?

Make sure you have appropriate reminders and resources to reinforce guidelines around cough/sneeze etiquette (into a tissue or elbow), social distancing reminders, hand washing practices, and staff not coming into work when they feel ill.

Update policies and procedures

Having clear policy and procedures to deal with work in a pandemic situation is vital.

Are you able to accommodate flexible working arrangements? If so what are the parameters around that? Will you be encouraging your team and self to have more regular annual leave?

Do you need to review KPI’s and performance measures? 

What additional policy do you need to encapsulate the emergency management act regulations and restrictions – recording of temperature, tracing records (i.e. physical contact with others), hygiene requirements, laundering of uniforms, etc?

Also, consider what new forms of communication policy needs to be in place? Considering things like media responses and use of electronic messaging ahead of time can save a great deal of stress.


Do what you can to take the pressure off your teams.

Recognise that we are all human and that we will all be more distracted right now.

Set expectations about failure, uncertainty, and interdependence. Ask people to speak up.

Here are some conversation starters:

  • We’ve never faced anything like this before so there are a lot of gaps in what we know.
  • We need to hear from everyone. If you’re worried, please speak up.  

It’s also important to practice active, frequent and honest communication and keep everyone informed about important issues and changes. Try to host gathering/meetings sometimes without an agenda with no order of business but to share feelings or concerns.

Mental health

Revisit how and what you can do to support your teams and own mental health.

Does everyone know how to or need to be encouraged to access the Employee Assistance Program?  Share local mental health service details. 

Normalise the conversation around mental health and well-being in team meetings and offer opportunities for suggestions around how to assist each other during this time.

Be a little more conscious and sensitive of the impact the crisis maybe having on out of work life. Many staff are unsettled or uncertain during this time, so it is important to ensure everyone feels safe, informed, and supported.

Caring during a crisis

In times of crisis, every interaction we have is telling a story about our leadership.

Being vulnerable is one of the most courageous things you can do as a leader. Engagement is going to require concerted effort and attention from leaders to build and retain trust and engender a sense of purpose and worth in their teams.

Samantha shared, “Leading during COVID-19 will require sustained energy in the face of disappointment. Passion to try again and persistence to press through obstacles. Boldness during uncertainty and endurance when it is tempting to quit.

“Belief precedes hope so give people something to believe in. Connect effort and sacrifice to the big picture. We are in for a long and bumpy ride through COVID-19. Now more than ever, we need brave leaders, dealers of hope, who can inspire, engage and genuinely care”.

If you need support don’t hesitate to reach out to the DCM Institute team at

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.


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.

Covid-19 Things to watch

How to handle Resident Meetings under COVID-19 restrictions

We have been fielding a number of enquiries around legislative obligations of operators during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Last week national law firm Minter Ellison came out with yet another great communication as a guide for retirement living operators who may have legislative or contractual obligations to call a meeting of all residents during the pandemic.

Meetings still have to be held.

Tammy Berghofer, a senior counsel at Minter Ellison shared;“The retirement villages legislation generally does not provide for any suspension of, or basis to delay, residents meetings that must occur within specified time periods”.

No state or territory has changed this in response to the COVID-19.

The Minter Ellison guide covers all this and makes recommendations. You can check it out in full here.

The first questions you will have:

Can you do video meetings?

In summary, audio/video meetings are most clearly permitted in South Australia (in all cases) and Tasmania (where an exemption from the Minister is obtained).

Operators in Queensland, New South WalesVictoria, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory can hold their meetings by audio/video means with reasonable confidence on the basis that the common law position permitting such meetings is preserved in those jurisdictions (subject to the exceptions mentioned above).

For Queensland the matter will be even clearer if the expected regulations are passed.

The position is least clear in Western Australia where the legislation may require physical meetings – regulatory guidance from the relevant authorities to put the matter beyond doubt would be ideal.

What should operators do?

Minter Ellison recommends that operators take the following approach to meetings required under the retirement villages legislation while the COVID-19 restrictions are in place:

  • Consider whether the meetings can be lawfully avoided or delayed until after the COVID-19 emergency passes.
  • If a meeting cannot be avoided or delayed (for example, because a resolution of residents is required to pass the services charges budget for the new financial year), consider whether it can lawfully be held by audio/video means instead of in person, having regard to our comments above.

    For Western Australia, it would be ideal to wait (if possible) for the government to pass regulations specifically permitting the holding of non-physical meetings to ensure there is a clear mandate to do so, and to avoid the risk of any subsequent challenge to the validity of the meeting by residents.

    In Tasmania, the safest course of action is to apply to the relevant Minister for an exemption allowing a non-physical meeting as soon as possible.

  • If a non-physical meeting is to be held, make arrangements to hold the meeting in a way that complies with the common law requirement that all parties be able to be ‘present’ with, and respond to, each other.

    This will involve selecting an appropriate communication or technology platform that allows for full communication between participants, and which can handle a large number of participants at the same time.

    Various available technology platforms allow for audio (ie telephone only) and/or video participation. They also have in-built meeting functions such as voting, sharing information or videos, asking or submitting questions, and producing a recording or transcript of the meeting.

    Operators should consider which platform is best for the type of meeting planned, and any assistance residents may require to have access, such as the installation of any necessary software or hardware in their unit.

  • Engage with the resident body (or residents committee) as soon as possible to ensure all residents are informed and consulted about the format of the meeting and any vote to be held, and that any specific concerns are addressed.

    Consider inviting residents to submit questions for the meeting in writing as soon as possible so they can be efficiently answered in the meeting.

  • Make any supplementary practical arrangements necessary to allow full participation and voting (if required) at the meeting, which may include:

         o   delivering physical ballot papers and information packages to      residents’ units;
         o   providing a locked container in the village for postal votes;
         o   providing clear instructions to residents on how to interact and vote; and
         o   checking and testing the technology before the meeting.

  • Ensure that the conduct of the meeting (particularly if a vote is to be taken) complies with all rules for meetings under the relevant retirement villages legislation and common law.

    This may include rules about the giving of meeting notices, who may attend, quorums, voting rights and proxies, voting by former residents of vacated units, the counting of votes, and recording of minutes.

Our advice: engaging the Residents Committee is always a first move.


Our COVID-19 Village Manager survey: what you told us

Over the last fortnight, nearly 300 village professionals have shared with us your honest sentiments on the impact that COVID-19 is having on your communities.

I am thrilled to inform you that the survey indicated strong levels of positivity.

It also highlighted the dedication and hard work you and your operators around the country have been doing to support your residents, staff and community, so far with the pandemic.

In short, the survey showed:

village teams were feeling well-supported and confident that your organisation could successfully navigate the pandemic
nearly 3/4 of village teams have been given the opportunity for flexible work arrangements during this time
on the whole, village teams have an overwhelming confidence in supporting residents and the community, during the crisis
The immediate concerns you raised focused around:

the decrease in sales inquiry and buyer commitment
concern for your residents in social isolation
fear for the health and safety of your residents and your teams
your ability to complete maintenance or refurbishments in a timely manner
the impact of compliance obligations
Other concerns raised included:

access to PPE if required
loss of ‘community’
reduced resident confidence
and job security for you and your team
Looking at the bigger picture, you also talked about:

the long-term implications of the pandemic
concerns around sales taking a long time to rebound
the financial viability of operators
the financial impact on residents
and the unknown.
The survey also showed you are thinking about:

resident health and engagement being a concern
what would be the impact if an outbreak occurs in your village, or a village nearby?
the media still confusing aged care and retirement villages
and the implication of compliance measures, such as buybacks
Thanks again for your participation in the survey and we hope this feedback shows you are not alone in your thinking.

Going forward we will do more surveys to hear your messages from the field – please join in.


COVID-19 sales advice: protect and nurture your existing sales funnel and database

There are understandable concerns about village sales, especially the refundable deposits and longer-term potential buyers who may think to pull out as they try to sell their homes. Have you got a plan?

I had the opportunity this week to interview Alison Abel. She is Sales Director at the leading marketing agency Marketability, but also the on the ground Sales Manager at the new village The Gracewood, at Kellyville in Sydney, a BaptistCare village.

I’ve always admired Allison for being a “doer”, a relationship builder, a fellow customer-experience junkie, and a lover of “all things retirement living”. But even more so now that I have uncovered her “WHY”.

Alison’s “why” is simply, “to provide the best customer journey to her clients that is possible”.

Long before COVID-19, Alison and her team focused on relationships, education and customer experience as a key part of her sales solution.

This included hosting information days and education sessions for potential clients; individualising client experiences (e.g. by hand-writing name cards for designated car parking spaces); and welcoming clients to The Gracewood.

In fact, Alison and her team typically have five touchpoints with clients – before they arrive for their first onsite inspection.

These strategies have allowed Alison to begin her “coping during a pandemic” journey, with an engaged database built on trusted relationships.

Coping with COVID

As soon as COVID-19 hit, Alison and her team decided to up her focus on supporting The Gracewood’s 100 incoming residents. They set out to deepen their existing relationships with prospective clients on their database.

Allison immediately instigated:

a weekly EDM to her depositors and database, to continue engagement
Zoom interviews with incoming residents to uncover their real-life stories, which were then shared with others
Five-minute videos with guest speakers around topics of interest to her prospects, which she then shared with her prospects
All of these activities have served to build on her existing relationships and are ensuring that communication channels remain open.
They also further develop the trust that has been established in The Gracewood and BaptistCare since day one.

So far, the feedback on these initiatives – from prospects, depositors and families – has been overwhelmingly positive. Many have enjoyed the opportunity to share their own stories.

Check out this example of one incoming resident, Helen, HERE.

Remember, it is a lot harder to find new buyers compared to the real buyers who already know and trust you.


Testing for Covid-19

The Prime Minister has clarified the level of testing taking place in Australia, following media comments that we are falling behind.  This is what he said in a press conference yesterday:

PRIME MINISTER: “There is some important information I wanted to relay on testing. My morning brief this morning has Australia at 162,747 tests for Covid-19. Now, to put this in perspective, the tests by 100,000 population for Australia is five times, almost five times, 4.7 in fact, what it is in the United Kingdom, it is 25 times what it is in the United States. It is even higher now than in the Republic of Korea and puts Australia right at the top of that leaders board in terms of the amount of testing that we’re undertaking in Australia. This is a very important statistic because it shows that those testing resources we are securing and we are continuing to deploy”.The Health Minister, Greg Hunt reaffirmed that aged care workers are ‘at the forefront’ of people to be supported with testing and PPEs (personal protection equipment).

At the same time the Department of Health warns aged care providers of delays in receiving PPE due to increased demand – and only masks available.

The Department says it can only provide masks at this stage with other PPE to be provided “when available” – raising questions about the PPE stocks available to providers and aged care staff.
In an email to providers, the Department says it has introduced a new process for aged care providers to access PPE supplies – asking aged care services and staff not to approach the Primary Health Networks (PHNs) but instead email for all requests.

The Department says it will then triage the requests – with priority given to facilities, programs and workers where there has been a confirmed case of coronavirus.

“It is important to remember that if you do not have a confirmed case of COVID-19 within your facility, program or service you should expect delays in receiving your PPE due to the increase in demand,” it reads.

The letter also asks providers to list in their request the details of the suppliers they have attempted to source PPE stock from – and the types and quantities of PPE required, but adds: “please note, only masks are available at this stage and other PPE will be provided when available”.

The Government had assured the sector at the previous Friday’s aged care forum on the coronavirus in Canberra that it would make the availability of PPE to aged care services a priority.