From low care to palliative care there are unique changes to refurbishing an aged care home, particularly in an occupied environment. Which begs the question; what do you need to look for in a refurbishment partner to ensure the success of your project?

Manda Kempthorne, a refurbishment project manager for Total Care (a specialist division of Total Construction) says, “First and foremost, a refurbishment project is not the same as a new build. We work in people’s homes.”

“Other challenges”, she says, “include the safety of residents, staff and visitors; ensuring subcontractors have all the relevant checks and adhere to infection control requirements; and building rapport with the care home.”

“The beauty of working in aged care is it adds soul to the construction industry.” Says Manda. “Aged care homes are just that, homes for the people who built the society we live in today and they should be treated as such. Your construction partner needs to ensure they can assemble the right team of subcontractors – people who are not confrontational, workers who are empathetic, collaborative, agile and prepared to grow and learn. Working in aged care is different to most commercial builds. Everyone is working towards the same goal. And that goal is heart, humanity and the happiness and safety of residents.”

Total Care Unique Delivery Model

“An aged care refurbishment project consists of many moving parts”, says Manda. “We need to ensure everyone in the team is across them. To upskill our teams, Total are partnering with leading aged care providers and consultants to develop what we are calling the Aged Care Essentials (ACE) Course. The ACE course will set the industry standard and is unique to construction work in aged care, says Manda. Training includes, but is not limited to, what dementia is, what behaviours are likely to be encountered and how to manage them to the best outcomes as a subcontractor working in an occupied home, tool management and infection control.”

Communication makes all the difference

Manda says communication with all stakeholders is critical, including owners, directors of nursing, staff, residents, families and the wider community.

She recommends going above and beyond to ensure the best outcomes. “We use a mixture of communication techniques to ensure everyone from the CEO to residents families are kept informed regularly on all aspects of the project including, what will be noisy, odours, where we are working and what we will be doing. Total has even started installing viewing panels in hoardings to enable residents to view the worksite and give context to any noise. It all comes down to respect and planning.”

Planning and staging must be specific to the facility

“We have worked with some of the biggest names in aged care including HammondCare, Anglicare, BaptistCare and The Salvation Army. What has become very clear is that not every aged care home is the same. It is important your construction partner understands your specific pain points, goals and the inner workings of your aged care home.”

“For example, we ask questions such as when do residents shower and have their meals? Where are the paths of travel and when are they busy? This is critical information to inform service shutdowns, working hours and delivery of materials. We must understand everything from specific infection control measures implemented in the home down to speed limits and parking restrictions. We have been known to observe quiet times for lunch and have planned work around mass times during one project where we worked adjacent to the onsite chapel. Our most important consultants are the onsite staff.”

Safety Strategy During COVID-19

The Safety of Residents and staff is of paramount importance at Total Care and is crucial amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The construction industry is well suited to dealing with site specific risks and infection control has always been a focus for Total Care within Aged Care Homes. In response, a range of critical measures have been adopted on both our construction sites and at our head office to ensure Total Care remains ahead of the game. The strategies are closely monitored and are perpetually updated to reflect government health requirements and the individual requirements of our providers. The Aged Care Team is well trained in all aspects of safety, including infection control, which is predominantly applicable to aged care. Furthermore, as a Building delivery professional operating with Aged Care providers, Total Care work to ensure the provider’s values are embraced by our subcontractors which further reinforce our belief of working collaboratively.

Quality of life is everything

Manda stresses that the face of aged care is changing. “The sector has changed immensely. We know so much more about how our built environments affect our quality of life. Whether it is a baby boomer choosing an independent living unit or someone who needs a greater level of care near the end of their time, high quality finishes and amenities that are fit-for-purpose is the new norm.”


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