Media and political commentary have focused on the state of aged care residences since the coronavirus pandemic gripped the nation. 

Still, one home has tackled the crisis proactively to ensure their residents are safe and happy. 

Hepburn House is a progressive aged care centre located in Daylesford just over an hour outside of Melbourne. 

A government-funded aged care facility, Hepburn House offers all levels of care, from permanent to respite, in a comfortable home-style environment, and being Rainbow Tick accredited, they provide safe care for the LGBTQI community.

They value an inclusive and collaborative culture that contributes to their success by providing an equitable and inclusive environment for all service users, including those from LGBTQI communities. 

Dianne Jones, facility manager at Hepburn House, said the staff were putting a lot of work into ensuring they have a detailed COVID-safe plan.  

“We did not have any positive cases in the facility,” she said. 

“The whole shire itself has not had any active cases since there were two in March which have since been resolved.” 

Ms Jones said they understand how important it is to ensure residents remain connected to their loved ones. 

“We are trying to make sure they get as much family contact as they can,” she said. 

“We have visiting restrictions in place with hours between 9am and 4.30pm with a maximum of one visitor per day for up to one hour.

“We have a booking system as well to make sure we can keep track of it.” 

The staff have not stopped there and have made an even more significant effort to help their residents take advantage of technology and FaceTime to chat with their family and friends.

Ms Jones said they also have a jam-packed social schedule which a lot of residents take part in. 

“We still have some Zoom entertainment which they watch as a group,” she said. “We are still going on little drives around the town to get them out and about. We have even purchased new games to keep them entertained.” 

 Some of the love and positivity among the facility has been shared online with residents holding up messages on whiteboards to share with the community. 

Ranging from encouragements to mask up and words of love and support to positive messages such as “laughter is the best medicine”, the heartwarming pictures are enough to put a smile on anyone. 

When COVID-19 first started cropping up with cases in Australia, Hepburn House’s staff rallied to put necessary measures in place. 

“Before the second wave, I had another audit done to make sure we were doing everything we could to protect our residents,” Jones said. 

“That audit told us that it was necessary to concentrate on staff training when it came to wearing personal protective equipment, so our staff are now really well practised in that area.

“I had the Victorian Aged Care Response team come out a couple of weeks ago, and they sent us an email congratulating us on our preparedness.”

Ms Jones said everyone is relatively optimistic about the situation, in part, due to the home’s priority in having an open communication line with both residents and their families. 

“I make sure I am chatting to the residents, and I also have a text system to message their loved ones to make sure they are up to date,” she added. 

“Our staff here are delightful, in fact, a lot of them also identify as LGBTQI, and they are all going the extra mile to help out.

“It’s a very friendly and inclusive environment and staff members often have a cup of tea and a chat with our residents.”

 Ms Jones said due to recent media scrutiny and political commentary that some people considering whether or not they should go into aged care might be put off. 

“I think people might find it a bit daunting,” she said.

“I think it has been regrettable that all the attention has made it seem like aged care is a scary place. I believe in reality, most of our residents would say their life has changed for the better.

“I would encourage those people to reach out and let us talk them through any concerns they might have.”

Ms Jones said despite everything happening around the world Hepburn House is still finding ways to be a leading provider of aged care.

The facility has a planned extension, which has been delayed slightly due to COVID-19, but will be opening in 2022. The extension will feature a 31 bed LGBTQI and friend’s wing which will cater to residents with dementia and will be gym and theatre equipped. 

The friendly staff encourage anyone with questions or concerns to reach out and call them on 03 5348 8100 or to check out their website for more information.

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