The top 3 things families need from any manager of residential aged care

When families move someone they love into a residential aged care setting, it is almost always done grudgingly and with lots of emotions attached. While they will have accepted that it might be ‘the best thing’, at some level they remain on high alert for either confirmation that it was the ‘right thing’ or worse confirmation that they really are a bad daughter, son, sister etc. How this transition is handled by facility staff sets the scene for the future relationship with the family and can and does in many cases impact future complaints.

TriCare sets standard for aged care on Brisbane’s north side

Saturday marked the official opening of our state-of-the-art extension to TriCare Stafford Lakes Aged Care Residence at Chermside West.

Following a $22 million investment, the purpose built 73-bed extension leads the way in changing aged care perceptions for the future, with a focus on high quality care and the latest in clinical technology.

TriCare Aged Care Manager, Daniel Aitchison says the new extension raises the bar in aged care living on all levels.

“With care at the core of everything we do at TriCare, this investment means residents can age in place, receiving the quality of life they expect and deserve.

Our Stafford Lakes Aged Care Residence has always experienced strong occupancy, with an ongoing demand for availability. With the addition of 73 new beds, we are making a positive step towards addressing the aged care needs of the Chermside community and surrounding areas,” said Mr Aitchison.

The new extension offers residents spacious luxury accommodation with European style ensuites, individual climate controlled air conditioning, German designed and built automated bed recliner, large wall mounted flat screen TV with Foxtel and wifi.

“Moving forward TriCare has committed $100 million to new developments in the aged care market in Queensland and Victoria.

We believe this investment is a step towards addressing the needs of our aging population and meeting the demands for a higher standard of care from consumers and their families,” said Mr Aitchison.

With the latest in premium aged care accommodation and five star hospitality the new extension provides a very modern take on the future of aged care living.

“We want our residents to enjoy everything that Stafford Lakes has on offer, from the restaurant quality meals to the stylish light filled communal lounge areas throughout the building. It’s important to us that our residents feel relaxed and at home here,” said Mr Aitchison.

Furthering TriCare’s commitment to keeping residents in their homes and communities longer, TriCare Stafford Lakes Retirement Community is ideally located close by making easier transition between the two should the need arise.


What it takes to be an agile employer in a complex industry

Good care for residential aged care residents is contingent upon the availability of qualified, motivated and experienced employees at all levels of the organisation. From the kitchens to the laundry, to the clinical team to management services, this is an industry that asks a lot of its employees.

The role of our front line care employees continues to evolve with skills shifting considerably over the past 10 years. Increasingly our employees undertake more and more complex care as residents come to us with a greater level of acuity, many with cognitive impairment or other mental health issues. They do this while managing complex relationships with both residents and their families and do so in an environment where the media focus has been on negative stories about resident care rather than on the wonderful work most people in our industry are doing each and every day.

Mum, what are you doing?

Christmas is a time when families spend more time together than they would ordinarily do throughout the year. Lots of families notice over the Christmas break, that perhaps things for their parents or older relatives are not going as well as they thought. We often receive calls from distressed family members early each New Year wanting to talk about some things that they noticed while enjoying extended family time.

Meet Blake Johnston

Meet the man working to change the dining experience for the residents of TriCare’s aged care services.

As part of our continuing series introducing you to the TriCare team, we are pretty excited to introduce you to Blake Johnston. Blake leads our food services team, and by lead we mean, inspires, challenges, develops and creates an exceptional team of professionals who are committed to improving the quality and delivery of food services for our residents. To Blake, this isn’t just a job, it’s a passion for excellence and a drive to re-engineer how food is not only delivered in aged care but thought about, created and experienced by our customer, the resident.

We spent some time speaking with Blake about his role and his present and future goals and this is what he had to say.

Tell us about your role at TriCare.

Firstly, you have to know that I love it, it’s challenging, but I love it.

In day to day terms my role is to build a first class team of food service professionals within each of our residences who share TriCare’s vision for delivering fresh, creative, nutritious and delicious food for our residents. This means supporting our staff to move beyond traditional models of food delivery to services that are reflective of the things our residents like to eat and that also meet their particular requirements be they health or lifestyle related.

At the moment I am concentrating on building the team that will deliver this vision. The recruitment process for our chefs is rigorous and rightly so, because we only want people who really understand quality food delivery and who are committed to being a part of the aged care industry. They need to lead the change within their own services and kitchens, they are ultimately responsible for every dish that leaves their kitchen and therefore I am working hard to make sure that everyone in the food services team is 100% on board with the changes we are making.

Together with specialist dieticians I am also creating menus and sourcing the best quality ingredients from our fresh food suppliers for use in our residences. This also means that there is an on-going program of training and support for our Chef Managers and their teams to make sure we get this right.

You could say that I am busy at the moment, but the changes we have seen so far make the late hours and the challenges worth it.

What attracted you to the Aged Care industry?

Look, there is a perception out there about how food is delivered in aged care. I just knew there was a better way, a different way of thinking about managing and delivery food services for older Australians in residential care.

I just really wanted to affect a positive change for residents of residential aged care. I thought I can lead the change I want to see, so I took a leap of faith, had my plan ready and found a great aged care provider who were ready to step up their food services and they gave me the brief I wanted… to re-position food services in TriCare to meet the real needs and expectations of our residents.

How do you ensure you are meeting the dining expectations of your residents?

I am really aware of how important food services are to our residents. Dining is more than just the food it’s about the opportunities for social interactions between residents that are created as they dine that are enhanced by the quality of the food being offered. Not only does the food itself offer a topic of discussion between residents, but the ambiance created in the way in which it is presented and delivered also promotes better social discourse. Take for example, one our Chef Managers who routinely travels between dining rooms, within his residence preparing food in front of residents on sizzler plates. I mean this is what creates the experience, this creates conversation and the residents love the intimate interaction and the show. It remains a talking point for residents well after the meal has finished and when we hear those conversations we know we are on the right track.

Of course we also encourage all of our residents to provide direct feedback via resident meetings which I attend when possible, and from our feedback forms, which are available to residents in every dining room. Believe me, our residents are not shy in letting us know how they feel and we are happy to hear about it. We cannot fix what we do not know about.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned during your career in aged care?

Listen to your residents. Make sure you have good open two way communication in place with your team and most of all, don’t be afraid to try new things.

What things are you working on right now that you are excited about?

Probably the biggest thing I am working on right now is building the team and making sure we get the communication happening. We have introduced a newsletter which circulates around our Chef Managers and this not only shares information but also has led to some collaborative innovations in our food services… we are kind of bouncing off each other in print if you want to think of it that way. I do see though, that a big part of my role as we roll out the changes is in making sure those people who are at the frontline of our services are well supported and well informed.

The other thing I am working on is in introducing grazing platters for our dementia residents. This approach is well documented in the research and gets away from the distress some of our residents with dementia can feel when they are locked into eating meals in a more formal way at a table setting. This is person centred in every sense of the word and responds well to ensuring this resident cohort continue to eat and to eat well.

On top of that we have also rolled out, at three of our residences so far, a breakfast buffet trolley. The trolley offers residents a selection of breakfast items which are offered in the resident’s room. We really want to get away from the pre plated tray with the items on it we think our residents want. We are giving our residents choice and control over their meals and so far this has been very well received.

Lastly, I am working on creating a whole of organisation culture around food services and driving the difference TriCare wants to be in valuing and respecting our residents.

Finally, what beliefs sit behind how you approach your work?

I believe we all should ‘be the change we want to see’. In other words, if you want things to improve then be that person who makes the change. Do it from the inside, work beside people and keep going til you get there.. oh and don’t expect instant success.. change takes time.

Tips for making a successful transition to aged care

If working in aged care is complex and challenging, then spare a thought for the residents and their families who come to us looking for an admission into one of our Aged Care Residences. More often than not, they make the contact because of a significant health event affecting someone they love and care about. When they make that call they don’t expect that they will end up having to become a ‘quasi’ social worker, case manager and financial advisor all rolled into one. To add to the burden decisions always seem to need to be made quickly to secure the bed or to respond to a hospital pushing for discharge.

In an ever-changing aged care landscape it is easy to lose your way

The Senior Leadership of TriCare recently came together for a 2 day workshop under the facilitation of Dr Edwin Trevor-Roberts. Their aim was to come together to proactively and positively work through the challenges and the opportunities that they face as individuals as well as an organisation.

In the words of Dr Trevor-Roberts…

“Leading aged care providers are those who have the adaptability to adjust to constant change and have fresh thinking to keep the best possible service front of mind for their customers. It all starts with having leaders who constantly scan the external environment to stay aware of the changes and have the leadership skills to embed change into their organisation.

The recent TriCare 2 day leadership forum was designed to do exactly this. The leaders undertook an exhaustive review of the external changes impacting on the organisation and distilled these down to a series of questions they now use to remain responsive to new changes.

The leaders then went one step further and applied this thinking to themselves. Through an in-depth exploration of their identity as a leader, the cohort identified not just the behaviours they need to lead successfully into the future, but the mindset they need to display their best leadership.

Amongst the busy-ness of organisational life in the aged care sector, we need to sometimes just stop and reflect on the impact we are making.

The engagement, energy and enthusiasm in the room shows that TriCare is a great organisation with outstanding leaders.” Dr Edwin Trevor-Roberts

For more information about the difference TriCare is making in the lives of their residents visit

For more information about the work of Dr Trevor-Roberts visit

Lighting of the tree welcomes the beginning of the festive season

Steeped in tradition, catering for the annual ‘lighting of the tree’ on December 1 is just one event head chef Jamie Thomas-Davies, and his team at TriCare Runaway Bay Retirement Community will create delicious food for to celebrate the festive season.

The lighting of the tree was made even more memorable this year with Mr Thomas-Davies creating a special high tea to mark the occasion.

Let’s talk about aged care

Christmas is such a lovely time of the year when families all get together to celebrate the festive season.

It can also be a time where first changes are noticed – grandma has lost weight, grandpa isn’t as mobile as he used to be or elderly parents don’t seem as well as usual.

Starting a conversation about aged care isn’t easy. It can be fraught with emotion, and the aged care industry can often seem like a complex legal and financial maze.

Community Care vs Residential Care – A family perspective

As an industry we need to be more comfortable about speaking out about the realities of both in home and residential aged care services and acknowledge that neither one is superior. What they are is different. Meeting different needs of different people at different times but with the same basic aim, to give good care and support a good life.