“IT’S the best thing we’ve ever done,” says Heywood Rural Health aged care resident Barry Sharrock.
“The other kitchen was a sardine tin.”
Mr Sharrock should know – he’s been a resident for several years and his complaints would have been echoed by many who used its old kitchen.
But no longer, after a major refurbishment project – still in progress – that has seen the poky old Surry Hall kitchen go and be replaced by something state-of-the-art.
HRH received $550,000 from the state government’s building works fund for refurbishing the hostel and nursing home and $90,000 from the regional health infrastructure fund for the kitchenette.
The refurbishment of the residential aged care centre is one of two large projects that HRH has been working on during the coronavirus pandemic – the other being the community health hub – and it has been a testament to all involved that the battle against lockdowns, contractor restrictions and now materials shortages has seen the projects get so far (the community health hub, to be profiled in a future Heywood Herald, is finished).
And it has been a long journey as well, particularly for the kitchenette, which is now about three times as large as it was.
“Five years ago the dining room was opened but it left a void in the middle of the old infrastructure,” said HRH support services manager Leigh Beddows, a former chef.
“It was always in the original plan for a kitchenette to be built as part of that but due to funding issues it wasn’t completed.
“The idea was to create a space that was suitable for residents living in aged care and the operational day to day business of staff.
“To get a commercial kitchen in an aged care setting is a challenge – you’ve got to get the industrial to meet the domestic.”
The planning began in August 2018 and involved residents as well as staff – the Observer reported in September 2020 that HRH had received the funding and begun the project.
Mr Beddows had the idea for stainless steel industrial kitchen – “never in a million years did I think this was the final product” – and there were plenty of other ideas as well to make it user friendly for everyone.
They include height-adjustable benches that automatically stop and reverse if they touch something such as a resident’s wheelchair or body, plenty of room for everyone to move around allowing staff to work as usual while residents come in and out, power points suspended from the ceiling, a sliding glass door oven and portable induction cookers (once a pot is removed the surface cools immediately) that can be used almost anywhere on the benchtops.
Residents were concerned about storage and asked for drawers instead of cupboards for better accessibility and a glass door for the fridge, allowing them to see everything inside.
The entire kitchen is wheelchair accessible as well.
“Residents can make their own toast, a cup of tea and be involved in cooking activities as well as serving and feeding.” Mr Beddows said.
“Staff working in the kitchenette have now also got visual eye contact on residents in the dining room whereas they didn’t previously.
And there was as much a sense of relief as anything.
“It’s taken just under four years to completion,” Mr Beddows said.
“Obviously dealing with COVID there were no contractors allowed in residential aged care and then there was a shortage of materials.”
But it has all been worth it.
“This is targeting living life in residential aged care,” Mr Beddows said.
“The facilities and the entire project were about (residents) being able to use it.”
Meanwhile the residents’ rooms are also on the verge of a major makeover.
Chief Executive Leigh Parker said the refurbishment had started in Fitzroy Lodge, one of three wings in the aged care hostel and which caters for those living with dementia.
It involved things like carpeting and painting the area, after consulting with Dementia Training Australia, to make it more suitable for residents by making patterns that create triggers instead of confusion.
The first of the residents’ rooms has also had a makeover which will go to the entire hostel’s 45 or so residents (there are 13 in Fitzroy Lodge) for consultation before being rolled out further.
“That will probably take another six months,” Mr Beddows said.
“We’ll be moving residents out of their rooms for three or four weeks each on a rolling basis as we get the rooms done.”
Well done to all those involved in the planning and execution of this project. This is an amazing facility for the residents, making their homes so much more comfortable, exciting to use and get involved in everyday activities.