Welcome Home

Goondee Aged Care

From a brand new, state of the art building, to a warm and friendly staff, the family owned company stops at nothing to ensure that it provides a welcoming environment.

Located in Strathfield, New South Wales, the company’s new, 63 bed facility was specially designed to be like a home – not an institution. “That was hammered home to the architects and the interior designers,” Mr Doropoulos recalls. Accomplishing this goal was not easy, however; cost and regulations were quite a challenge. “We said to the builders and the designers that we want it to look like a home and not a hospital. And they just hit their heads on the wall and said, ‘you guys are mad, that’s not possible.’ But we did it.”

It took a lot of research and some creative thinking to maintain regulations and create the look and feel the team wanted. A key strategy was to use fittings and finishes that would create a welcoming atmosphere throughout the building. For example, instead of installing the vinyl floors traditionally used in hospitals, the team found vinyl flooring that looks like timber planks yet still meets regulations. “It gives a strong impression of a timber floor and just feels warmer,” Mr Doropoulos explains. The building also has real timber handrails lining the walls, rather than institutional looking plastic. “It just makes it feel nicer.” Designer blinds line large windows, which bring in plenty of natural light.

Extra storerooms and cupboards were included in the design so that medical equipment could be stashed out of sight. “If you have that sort of equipment lying around it is not going to feel like a home,” Mr Doropoulos points out. “You don’t have lifting equipment or trolleys lying around in your hallway, so they had to be put away here. It was an important part of the initial design.”
Hallways were widened and shortened to avoid long, institutional looking corridors. Bathrooms were designed to be extra-large to comfortably accommodate shower beds and reclining shower chairs. In addition, customised bathtubs with special lifting systems allow residents to enjoy the luxury of a warm, relaxing bath. There are sunrooms, courtyards, and “all the extra details that you would expect in a home.”

The new building even has a state of the art commercial kitchen so that staff can bake cookies, cakes, and bread onsite. Providing comfort food – and the cosy smells that come with it – is not cheap, but well worth the added cost and effort, Mr Doropoulos says. In fact, the staff reports that smelling and eating the fresh baked goods calms residents who are suffering from dementia because the experience is familiar and reassuring. “All these little things make a difference.”

Building a facility from scratch has also enabled the team to install the very best in security, safety, and technology. Cameras are installed throughout the public areas and call buttons are everywhere. “Anyone anywhere on the property is within a couple meters of a nurse call button. We’ve also included the latest state of the art fire systems. We went for the top end because it gives us peace of mind. If anything happens we know we have done absolutely everything technologically possible. And I think it gives peace of mind to the relatives to know that their family member is in a building that has the best technology.”

Pulling out all the stops has a price, of course. “Financially it was very painful,” Mr Doropoulos shares. But, residents’ wellbeing, as well as the long-term future of the company, must come first, he explains. “It wasn’t about making a quick buck. It was about building something that will be lasting and viable.”

Families are thrilled with the results and are visiting the new facility far more often than the old one. Weekdays bring about 50 visitors a day, while more than 100 people flood into the building on Saturdays and Sundays. This increase in visitors is clear evidence of success, Mr Doropoulos points out. “People tell us that it is like a family outing; it’s not clinical, there isn’t a hospital feeling. They are comfortable bringing their children. We have achieved that feeling of a home.”

Goondee Aged Care is a family affair; Mr Doropoulos shares Managing Director responsibilities with Peter Raskopoulas, whose parents founded the company. shares the of running the business. Mr Doropoulos’ son in law, Matt Mearns, is Director of Business Development, and Raskopoulas’ daughter also holds a management position. The entire family takes an active role in day to day operations, with the original founder still regularly checking in on the facility. “My father in law, who is 85 years old, still visits to see what’s going on,” says Mr Doropoulos. His guidelines are simple: “If he is not happy to be there, nor is anyone else. He is our quality control in a sense, because he doesn’t care about the money. If [anything] is not good enough, he tells us to fix it. And we do what we have to do to work it out. We work hard to come up with solutions.” The end goal is always to create “an environment that makes you feel homely. It’s got to be a home. That is Dad’s bottom line.”

The family welcomes honest communication, which helps the facility run smoother and ensures efficiency. “The staff feel comfortable speaking to us; they know they are speaking directly to the decision makers. We aren’t just names in an office. We don’t have that typical corporate culture. We are very laid back.” As a result, staff are able to present their concerns and suggestions – and see results.

Goondee Aged Care employees have reacted positively to having their voice heard and, not surprisingly, many of them have stayed with the company long term. This provides a level of expertise and experience that is crucial in a facility that specialises in caring for residents who have the most demanding needs. “This is not a technical term, but we find we attract people who are very high care,” Mr Doropoulos explains. “Social workers, hospitals, and doctors, are recommending us [for this highest level of care] because of our reputation in that area.”

The company also supports ongoing training to ensure that the care is top notch, as well as to provide opportunities for hard working employees. “We have supported quite a number of our staff through education and training,” Mr Doropoulos reports. “Many staff have come in at low levels of nursing and have progressed through the ranks. We see a long term benefit from that.” The company also runs a student trainee program, providing more hands on deck to interact with residents and ensuring that the next generation of aged care employees will be well prepared for the job.

With a new, state of the art facility and a dedicated staff, Goondee Aged Care has earned a glowing reputation. The potential for growth is certainly there, but the family is committed to putting residents before profit. As a result, the team is happy to keep the business at its current size. “You don’t want to get to the size where you are detached from what is going on. We do not want to be removed. We want to be a part of it.” It is this hands-on attitude that has enabled the family to offer an alternative to dreary, institutional-style living. And the family’s commitment to stay involved will ensure that Goondee Aged Care remains a place where residents will feel at home.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 5:32 PM AEDT