NewDirection Care vs. Traditional Aged Care Facilities
Aged care comes in a variety of forms, whether it’s home care, residential aged care homes or weekly visits from community professionals. However, when we think of aged care, it’s not uncommon to think of bland, canteen-style food, ward rounds and small, stuffy rooms. September last year represented a change in the system, when NewDirection Care, an Australian and world first, opened. NewDirection Care is an inclusive community for elderly people and those living with earlier onset dementia and complex care needs. Located north of Brisbane, Queensland, this $35 million residential aged care community resembles a traditional suburbia and is already transforming the way people with dementia are treated.
NewDirection Care’s Founder and CEO, Natasha Chadwick, explained that thinking about what she would want for her own mother’s aged care inspired her to create the microtown. She explains, “In a traditional aged care environment, you’ve got 120 people under one roof. They have a large kitchen, large dining rooms, large lounge areas. What we’ve done here is we’ve created a ‘microtown’, it has streets with signs, there’s 17 houses and then there’s gardens, picnic areas and barbecue areas just like you’d see in any community.”
Instead of following the traditional aged care model, NewDirection Care facilitates 17 homes which can each accommodate seven residents. Each of these homes feature ensuite bedrooms, a shared kitchen, laundry, sitting rooms, and a front and back yard, all in a domestic and homely style. The area resembles a classic Australian suburban community, with a town centre, cinema, corner shop, café, beauty salon, GP, dentist and a wellness centre, all for use by residents, team members, families and the wider community. The community is dementia friendly and allows residents to live a full and active life.
Although this new system is revolutionary in the aged care sector, it’s no surprise that there also needs to be 24-hour support for residents. Instead of aged care nurses, NewDirection Care incorporates the use of what they call ‘House Companions’. These companions are available 24/7 and form part of the ‘family unit’ in each of the homes. They provide assistance with daily activities such as cooking, personal care and medication, and also help residents plan their day-to-day patterns, menus, activities and outings. House Companions don’t wear uniforms, and their main goal is to act as a family role within the house, forming strong and personal bonds with residents and their families.
House Companions Cathy and Jacinta explain, “In this style of aged care living, they’ve got freedom. They can get out of bed when they want to get out of bed and come and have breakfast when they want to have breakfast. We operate around them”.
“Our main thing is to spend time with them and to make sure they’re getting what they want and what they need. It’s great to come here where you’ve got everyone integrating and they’re all happy.”
“It’s a lot different than traditional aged care. They’re given the choice, it’s just like being at home. It’s quite inspiring actually, allowing them to have that freedom,” they said.
NewDirection Care’s main focus is to resemble a typical Australian suburbia for residents, and also understanding that each resident is different. Because of this, residents get to decide how they want to live their day-to-day life. There’s no regimented shower timetable, morning alarms or meal times, instead residents can choose when they wake up, what they want to eat and host or visit friends at their houses. This allows residents to live their lives how they would have done before entering an aged care facility, normalising how they live their golden years.
Residents at the facility are thrilled with this new style of aged care that’s available. Rose, a resident at NewDirection Care explains, “I’ve settled in well and I’ve found everything beautiful, and the girls there, our carers, are wonderful people, they really are. All of the staff I’ve met, I like. I would say, without a doubt, to anybody that asked me, come and join it because you’ll never get another place like it.”
John, another resident, also says, “It’s pretty much the same as home. Your meals are the same, entertainment’s the same, your ability to move and your freedom to move is the same. It’s a happy home.”
At NewDirection Care, individuality is understood and accepted, as we can’t all be expected to be the same. Residents at the facility are encouraged to cook and complete other household chores, supported by staff if required. This allows aged care residents to be more involved in their daily routine, further integrating them into the community. This is especially important for dementia patients as the non-clinical environment allows residents to make their own decisions and also assimilate into traditional, everyday life.
According to My Aging Parent, “Loss of independence occurs as people age, as they suffer physical, social or emotional setbacks which prevent them from functioning independently”. As many aged care facilities help the elderly by providing constant assistance, many residents can lose their independence, however, NewDirection Care’s model instead focuses on encouraging and supporting independence in their residents. Natasha Chadwick explains, “We don’t focus on a person’s diagnosis, we look at their lifestyle and who that person is, and then they’re placed in a house according to that, not their diagnosis.”
“We’re being able to prove that you can live as a community and support each other as a community not matter your diagnosis,” she said.