Sarah Harris Meets NewDirection Care CEO Natasha Chadwick
Natasha Chadwick is the Founder and CEO of the nursing facility microtown, NewDirection Care, Bellmere in Queensland – the first of its kind in the world.
When her own mother reached retirement age, Natasha realised change was desperately needed in the aged care industry. From there, the NewDirection concept was born and she has gone on to revolutionise aged care by building a warm and caring community like no other.
“I had to stop when mum retired, and think ‘what would I want aged care to look like if it was my mum?’” Reflecting back Natasha admits the answer was “pretty confronting to realise that after eighteen years of working in the sector it’s not what I would want for her, or for myself.”
After 18 years working as the National Executive Officer for the National Association of Nursing Homes, she wanted to put back into aged care all the things she felt were missing. Her plan was to create a rich and rewarding environment for the elderly.
Natasha’s passion and drive to make a difference in aged care was recently recognised when she won the 2019 Telstra Queensland Business Woman of the Year, followed by the top prize – the 2019 Telstra Australian Business Woman of The Year.
About NewDirection Care, Bellmere in Queensland
NewDirection Care at Bellmere is a residential community for the elderly and for those living with younger onset dementia and complex care needs. It is a place where residents can enjoy fulfilling and happy lives beyond diagnosis — socialising, staying active, pursuing hobbies and continuing to play a role in the community, creating a world that is close to normality. It is the way forward for our elderly and those living with dementia.
“Instead of building large non-descript institutional buildings filled with dozens of patients, we have created a micro town of 17 domestic-style homes that each house seven residents who live together,” says Natasha. “The town contains all the services you would expect from a normal suburb. There is a wellness centre, hairdressers and shopping centre where residents can continue to remain active and perform the daily tasks of living safely and independently.”
Key to Natasha’s remarkable vision is allowing residents to retain a sense of independence. She says: “If someone can do something our job is to help them do it, instead of taking it away from them.”
By providing an environment that is safe and familiar, the community aims to relieve the anxiety, fear and confusion that some older people and those living with dementia feel.
As research and anecdotal evidence have shown, access to garden greenery and outdoor spaces has a positive impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of people with dementia. But many elderly care nursing homes don’t have the space to provide anything more than maybe a small garden. The Bellmere residents can make the most of the bounty of outdoor spaces right on their doorstep in the two-hectare community. For starters, each house has a spacious front yard and back garden. Then there are attractive communal and BBQ areas. Many residents enjoy preparing and enjoying meals together as a household in these communal spaces.
Natasha is proud of the community she has created, adding: “Our shopping arcade serves the entire community with a range of shops and services including a corner store, café, cinema, GP clinic, dental clinic, wellness centre, hair and beauty salon, barber and more.
“Bellmere residents have their own daily routines, not one that is forced upon them. They are free to spend their days how they like, just as they would if they were living back in their previous home.
“Residents get up and go to bed when they want, can join in with preparing their meals, pop into the neighbours for a chat and are free to wander down to the retail precinct to shop and see what’s going on. In short, they can live as independent a life as is possible.”
There are 97 residents, ranging in age from 47-101, needing various levels of care. There are eight residents to each share house, and each house has a House Companion™ Support Worker who takes care of the caring, cleaning, cooking, medication and mental and physical support of the residents.
“Our homes represent six different lifestyles, so a resident gets to live the lifestyle they are used to – modern, contemporary, and traditionalist.”