We chatted with Natasha Chadwick, Founder and CEO of NewDirection Care in Bellmere, Queensland about her role as a pioneer of the aged care industry:
What was your thinking behind creating NewDirection Care?
When my mother reached retirement age, I realized change was desperately needed in the aged care industry. I was keen to create a more fulfilling and meaningful lifestyle for people in residential retirement.
The concept that I came up with and then helped evolve was that of a MicroTown™, a village-like community where people lived together and supported each other. The resident can live with the freedom and individuality of care that they needed as they progressed through their retirement.
NewDirection Care grew out of that idea. Instead of establishing large, institutional buildings, edifices so large and intimidating that it is easy to lose sight of the individual. We wanted to create an intimate environment that was more familiar and more home-like. It would be a home that was more like the resident’s pre-retirement lives.
Tell us about the micro-town concept:
The MicroTown™ that we built at Bellmere in Queensland is just like a country town. It has all the services and facilities that you might find in a small town – there’s a grocery store, a barber, a coffee shop and a fully equipped wellness centre.
The residents can visit the café every day if they wish. It has become one of the community’s most important social hubs where people meet, make friends, catch up with each other.
How do the mini-care homes work?
The residents live in common houses, with a maximum of seven people living together. They are essentially mini care homes. They look just like your home and mine. There is a lounge room and a kitchen and a living room. They are extremely comfortable and designed to be genuinely like the homes that our residents would have lived in before they retired.
What do the residents like about this living arrangement?
Living in a communal situation is a great advantage for creating friendships and relationships with other residents. Some of the men refer to themselves as housemates and they talk about it being very much like when they were at university or perhaps in the army. There is a real, tangible camaraderie about it.
They get to live together, to share a meal, to help make the meal and whatever else they might like to do within that warm space that is now their home.
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.
What are the key differences with the NewDirection Care model and other aged care operations?
At Bellmere, we challenge the institutional model of traditional aged care and focus on enabling residents to live their lives as closely as possible to what they have experienced in their own homes.
They have the necessary supports to ensure their care needs are met. This means that residents live in homes according to their lifestyle not diagnosis and are supported to be as independent as possible.
There are some major differences between our operation and others internationally. Ours is an integration of dementia care and aged care whereas in other villages the residents all experience severe dementia or Alzheimer’s. Our approach integrates aged care, dementia care, early-onset dementia care and lots of other aspects. We believe it establishes the future of aged care
Tell us about the current state of aged care in Australia:
As an aged care provider, you may be dealing with a wide range of health and support needs within your residential community including the needs of family and friends as the person in care declines.
I just do not think that people get that aged care has such diverse requirements, and as a result needs a diverse set of skills in response. Aged care in Australia as an industry is not funded appropriately and consequently, the industry generally does not have the right skill set and is often not staffed appropriately either.
What needs to change in the aged care sector to meet the current and future demands?
Aged care providers and aged care staff need the support of their community, administrators and public health officials.
Their main role should be in caring for the people living in residential aged care, making sure they receive appropriate meals, personal and health care and cleaning services, they do not have the resources to be communicating with all the different regulators and there are many as well as numerous family members and friends.
What are your plans for the future?
Later this year, we will launch a licensed version of the NDC aged care concept, providing other aged care operators with a blueprint to replicate our success and innovative approach.
We were on a growth pathway before COVID-19 hit and we had planned to launch our expansion in 2020 with a licensed product and were also looking at a new development – a vertical concept – but with the advent of the pandemic, we simply had to change direction.
At that time, we had to do everything we could to protect and look after our residents and meet the regulatory requirements. That became our focus. However, now, in 2021 we have decided that we can’t put it off and we are moving forward.
About Natasha Chadwick
Natasha Chadwick is the Founder and CEO of the aged care facility MicroTown™, NewDirection Care, Bellmere in Queensland, the first of its kind in the world. When her own mother reached retirement age, Natasha realized change was desperately needed in the aged care industry. From there, the NewDirection concept was born and she has gone on to revolutionize aged care by building a warm and caring community like no other.
About NewDirection Care
NewDirection Care is a residential community for the elderly with complex care needs and for those living with dementia or younger onset dementia. It is a place where residents can enjoy fulfilling and happy lives beyond diagnosis—socializing, staying active, pursuing hobbies and continuing to play a role in the community. https://newdirectioncare.com.au/