Australia’s aged care industry has an opportunity to make a huge difference in the delivery of quality palliative care across the country, says one of the industry’s leading CEOs Natasha Chadwick.
Natasha, the CEO of NewDirection Care located in Bellmere, Queensland, runs one of the most innovative and ground-breaking aged care facilities in Australia.
The company’s policies on palliative care are designed with the needs of individual residents in mind and provide initialised services to ensure residents dignity and comfort as they come to the end of their lives.
“Here at NewDirection Care, we don’t send anyone to hospital for palliative care, which is very rare compared with other aged care facilities,” says Natasha, who has more than two decades experience in the aged care industry. “In fact, we have only ever had two residents pass away in hospital and that was because they were already there for treatments.
“Of course, we have the right procedures and a well-trained team in place to do this. It’s important to make sure that on admission, residents and families are consulted about their advanced care plans and lodge their final wishes properly with their GP so everyone knows clearly what they want.”
If other providers in the aged care industry embraced similar approaches, then the industry as a whole could help alleviate some of the public health care burden from the hospital system.
“By providing palliative care here at NewDirection Care, we help relieve the pressure from hospitals caring for our residents,” she says. “COVID-19 has also taught us that we can use tele-health effectively as well. Again, this lessens the burden on hospitals.”
Not only that, but the aged care facilities run by Natasha also conduct regular audits surrounding the death of a resident, designed to quickly identify and remove problems or barriers in the provision of care.
“It may sound a bit strange, but we conduct death audits so that we can improve the way that we handle dying and death,” says Natasha. “So far, we’ve never had any negative feedback.”
Natasha is both a founder and CEO of NewDirection, an aged care concept that puts the resident at the centre of the decision-making process and encourages continued individual independence, especially in the high care aspects of caring for the aged and ill.
“We operate on the basis of values and those values are in everything that we do,” Natasha says. “So, you know, residents are treated as an individual. They are not one of crowd, which happens a lot in an institutional setting.
“We believe in community and the importance of community as well as the individual. Respect – it is particularly important that we have respect for relationships in everything that we do. Empathy. “When you are dealing with a family who is struggling to understand what is happening with their loved one, empathy is incredibly important, as it is when providing care and support to a person requiring care. And of course, relationships. If we don’t form really good and strong relationships with residents and their families, you know, it’s really difficult for us to actually understand what level of care they need, what it is that they need from us.”
This approach, she says, will become increasingly valuable in Victorian aged care facilities during the coming days and weeks as they experience a mounting second wave of COVID-19 infections.
The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has identified outbreaks in at least 28 aged care homes facilities with at least 100 coronavirus cases among residents so far.
The good news, says Natasha, is that the Federal Government seems to have recognised that aged care residents need the same access to hospitalization as other members of the public.
When asked during the week if infected aged care residents should be taken to hospital, Health Minister Greg Hunt said: “So what we’ve done is made sure that every facility immediately has access to hospital, to removal, to another facility, or to isolation. Those medical decisions are being made on the ground, but this is something that the Prime Minister and myself and Richard Colbeck, the Aged Care Minister, have been incredibly focused on.”
Significantly, following Mr Hunt’s statement, the entire remaining resident population of the Menarock Life aged care facility in Essendon, a 55-bed home, was removed to a private hospital after one of the most concerning Victorian aged care outbreaks.
“We understand this is a very stressful time, both for the residents being moved, and their families,” Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said. “However, we believe this is a necessary step to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of the residents currently living in the Menarock Life facility.”