Natasha Chadwick, CEO and Founder of NewDirection Care, writes about why we need to look at aged care and dementia in a new light.
When it comes to aged care the questions that the Australian community needs to ask itself are: do we still think it’s okay to segregate someone who is living with dementia from other people in a secure environment?
Is it okay to criminalise someone who is living with a brain injury or brain disease? If you had a loved one in this situation, it’s not what you would want for them.
Australia needs a radical rethink about aged care. This was the main thrust of my speech when I accepted the Telstra Business Women’s Award last year, and my view is that now, more than ever, it needs to be higher on our national agenda.
It was this desire to do things different which ultimately drove me to create NewDirection Care. I wanted to improve the lives of the people who lived in the microtown that my company created. At the same time, I wanted to demonstrate that change and innovation can be achieved in the area of aged care.
As a society, we need to rethink the way that both aged and dementia care is delivered so that older Australians and people living with dementia can continue to live meaningful lives beyond their diagnosis.
What led to the vision behind NewDirection Care?
I came up with the idea of NewDirection Care because of my desire to change the way we care for elderly members of society and those living with dementia.
I had been growing increasingly frustrated with the traditional institutional model of care which is segregated and task-driven and doesn’t treat residents as individuals. They have little or no independence and are forced into regimented schedules of waking, dressing, eating and sleeping. This is simply not the way to live!
There hadn’t been significant innovations in the industry for decades. No other industry would tolerate such inertia, yet aged care is much more important because we are dealing with people’s lives.
My desire to do something radically different was reinforced by research coming out of universities and Alzheimer’s organisations around the world that revealed that the traditional way of doing things is frankly not helpful and that people living with Alzheimer’s can thrive when given their freedom and independence.
They do well when they have some control over their lives, are part of a community and live in familiar, home-like surroundings. Understanding this channelled my thoughts into the best ways of making all of this happen..
How is NewDirection Care different?
NewDirection Care is based on a different model of residential aged care. At NewDirection Care, each resident is treated as an individual. There are no regimented eating times, showers times, visiting times or other fixed points in the day or week that can threaten a person’s autonomy. We respect the right of individuals to make their own decisions. Within each home, residents can even choose to help with the preparation of meals, all of which are enjoyed family-style.
The residents enjoy the same freedom they had prior to living in residential aged care, basically living to their own schedules.
Seeing residents who are living at NewDirection Care with dementia, smiling and happy and getting on with living, is hugely rewarding. Now I’m motivated to get this new way of providing residential aged care become the norm by licensing the concept. And letting everyone know it is now available for other care providers.
NewDirection is not just about creating my own business to provide individualised care, I want to change the industry.