Group Homes Australia launches new independent living site for residents with dementia

Modern living: Co-chief executive of Group Homes Australia, Tamar Krabs, at the site of the new dementia residence at Caringbah. Picture: John Veage
Modern living: Co-chief executive of Group Homes Australia, Tamar Krabs, at the site of the new dementia residence at Caringbah. Picture: John Veage

An innovative aged and dementia care model has opened its doors in Sutherland Shire.

Group Homes Australia has launched the facility at Caringbah, and it is described as a first of its kind in the area, promising to 'do dementia differently'.

Designed as a single friendly home environment on site at Irrubel Street, the facility aims to cater for residents specifically within the community.

The model offers care for six to 10 residents living in one traditional home, on a traditional street. The home has trained staff on site, with one staff member for every three residents.

Residents are encouraged to engage in 'normal' traditional homely activities including shopping, cooking, baking and gardening. They are supported to wake up in their own time, make individual food choices, form meaningful relationships and contribute to the running of the home.

Founder of Group Homes Australia, Tamar Krebs, says the organisation's philosophy values independence and resident involvement in the daily activities of the home, where residents live with dignity and a sense of purpose in small-scale surroundings.

"For most people, home is their first preference, and when moving into care becomes more of a reality, they, and their families want options that provide high levels of respect and personal care," Mrs Krebs said.

Recent research shows more than 60 per cent of older Australians would prefer to 'age in place' by staying in their own homes, according to the Housing Decision of Older Australians report, released by the Federal Government's Productivity Commission.

However, with many older Australians waiting more than 12 months for a home care package at their assessed care level, the report states that this has led to an increasing focus on the provision of alternative aged care options.

Mrs Krebs says the social model that Group Homes Australia works within is popular overseas, but not so much on home soil.

"It's big in the US and in the Netherlands, where it has been around since the late 1960s," she said.

"There's no signage out front and it's designed to blend in and make people feel like they're part of the community, not institutionalised. Anything that was familiar to their routines, we encourage here. It gives them purpose and relevance because as their dementia progresses, society tends to exclude them."

"It's also not just an old person's disease. We cater for those with early onset dementia. We are here to support shire residents and their families at each and every stage of their dementia journey."

There is an open home on September 20-21 to coincide with Dementia Action Week in Australia (September 16-22) and World Alzheimer's Day (September 21).

Families can trial the home. Daycare centres, preschools and primary schools are also welcome to get in touch if they are interested in running inter-generational activities with residents.

The federal government announced in September it is providing an additional $3 million meet growing demand for further support and upskilling of care providers to deliver best practice dementia care and behaviour management. This will be provided to boost the sectors capacity to deliver training and behaviour management advice.

"Over ten years through the landmark Medical Research Future Fund we will invest a further $185 million into dementia, ageing and aged care," Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

"As our population continues to live longer we need to keep pace by undertaking research, and developing technology and tools to manage the effects of this condition."


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