Natasha Chadwick, Telstra’s Business Woman of the Year 2019, wants to change the way the world looks at aged care.
As we age, the need for respectful and individualised care becomes paramount. But as aged care became industrialised, the needs of the individual were potentially overlooked in the pursuit of large-scale care. That’s why we founded NewDirection Care at Bellmere.
At NewDirection Care, my team and I are on a mission to flip the script on aged care for the better, and forever. Our work at Bellmere has been positive, and now we’re eager to expand our model of care internationally.
It takes a village
NewDirection Care’s philosophy is simple: rather than filling a large building with many residents to provide care, a small residential township is built to deliver care that focuses on the individual in a community setting. 17 domestic-style homes are created, which can house seven residents each. The community at NewDirection Care at Bellmere, Queensland is the first of what we call a “microtown™”.
Developed especially for the elderly and those living with younger onset dementia and complex care needs, the microtown™ community model gives back freedom to residents and is just like any small suburban town.
It has 17 homes, plenty of outdoor space, BBQ areas, a retail precinct with shops, a café, cinema, wellness centre, barbers, beauty salon and much more. Residents are encouraged to pursue hobbies and passions in the community and socialise with other residents.
Traditional aged care facilities are built around a regimented structure. Meal times, activity hours and sleeping periods are often mandated for residents in large scale care facilities. We saw an opportunity to flip this model around: instead of regimented schedules, NewDirection Care supports the autonomy of its residents.
Residents decide when they get up in the morning, when they go to bed in the evening, when they eat and when they socialise so as not to oppose personal autonomy. Use of outdoor spaces is encouraged, and freedom of movement for residents is paramount to NewDirection Care’s success as an individualised care community.
Residents are supported in their homes by personal carers called House Companions™ who provide relationship-based support and personalised care for each individual’s needs. Pets are also welcomed into the community and embraced as great companions.
Focus on the individual
The NewDirection Care model recognises that each resident is an individual with wants and needs that go beyond a simple diagnosis. The microtown™ model is built around respecting the individual and allowing them to flourish, rather than segmenting and segregating them inside a rigid, diagnosis-based structure. Residents are encouraged to lead an independent life and contribute to their community, which in turn supports them.
This focus on the individual is key to success. I believe that prioritising the needs of the individual in all of our business interactions increases the inclusivity of our business overall.
Some of my greatest mentors also prioritise the importance of the individual and I’ve had some amazing mentors in my journey. My business partner Arthur Brotherhood always championed me as a woman. Even though we were equal partners, people would come to him with questions and for answers. Instead of answering, he would always refer them back to me and honour the fact that we were partners.
From the microtown™ to the world
The theme for this year’s Telstra Business Women’s Awards program was literally about ‘undoing business’ – taking traditional mindsets and turning them upside down. Each of us has to look at our own industries, to not settle for the status quo, and instead step out of the shadows and spearhead the world that we want to see, so that present and future generations benefit from what we have to offer.
I believe that’s exactly what I’ve done with NewDirection Care. We’ve taken a traditional sector, a whole industry, and demonstrated that you can actually turn it upside down to change the way we provide aged care to people living in our communities. It can be much better than what it currently is.
I’ve got a very clear vision and goal of what we want to achieve, and we’ve always had that. Certainly, having to articulate what we want to achieve through the Telstra Business Women’s Awards process has made it even clearer. I now have the validation that we’re on the right track, and the extra encouragement to take NewDirection Care to the next level.
My role now as founder and CEO of NewDirection Care is to grow it into a national and international aged care brand. Through partnerships and licensing that ensure that NewDirection Care MicroTowns are built across Australia and around the world, allowing ageing people and those living with dementia, brain diseases or injuries both here at home and around the world to live a much better life.
I have proven with our new model of care that everyone can have a life of freedoms, not restrictions, no matter what their diagnosis. At NewDirection Care, we offer a life of equality, of respect, compassion and empathy, with every individual continuing to be a part of our communities, not shut away.
It’s so much more than a business for me – you can probably tell it’s my passion, and it’s my mission. I’m absolutely thrilled that winning this award will now shine a spotlight on my mission at NewDirection Care for radical change across the aged care industry, not only in Australia but around the world.