Why bigger is not always better

Jennifer Brown, Synovum Care Group



In 2012 our Leadership Team embarked on a journey of self-discovery and reflection and in October 2013 our vision “Your Life. Your Way.” and strategy – a new direction in aged care; providing creative solutions for complex needs, to deliver ‘as normal a live as possible’ was developed, and finally in December 2014 the first of our small scale living houses was opened.

Supporting someone in our care to live as normal a life as possible meant:

  1. Continually challenge our beliefs on what we think is achievable in such a heavily regulated industry
  2. Advocate for those in our care no matter their diagnosis to maintain the skills they have on entering our care
  3. Stop looking for an experienced workforce – recruit based on defined characteristics and through an assessment centre and then train on vision first followed by the skills required to undertake the role
  4. Plan all future developments as small scale living and future renovations or refurbishments to be measured against ‘as normal a life as possible’

Results to date:

  • Two operational small scale living houses. Seven residents live in each house – which includes a fully functional domestic laundry and kitchen and an open plan lounge and dining room. A front door which allows residents freedom to come and go and domestic outdoor spaces.
  • The introduction of a new role in the industry; House Companion is a multidisciplinary role with responsibilities for supporting, or where necessary doing, residents with cooking, cleaning, laundry, activities, personal care and medications.
  • Residents who have a severe diagnosis of dementia decreasing behaviours and regaining their independence.
  • A lower capital investment per bed (based on industry averages)
  • The same costs per bed ongoing as traditional aged care.

All research suggests and specialists agree that smaller environments are better for people living with dementia and other complex care needs, yet we continue to build larger nursing homes, even though greater than 60% of all residential aged care residents are living with dementia, a number rapidly growing.

As an industry we agree people should be given real choice enablement, yet we continue to offer large scale institutional care that is task and staff focussed, and the unfortunate outcome taking away peoples independence.

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