At Heathcote Hospital, there are specialised homes known as ‘care villa’ tailored for individuals with dementia. These villas consist of a master bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchenette, a living area, and a separate room serving as both a caregiver’s bedroom and study space.
Care Villa: A Supportive Technology
According to Dan Douglass, CEO of Heathcote Health, dementia care poses a significant challenge nationwide in Australia.
“We don’t have the services, treatments or infrastructure, really, to deal with that at the current time,” according to him.
“Being involved in initiatives such as this, which allows us to open our eyes to different ways of providing care and putting the person living with dementia at the centre of their care, is incredibly important.”
Australia has over 400,000 individuals affected by dementia, along with more than 1.5 million caregivers.
Within the villa, technology aids in monitoring residents’ well-being using sensors to detect falls, instability in movement, activities like getting out of bed, visiting the bathroom, or accessing the fridge.
Additionally, the lighting system is designed to promote a healthy sleep cycle, while the selection and placement of the feature wall and accents are based on research concerning how individuals with dementia perceive colour and contrast.
The villa represents the culmination of years of research conducted by the Heathcote Dementia Alliance (HDA), a grassroots community organisation.
Supported by donors like Mandalay Resources, a mining company, which prompted the naming of the villa after the nearby Costerfield gold mine.
Sandra Slatter, president of HDA, described the care villa as a “living lab” for the following six months, allowing individuals like Ms. Rae and Ms. Poynton to provide valuable feedback.
“We’ll learn lessons from all the research and fittings we’ve put in place, then we’ll tweak a final design,” Ms. Slatter said.
Subsequently, the alliance intends to transfer Costerfield House to Heathcote Health for utilisation as a respite facility, establishing a social enterprise to construct and market more care villas.
Furthermore, HDA explores the concept of establishing “care clusters,” comprised of portable villas to be maintained by a health provider.
Community Rallies to Assist in Housing
Heathcote, a community in central Victoria, has emerged as a centre for dementia innovation, driven by dedicated volunteers and the local hospital.
“They were looking at setting up a dementia village in Heathcote,” Ms. Slatter said.
“Unfortunately, the dementia village didn’t happen because of COVID and because of the recommendations coming out of the aged care royal commission.
“Everyone was quite upset when we couldn’t get a provider to take on the dementia village.
“[But ] we’re really happy now that we didn’t take that village on because of what’s coming out of the royal commission, and what the government and the research is saying is that we need to keep people at home longer.”
The projected number of Australians affected by dementia is anticipated to surpass 800,000 by 2058.
Mr. Douglass from Heathcote Health highlighted the significant challenge of securing suitable housing.
“I think the beauty of this particular model [the care villa] is that you’ve got passive and active environmental support that is almost like another carer,” Mr. Douglass said.
Maree McCabe, CEO of Dementia Australia, stressed the importance of having housing options that cater to the evolving needs of individuals with dementia.
“We need to meet the person living with dementia where they’re at and provide the accommodation to support them at their particular stage,” she said.
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DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute official medical or home living advice. The Australian Seniors Advisory Group has no working relationships with the Healthcote Dementia Alliance and Costerfield House.