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‘Small Household’ Model Favoured by Aged Care Royal Commission

Amongst the many recommendations in the final report of the Aged Care Royal Commission are two important proposals for the design of aged care accommodation.  The Commissioners recommended the Government should guide the design of the best and most appropriate residential aged care accommodation by:

  • Developing National Aged Care Design Principles and Guidelines on accessible and dementia friendly design capable of application to ‘small household’ models of accommodation and respite centres; and
  • Introducing capital grants for new work that complies with the guidelines to be allocated on a needs basis.

It is also proposed that the National Construction Code will reflect accessible and dementia-friendly design standards for new residential aged care buildings.

Small household model

So, what does ‘small household’ models of accommodation…mean? It means a small village of approximately maximum 60 senior residents living with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other age-related comorbidities in small separate households designed to imitate the residents’ own experience of home.

The separate households consist of somewhere between 8-12 residents living in a home-like environment with a separate kitchen, intimate dining, small scale living spaces, with person-centred care. The kitchens and dining spaces form the hearth of the home, visible from residents’ bedrooms. There are smaller, intimate family spaces, outside of bedrooms for families or friends to meet with their loved ones and spend quality time with them. There is direct access to outdoor spaces, and the outdoors is brought indoors through thoughtfully designed, accessible landscaping.

Studies have shown that designing for people living with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, is best achieved by coupling efficient designs for the delivery of services together with more subtle human aspects reminiscent of ‘home’.  When done well, this helps reduce agitation and distress.

Two good local examples of the small household model are Maurice Zeffert Homes in Dianella and Araluen House at Brightwater The Village.

Maurice Zeffert Home is a dedicated Jewish aged care home caring for residents within 3 distinct houses, each with differing levels of care to suit the residents needs and requirements. It is a low scale development of one storey and is neatly nestled within the surrounding neighbourhood of Dianella. Although the houses are separated, they are connected through common corridors which allow staff to move through the site and allow some residents to flow between the different homes.

Araluen House at Brightwater The Village is an innovative Specialist Dementia Care Program and model for Brightwater and is proving to be a success for residents. The small house model enables residents with severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, feel comfortable within the houses, without being overwhelmed by large spaces, lots of staff, residents and daily maintenance activities surrounding them. Gardens with wandering paths are accessible from communal areas, giving residents the choice to be social or to be alone. The program and housing model has been so successful, that is has encouraged residents to return to eating, drinking and sleeping at night. It is a great example of how the built environment of a small house model combined with a specialist care program can work together to improve the lives of residents with severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia. You can read more about this housing model and care program here: https://brightwatergroup.com/residential-aged-care/specialist-dementia-care-program/.