This business cares for its residents as anyone would want to be treated in their dotage.
The government's decision to cap the fees that private aged care businesses can charge might have hammered company share prices in the sector this week, but it's a minor blip for the industry, which has to be an up-and-coming economic powerhouse as the population ages.
New business models are appearing in every sector and aged care is no different. Once dominated by government institutions, aged care is fast becoming an entrenched part of the private sector.
An elderly man swims at Queenscliff on Sydney's northern beaches. Photo: Andrew Quilty
Group Homes Australia is an innovator in this area. Its model is based around the group home model that often integrates disabled people into the community. The idea is to allow elderly people to live together in an actual home, and to curate services to the needs of each resident. It's a great solution for people who don't want to be institutionalised as they age.
Tamar Krebs, chief executive and founder of Group Homes – which has eight small homes in Sydney for six to eight people living with dementia and end-of-life care needs with 24-hour care – says the homes look like a real home.
Tamar Krebs, CEO of Group Homes Australia.
"The model is based on individualising people as opposed to institutionalising them," Krebs says. "The residents wake up in their own time. They get to participate in the cooking, the baking, the gardening and the shopping – to their capacity."
She says that although this model has been used successfully in such countries as the US, Japan and the Netherlands, Group Homes Australia is the first group homes aged care business in Australia.
Under its business model, a staff of six to 10 appropriately trained staff run each home. A head office structure sits above the business to look after administration.
The plan is to rollout clusters of three homes in suburbs across Australia, serving the needs of the community in each suburb.
A syndicate of high net worth individuals and venture capitalists has funded the business with an initial $3.5 million investment. At present, revenue comes from fees paid by 42 residents of between $70,000 and $150,000 a year.
The aim is to add 10 houses a year to the business, with plans to expand around NSW to places such as the Central Coast, Newcastle, Sutherland Shire, the lower north shore and the Hills district, before moving into other states.
Krebs says the greatest challenge has been staffing. "Many of the staff coming out of aged care are task focused. We train our staff to the language and the philosophy and the care that we're delivering. We also have different generations from Gen Y and Gen X in the workforce, so the work ethic is also very different."
Another challenge has been educating the community about having group homes in a suburb.
The residents wake up in their own time. They get to participate in the cooking, the baking, the gardening and the shopping – to their capacity.
"Automatically people say, 'Oh, I don't want people with dementia living next door'," Krebs says. "There's a great opportunity to educate people about what we do and how it's so different."
She says while competitive threats are the current aged care and home care providers, the novelty of her business model gives it an advantage, and competitors are not set up to offer services in the same way that she can.
Krebs intends to grow the business through referral partners in the health system and through online marketing.
"People don't plan for aged care. It happens in a crisis, so at 12 o'clock at night somebody goes on Google and starts searching. Our search engine optimisation and search engine marketing campaigns are important because we need to appear at the top of the search list. People start engaging with the website; they can use the chat function and we can move fast because we're nimble and we can help people in a crisis much better than the big aged care facilities."
Krebs' advice to other entrepreneurs is to keep innovating, even if the business is in an industry that may not at face value appear to be open to disruption.
"There is definitely opportunity for change, even though our industry hasn't been changed in years. Entrepreneurship is not celebrated in aged care. So what we're doing is really exciting and it's great that this has now come to fruition."
Read more at http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/trends/the-big-idea/the-future-of-aged-care-bringing-the-elderly-home-20160906-gr9rmo.html