Tasmania’s much anticipated Korongee dementia village will open its doors next week, with the first six residents moving in gradually over the coming months.

Lucy O’Flaherty, the chief executive of Glenview, which operates Korongee, told HelloCare the furniture is in the new buildings, the gardens are having their final touches made, they’re just waiting for the coffee machine to be plumbed.

“We are on schedule for a fabulous official opening on Tuesday,” she said when we chatted this week.

Residents to move in gradually

“We anticipate the first resident will move in within a week,” Ms O’Flaherty said. But there’s no rush. “It’s obviously a very difficult decision to move a loved one into residential care, so we’re not putting any pressure on,” she said.

“The goal is to increase occupancy at a measured rate so that we allow residents the chance to settle, to become familiar, to give us a really good understanding of who they are, what their likes and dislikes are, and what the nuances of their days need to look like. 

“And then we will look to probably move two residents in a week, which we believe gives enough time to allow for that settling in period.

“The absolute focal point in this time is to build that relationship with both the resident and their families,” Ms O’Flaherty said.

Design tailored for those living with dementia

The target population of Korongee is those living with dementia, and specifically those with higher care needs.

The village structure is based on a typical Tasmanian streetscape. With a capacity for only 96 residents, the village is divided into four cul de sacs, each with three eight-bedroom houses.

The village is connected by boulevards where commercial spaces are located. Spaces are designed with appropriate way finding, easy orientation and reference to light and sound and other sensory experiences, Ms O’Flaherty explained.

Residents with common interests live together

Prospective residents or Korongee have to go through the same application process as any other residential aged care candidate, but once a resident qualifies, a second questionnaire is used. This second level of questioning is an evidence-based tool that’s been developed in conjunction with the University of Tasmania. It provides information about what is important to the resident, what’s not important, what their values are, and who they would be best suited to living with. 

It’s the first time the process has been used in Australia.

The aim is for residents to be carefully grouped so that those with common interests and lifestyles are more likely to live together. 

“If people are living in a communal setting and they don’t have any connection with the people who live around them, that leads to social isolation, a lack of wanting to engage,” said Ms O’Flaherty. 

The structure also helps staff, who will have a better understanding of what the residents might enjoy doing. 

The amount of structure residents have in their day will depend on the personality of the residents and the wishes of those living in each house. “It’s probably 60/40, with 60 per cent saying some sort of structure is important, and 40 per cent don’t want structure,” Ms O’Flaherty said. “They want to be able to make their own decisions.”

Technology used discreetly 

“Discreet” technology is used through the home. 

CCTV has been installed in public areas. “That’s as much about regard for residents as much as managing those who are not residents,” said Ms O’Flaherty. 

Facial recognition technology is used to track who is going where in the public areas. 

Passive infrared technology has been tailored for “non-visual observation” of residents. For example, if a resident usually takes five minutes to go to the toilet, and one night they’re not back in bed within seven minutes, staff will be alerted.

“That’s a way of respectfully and gently keeping an eye out, but sending very quick alerts to personnel to say it’s time to check on the resident,” said Ms O’Flaherty. 

Household model of care

Glenview has been developing its ‘household’ model of care for six years. 

“It’s about working with a group of eight people, building that rapport and that relationship, building it with their families, building it with their health professionals, building it with their allied health services, so that we become a team.

“The resident is included in all their care decisions, but it’s supported by a (known) team of people.

“It’s more about ‘this is an experience for you, and how would you like that experience to happen?’” Ms O’Flaherty explained.

Huge interest in working at Korongee

So far, Glenview has received 800 applicants for 32 staff positions, and initially there will be more staff than residents.

Staff will also take the questionnaire so they too are grouped with those residents and other staff they are most likely to have things in common with.

A familiarity that is therapeutic

Korongee is also introducing innovative therapeutic treatments.

“The imagery in the home is designed to reflect the lifestyles of the residents. The typologies are designed to be reminiscent,” Ms O’Flaherty said.

There will be a wellness center so that residents will be able to visit the GP, just as they would have previously. There’s also a nail clinic, so seeing the podiatrist is an experience, rather than a clinical intervention. There’s a barber, and a hairdresser too. 

“I cannot express the importance of the barber to the gentlemen of the generation we are caring for,” said Ms O’Flaherty. “Going to a barber is what they’re used to… A gentleman of this generation wouldn’t traditionally go to a hairdresser, there’s a lack of familiarity,” she said. 

There will also be old-fashioned matinee sessions at the cinema, which will be located in the community centre. There’s a general store, a gym, and Korongee Cafe, which doubles as a library.

The environment is designed to be familiar to residents, and enable them to live a life as close as possible to their former lives.

With its gradual process of moving residents in, the careful design of technology, and the latest thinking in dementia care shaping the environment and therapies, Korongee is yet another example of how Tasmanians are showing mainlanders how it can be done.

The Korongee opening will be live streamed on Tuesday.

Comments have been lightly edited for clarity.

Image: Lucy O’Flaherty, CEO Glenview, takes a tour of Korongee. (Supplied.)

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