• Tamar Krebs launched Group Homes Australia in 2012. (Supplied)
One woman's quest to offer a new, more meaningful model of elderly care.
SBS Small Business Secrets
26 Feb - 5:05 PM 

Tamar Krebs is trying to shake-up an industry that is not typically known for innovation - the aged care industry.

"It's quite an old thinking industry, metaphorically and literally," she says.

But after 18 years working in nursing homes and residential aged care, she was convinced the sector was ripe for an overhaul.

"I got quite despondent with the model where you have 200 people living in one facility" she explains.

"So I started looking at models around the world and looked at the research where we know that people feel purposeful in their own home. So I said why don't we build a home, that looks, feels and smells like a home and has all the clinical care that a person would need as they age and become frail, but celebrates them as an individual - not institutionalises them."

A simple idea, but unorthodox. Aged care group homes are more common in places like the US, but Tamar would be the first to create them in Australia.

In order to do so, she needed to mount a major effort to convince investors the model was viable.

"It was quite humbling. It was 62 meetings and 38 presentations. And I talked to anyone who was willing to listen to the story, whether it be high net worth individuals, venture capitalists, you name it - I spoke to them."

She managed to raise $3.7 million and launched with just one renovated home in 2012. Group Homes Australia now has eight across Sydney.

At her location in St Ives, ten bedrooms encircle a large central living room and kitchen, with a back garden bathed in sunlight. Hues of tan and teal give the space a warm and inviting air.

"Our homes have 6-8 people living together with dementia or high care needs. There is a 1 to 3 staff to resident-ratio, as well as nurses and allied health that float between the house," Tamar explains.

"Families can visit when they want, there's no visiting hours. If residents want to be involved in anything, the cooking, baking, gardening, they can be involved to their capacity and to their needs and wants."

And in keeping with making the properties as home-like as possible, there's no signage outside to suggest you've arrived at a group home - what you see looks just like any other house on the street.

"In your own home you don't have any signs or logos saying it's your home," Tamar says. "So it's the same principal here. It's a home."

Her approach is proving successful: the business has grown from a turnover of $300,000 in 2012 to $5 million a year, with four more homes in the pipeline.

But it's not just the bottom line that's thriving - Tamar says she sees a major change in the wellbeing of residents and their families too.

"We see the family's anxiety just dissipate because all of a sudden they've come home. They don't have to struggle caring for their parent or partner. They've got that relationship back."

Next, Tamar hopes to expand the business interstate.

"We're going to take over the world, one suburb at a time!" she laughs. "Because I really believe this is the way people should age - in a home and feeling validated, as opposed to institutionalised."

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