The Care Farm E I E I OHHHH!

The Care Farm E I E I OHHHH!

Bishop Tyrell Place is a 75 bed ageing in place facility with a 20 bed Specific Dementia Unit. It is operated by the Storm Retirement Village. Bishop Tyrell Place opened earlier this year but has already carved a niche in the local aged care market place.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the landscape of aged care is changing to meet the needs of the emerging baby boomer generation. Some facilities are making incremental changes but others like Bishop Tyrell Place in Taree have totally thrown out what might have previously been considered the aged care rule book and stepped outside of the aged care paradigm. Bishop Tyrell Place is otherwise known as the Care Farm but before you think of George Orwell's famous novel, think again and read on.

When Director of Care, Ann Daniher visited Holland several years ago she saw an aged care facility that engaged animal husbandry as a setting
for the delivery of its aged care services. It did not take long before the
question popped into Anne's head, with all the space in Australia and the
fact that such a large proportion of the population has experience on farms
why don't some of the rural based Australian Aged facilities create a farm
like atmosphere?

When the idea of building a new aged care facility on a large acreage of
land in the outer Taree suburb of Cundletown was first raised,
Anne Daniher was quick to raise the idea of blending a farm environment into the daily life of the proposed new aged care facility. Rather than resistance, Anne found that the Board and Management Committee members, many of whom had experienced farm life embraced the concept with great enthusiasm. A significant amount of time has elapsed between the early concept days and what is now in place, but as they say, "the rest is now aged care history". The Care Farm at Bishop Tyrell is already of significant interest to the local community and people from outside the district are coming to visit with a
view to placing members of their family in this extraordinary facility.

Plenty of aged care facilities have the typical house pet, the ubiquitous
cat or the sleepy Labrador curled up in the sun. Some facilities have the odd chook, a vegetable garden or even a cage full of chirping budgies. Bishop Tyrell Place, the Care Farm has the lot. It starts with the charismatic pig called Elliot who was once small and rumoured to be of a pygmy variety, but is now the size of a small car. The bigger he gets the more he is loved. There are goats, sheep, cattle, and even a herd of alpaca. And if this is not enough, there are ducks, geese and chickens of various varieties. All of them are accessible in beautiful enclosures or they roam freely in the gardens. And when we talk of resident maintained vegetable and flower gardens we are not just talking 10 square metres of garden tucked away in the courtyard and looked after one or two residents. There are over 20 tanks spread out over half an acre raised to wheelchair accessible height, growing everything from carrots to strawberries to petunias. Level and smooth
pathways are a feature and provide access to the gardens at every angle
for walkers or people in wheelchairs. Benches are strategically place to
provide for timely resting spots.

The district surrounding Taree is some of the richest farmland in Australia and is
historically renowned for its dairy and beef production. If you don't live on a farm there is every chance that you or one of your relatives has lived on a rural property or you will know someone that has. It is little wonder that prospective residents visiting the facilities for the first time open wide their eyes and gaze in amazement. Sons and daughters looking for a place for their mum or dad are often heard to say something like "my parents lived on a farm for over 30 years and would just love it here".

The farm also includes an undercover BBQ area for residents and their families and a men's activities area. The facility is also adjacent to a school and the area has been opened to the school with adjoining pathways for children to enjoy and mix with the residents.

The farm is staffed by one staff member from Monday to Friday for 3 hours per day. Given the amount of time that the residents spend with the animals, tending to them and putting them to bed each night, this appears to be a very efficient input into the
activities program.

Staff members are noticing that one of the positive effects of the
environment is the calming impact it has on the residents. It has been hard for staff to describe, but staff members are commonly remarking that when residents spend time outdoors with the gardens and vegetables they (the residents) appear to achieve a deeper feeling of relaxation compared to other more mundane activities such as watching the television. "Their level of engagement with the animals and flowers is so much more obvious" say the care staff. It is somewhat early days yet in terms of benchmarking outcomes but it has already been noted that the residents appear very calm and exhibit a very low level of aggressive episodes, which may in part be due to this outstanding environment. It is expected that the Bishop Tyrell Care Farm will be able to use the benchmarking outcomes to measure the success of this rather bold venture over the coming years.