Comfort and safety are the top priority at The Mansion, says Care Concierge co-founder and CEO Martin Yap, an architect who set up the home two years ago after repurposing three dilapidated buildings in Jalan Gasing, PJ. There are now 47 beds, from an initial 30, with a number of residents housed in one wing that caters specifically for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Curtained single rooms provide privacy but everyone is encouraged to spend time in the common areas and outdoors because “it is really about activity and connectivity with the community rather than being alone”, says Yap. There is even a stair lift for those who need help with mobility.
After years of experience designing homes for the elderly in Sydney, Yap returned home to develop and operate resort-style facilities and spearhead new concepts in senior care. The need for a paradigm shift in that area hit home when his highly independent grandmother became immobile after two strokes about a decade ago.
Caring for her for more than three years was physically exhausting for the whole family, who realised it was also an emotional journey that involved a total change in mindset.
“She wanted to do her own thing and we had to make sure she was okay. Support was very important and it really helped to have a caregiver come in and take care of the simple day-to-day tasks. It was different from the family members talking to each other and that helped relieve the tension and emotion.
“We wanted to make sure grandma had the best care but there were no options available. So I knew this was something we needed to improve on. We started looking at what defines retirement — ageing in place, empowerment and living with grace and dignity — and found there was a big need. We visited many homes in Australia and here, and realised we had to do something to offer a better environment for the elderly.”
Care Concierge is backed by a group of young co-founders and friends, including a bunch of retirees, who are passionate about changing homes for seniors from “a place that people don’t want to go to, to one that’s inviting”, and equipping them to handle healthcare.
There are options for those who do not need live-in care. Nurses, therapists and caregivers can visit homes to assist with various routines — such as dressing, personal care and mobility, apart from providing companionship — as seniors remain in a place familiar to them. Alternatively, elderly parents can go to a dedicated adult day-care facility, like Daycare at Jaya One in PJ, where they are able to spend the day doing things they enjoy and being with others. This arrangement allows family members who might otherwise have to quit their jobs to continue to work, knowing that their loved ones are safe and comfortable and that they will all be together again at the end of the day.
Taking care of active seniors is always about passion points and filling gaps in the market, says Yap. Forcing a parent to stay in a home is an unpleasant thought and “it’s very important that family members tell it as it is. Once they come in, it’s about explaining to them what we have and encouraging the elderly to make proper choices for themselves too”.
Replicating the Australian senior care experience is viable in Malaysia but some cultural aspects need to be considered, he adds. “They have government programmes that support them whereas we are family-centric. We think day care is a product of the future: Seniors go to a safe place and their children have peace of mind. They then go home and are part of the family dynamics again. They do not feel like they are being abandoned but have that purpose of doing things.”
Yap says the team’s aim is to shatter preconceptions of what elderly care is supposed to be. “We give them alternatives that may suit them better, such as a place that feels like home, where they want to stay and friends can visit.”
Choice is the important factor because even when people had money, they did not have alternatives, adds Anna Chew, chief marketing officer of Care Concierge, which has teamed up with two local universities to offer training and certification for nurses and caregivers.
There is a waiting list at The Mansion, where prices start at RM5,000 per month. In the pipeline are two similar homes that will provide 90 beds. A retirement resort project is being built in Sepang, Selangor, with plans to launch next year. Yap handles the design aspect, with an eye on combining technology, AI and data to add intuitive elements to elder care services.
“We will continue to build this kind of space because it resonates with people. In the past, we always thought of aged care in terms of end of life. There is a social design element in everything we do, and a sense of community. We are saying you can have active living instead of sitting in front of the TV and waiting for the children to come home. When we see the seniors happy and excited, we are too,” Chew says.
This article first appeared on Oct 14, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.