Healthcare Opinion

Shaping a better future for dementia in Australia


Few individuals embark on a journey to disrupt a sector truly. This International Women’s Day, Tamar Krebs, Founder and Executive Director of Group Homes Australia (GHA), shares her story of how she brought her vision of doing dementia differently to life, showcasing how resilience and determination can lead to transformative impact.

With decades of experience working in dementia care, I saw first-hand the challenges facing people living with dementia and their support partners. Most people were told they had dementia without being given the support they needed to navigate this next stage of their lives. They faced a system where dementia represented exclusion, isolation, limitation and losing their sense of self.

I was determined to create a home that did dementia differently, empowering and educating people living with dementia and their families, and bringing people back to their sense of self. I was inspired by the idea of ‘rementia’ a term that in Latin means to ‘return to the mind’. This represents a significant shift from ‘dementia’ which translates as ‘without the mind’, which is how most people living with dementia were, and often still are, treated.

No is not an option:

I had my vision, $5,000 in my bank account, and I needed investment. I started pitching my idea to disrupt the dementia care sector to investors. It was intimidating as a woman pitching to investors in a male-dominated sector, but I was determined to show them that this innovative approach was not only feasible but necessary. I held 62 meetings and 38 presentations to investors and I refused to accept defeat.

Fear and vulnerability is a natural response in these situations. It is scary but not paralysing. Instead, it can fuel curiosity and determination. It helped me recognise and label the obstacles. How can ‘no’ be changed into ‘yes’? This persistence, tenacity, and decision to back myself resulted in enough funding to start Group Homes Australia (GHA). 10 years later, GHA is a successful and growing organisation based on the principle of ‘rementia’.

Never stop innovating

My vision is to change the way every Australian lives beyond a diagnosis of dementia, not just the families connected to GHA. This begins with education, breaking down outdated stigma and removing the fear around diagnosis.

Even today, many people do not get the information, tools and support they need to help them live well with dementia. There is too much focus on the end stages of dementia rather than helping people live well from the outset.

This is critical given people can live ten or more years after diagnosis. In 2023, we launched the Rementia Together Retreat which provides the person diagnosed with dementia and a support partner with 5 days of educational sessions to help remove fear, break down stigmas and navigate this next stage with their partner. With funding from the Australian Government, this program is available to everyone in Australia diagnosed with dementia.

Every stage of dementia is different, and people’s needs continue to change. Understanding that both the person living with dementia and support partners sometimes need some R&R, we launched a new R&R offering that is available to people at any stage of the dementia journey. To make the transition back to routine easier, a personalised information pack is created for each person that equips the support partner with new tools, strategies and ideas.

These programs aim to help people live well in the community for as long as they choose to do so, but much more needs to be done. With an aging population, an increasing number of people will be diagnosed with dementia or see a diagnosis in their family or network. As a society, we need to get better at understanding, accepting, and helping people live in our communities with dementia. We need to work together within the aged and healthcare sector to help make this a reality.

Looking Forwards:

International Women’s Day is a chance for every woman to reflect on what they have achieved and the behaviours that have got them there, but we should be celebrating their successes every day of the year.

To the women who are passionate about driving positive change – be true to yourself and to your vision. Let your vision be your north star and guide you every step of the way. Don’t take no for an answer. Never stop innovating to help the lives you want to improve. When you set out to create positive change, you may inspire many more to dare to make a difference.

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Tamar Krebs is obsessed with doing dementia differently. In 2011, Tamar founded Group Homes Australia, an innovative dementia and ageing small scale model. She attended 62 meetings, did 38 presentations, and was rejected 37 times before she found the right people to support her vision.

Tamar holds qualifications including Bachelor of Science, Master of Health Service Management, and various certificates in the study of Gerontology. She is recognised as a person that understands the human needs of those living beyond a diagnosis of dementia. Tamar is a sought-out keynote speaker, panellist, and media commentator. In 2021, Tamar Krebs moved from Co-CEO of Group Homes Australia to executive director, with a continued focus on disrupting the industry of dementia care, workforce, and innovation to ensure even more lives can flourish.

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