Story by Elite+ Editorial Team
Photo by Care Resort Chiang Mai
As our aging society grows larger and older while birthrates and extended family lifestyles continue to decline, care for the elderly has become a growing concern. Recently, Elite+ had the opportunity to sit down with Peter Brown, the owner and manager of Care Resort Chiang Mai, which was named “The Most Outstanding Care Resort in the World 2016 and 2017", to learn about his elderly care philosophy and his views of the future.
Born in Manchester, after graduating from university, Peter spent just over 30 years working in logistics before retiring at the young age of 56. However, after running an enterprise that included 14 European countries, he found it hard to just travel, sit back and relax. He also found he had had enough of the West and so set his sights on opening a resort in Thailand.
After searching Phuket and Krabi for two years, Peter felt these parts of Thailand were no longer Thai enough for him and so went north where he found a bankrupt resort in lush Maerim Valley, 20 kilometers north of Chiang Mai city. Over the next two years, focused on rebuilding and refurbishing the hotel before opening 12 years ago.
Meanwhile, he would take trips back to the UK to visit his mother who was staying in an elderly care facility as she was suffering from dementia. As Peter felt the care she received was not up to par, he decided to convert his 4-star resort and turn it into a luxury adult care facility, offering short- and long-term stay where he could care for his mother and others who needed to be looked after in a way that would preserve their dignity.
As Peter put it, “Preserving the 'dignity' of each guest is one of our key goals. We try hard so that our facility is not like a traditional 'nursing home' which often can be compared to a 'boarding school for the elderly'.”
Set on 14 acres (35 rai) of beautifully landscaped, very tranquil grounds, Care Resort Chiang Mai feels like a very safe and protected community. It is composed of 58 villa rooms and a 5-bedroom dementia unit, all tastefully decorated in a contemporary Thai style and smartly appointed to cater to guests’ needs as best as possible. There is also a spa, swimming pools, a fitness room and excellent, lakeside library.
For guests who are able, the resort has a delightful restaurant with both inside, air-conditioned and al fresco, garden-view seating. Open throughout the day, guests can eat whenever they want. Meals are also served in rooms for those guests who cannot or do not want to eat in the restaurant.
When asked about his caregiving philosophy, Peter began by saying, “Good care comes from the heart, and Thais, especially as I’ve found in the north, have a deep concern and respect for the elderly, which is at the core of their culture.”
Care Resort Chiang Mai has a full registered nursing staff as well as nursing assistants who have all completed a one-year certified course. The staff is then provided with additional training on how to care for the infirm elderly, with a focus on dementia and Alzheimer sufferers. “They already know how to lift, bathe, dress, treat wounds and perform CPR. We teach them to care and show that they really do. You can see it in their eyes, their smiles and the way they assist our guests.”
“People with Alzheimer’s find it difficult to remember anything. They cannot often answer the simplest question, like, what do you want for lunch? That’s because they cannot even remember what they like. So, to help, we will ask cued questions such as, would you like fried rice and chicken? We try to point them in the right direction.
“They aren’t stupid. They just cannot think. They need a calm life, free of confusion. Repetition is good. Being in the same place and doing the same things is good.
“The emphasis is on treating guests as adults, and not children. Ensure they enjoy a happier, more dignified life.”
Peter explained that as he created the Care Resort Chiang Mai, his inspiration was his mother and what she would want and like. He explained that when his sister came to visit his mother and saw her just sitting and gazing out the window, she was at first upset and said that they had to get their mother outside and doing something. Peter, however disagreed. When he asked his mother if she was happy, she said yes, and when asked if she would like to do something else, she answered no. So, he told his sister, it is up to his mother, and he has stressed this philosophy with all his staff and explained it to those who come to visit the resort and decide if it would be good for their loved one.
When asked what is his biggest challenge, Peter said, “Getting people to come. It is a big decision to leave the US, UK, France or other European countries and come to Thailand. We receive lots of inquiries. It can take a year from the first inquiry until someone decides to come.”
Currently, there are around 30 guests staying at the resort. Only three are Thai. A main reason for this, Peter explained is Thai culture, children feel an obligation to care for their parents and elderly relatives. Furthermore, while not expensive when compared to the West, it is costly for many in Thailand looking for such services.
With the accolades Care Resort Chiang Mai has received, especially “The Most Outstanding Care Resort in the World 2016 and 2017", it still hasn’t been enough to attract guests. The website helps, and if you Google Elderly Care in Thailand, Care Resort Chiang Mai will come up near the top of the list, but Peter says news coverage is the best PR. “Three or four weeks ago, a newspaper did a story about the resort. After that, there were four radio and one TV program broadcast. Since then, I have received a number of inquires, but like I said, it is a long process, and now because of the coronavirus, Westerners are scared to come to this part of the world.
“The first four years as a care resort were very difficult. I used up all my money and then that of banks, Bangkok Bank and Thanachart. Only now, have I been able to pay them back.”
Peter said he has been approached by a number of interested parties to become a partner, but he likes to run things the way he wants to. “I feel good doing what I do. Making a big profit is not what I’m doing this for. I have a passion for it. I like looking after the elderly. I want to make their last years happy. The length is not important. It’s that they are happy and treated with dignity, not like a child… If someone felt this similar passion, I might consider them. But I’m happy the ways things are.”
Today, Care Resort Chiang Mai only accepts guests they feel they can look after and provide them with a happy, quality life. They do not accept psychiatric patients or ‘drunks’, which means those persons who can not control themselves and could become violent. Drinking at the resort is permitted. It should just be measured.
At the conclusion of the interview, Peter said, “We’re proud of what we do. We do the best we can, and we know we are different from other elderly care facilities, particularly when it comes to dementia. This is a disease that cannot be cured. There isn’t a pill that will cure it. A slower lifestyle is what is good. Attentive care is a must. Our staff is very patient. Often one or even two staff are assigned to help a guest.
“We’ve found that violence is not a symptom of dementia. It is often the result of a person’s frustration with being treated as child, being stopped from doing what they want to do.
“We had a guest come from San Francisco who hadn’t walked in seven months, hadn’t talked in two. After two months here and lots of encouragement, she was walking again and soon after talking, too. It didn’t require pills or physiotherapy. Just loving care. Two staff holding each of her arms and telling her it was safe. Not to worry. This kind of attention is just not available in the West, but it is at Care Resort Chiang Mai.”
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