When Professor Afif Hadj decided to hang up his medical gloves after a distinguished career as a surgeon, it wasn’t so he could enjoy his retirement in peace – it was so he could help others enjoy theirs.
“I wanted to work somewhere where I could use my medical background and knowledge,” the owner and operator of Hope Aged Care explains. “I (also) love working with elderly people. (So) aged care was the obvious answer.”
As the former Director of Medical Training at Maroondah Hospital, Prof Hadj knew he could bring a much-needed medical perspective to the field of aged care. “The people we are looking after have quite serious medical conditions,” he says. “(As a medical practitioner), I understand what it is for people to have pressure sores, weight loss, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and so on. And I have an audit program to ensure their medical and clinical needs are met.”
With this in mind, he built Hope Aged Care from the ground up to take care of the most vulnerable. Indeed, while Hope Aged Care may look and feel like a comfortable retirement home, a multitude of highly tuned clinical systems operate beneath the surface. “When you go into a (regular) aged care facility, (you notice) the cleaning, the food, and so on,” Prof Hadj explains. But he says what you won’t see are his specially designed protocols, put in place to deliver the highest level of physical care.
Today, Prof Hadj runs Hope Aged Care with his two sons, Andrew and Anthony – both doctors in their own right. But despite the family’s deep medical expertise, the former surgeon stresses that his facilities offer more than just physical care, they are also places where residents can continue living fulfilling and meaningful lives.
“The culture here is that we treat everyone with respect and dignity,” he says. “How would you like your mother and father to be treated? That’s how my residents will be treated.”
That same respect and dignity extends to residents' loved ones, who sometimes find their parents’ transition to assisted living more traumatic than they do. “The sons, the daughters – most of them feel a bit of guilt that they are putting their mum or dad into care,” Prof Hadj acknowledges. But he says that guilt is often put aside once they see the quality of life that Hope Aged Care can offer their loved ones in their final years. “With my two doctor sons, I bring knowledge about the care of the elderly and their medical conditions (beyond what most people could provide),” he says.
Though Prof Hadj created Hope Aged Care to bring comfort and dignity to the elderly, the residents aren’t the only ones who find the experience enriching. “The joy that I used to get as a surgeon, when I treated someone with cancer – it’s very hard to describe that feeling of satisfaction. And this is what this is like here,” he says. “I know it might sound corny, but (the feeling) is magnificent.”
“People put the care of their most loved ones into my hands,” he says. “That’s a huge privilege.”