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It takes a village

Finding new and meaningful ways to care for our aging patient population has never been more important.

A home-like setting, intergenerational interaction, daily activities, the ability to come and go.

Not necessarily the first thought that comes to mind when one thinks about the care environment for someone with dementia. But this is precisely what we are proposing.

An estimated 564,000 Canadians were living with dementia in 2016 – a number that the Alzheimer’s Society predicts will nearly double to 940,000 people by 2031. The need to come up with new and meaningful ways to care for our aging patient population has never been more important.

The idea is based on a model first piloted in the Netherlands and is known as a dementia village, seen internationally as a hallmark of innovation.

“The De Hogeweyk model is to meld security and safety with freedom and to redefine the way those who suffer from dementia can maintain a level of control in their lives while giving families closure of adequate treatment,” explains Jo-Ann Tait, corporate director, seniors care and palliative services at Providence. The design is based on taking a care home to the next level, with smaller households where everyone has their own private bedroom and their own front door, allowing residents access to the the entire campus and its various amenities such as shops and restaurants.

The proposed site will be on the former St. Vincent’s Hospital plot at Heather Street and West 33rd Avenue in Vancouver.

Concept drawing of a kitchen setting, where residents can prepare food with, and under the supervision of, staff.

“The Heather Street dementia village will emulate many aspects of the Dutch model,” says Jo-Ann. “For example, it will focus on the establishment of smaller households for residents who share a common bond with each other, such as cultural or friendship-based.”

The Heather Street dementia village will also see the return of regular, daily life for residents. Usually, when people with dementia enter residential care, they are relieved of the kinds of tasks and routines – from cooking to cleaning to sweeping the floor – that would have previously been a cornerstone of home life and provided a sense of purpose or belonging.

“We wonder why seniors sit in their chairs asleep and become disengaged with the world around them. Without normal life experiences, isolation and loneliness begin to creep in,” says Jo-Ann. “And we know life experience is not about keeping residents busy to pass the time. It’s more than bingo and bowling.”

The entire perimeter of the village will be enclosed and secured using creative structure and technology so that residents can easily venture outdoors. They will be encouraged to get outside as much as possible, free of the traditional restraints, constraints and wander guards that keeps them confined to their chairs and indoors for most of their residential life.

The proposal for building this care model is in final business plan stages, and will be an important component of our residential redevelopment plan and our desire to transform care for our residents and their loved ones.