British Columbia

Vancouver care facility moves to 'dementia village' model to make residents feel at home

A major makeover is underway at a facility for dementia patients in South Vancouver: staff are adapting to the “dementia village” model to help patients feel more like they're living in a home rather than a hospital.

Holy Family Residence is one of several B.C. facilities focusing on individual care and quality of life

John Downie, left, shows off his personalized name plate with Rae Johnson, site director for the Holy Family Residence. The dementia facility is undergoing major changes to adapt to a dementia village model of care. (Jennifer Chen)

A major makeover is underway at a facility for dementia patients in South Vancouver: staff are creating a "dementia village" to help patients feel more like they're living in a home, rather than a hospital.

The model for the villages — specifically-designed care communities and living environments for those with dementia — has seen success in the Netherlands and is gaining traction in B.C.

"It's [about] increasing the engagement of staff, being more personalized in the care and the understanding of the life experience of residents," said Rae Johnson, site director for Holy Family Residence.

Murals on the walls at Holy Family Residence reflect some of the ideas the dementia residents came up with to make the facility seem more like a home. (Jennifer Chen)

The residence is being transformed as a prototype for the dementia village model, as Providence Health Care is creating purpose-built facilities in Vancouver and Comox.  Providence recently received a $3.3 million dollar donation to adapt the existing infrastructure at Holy Family Residence, based on the principles of the dementia village.    

Staff are also undergoing educational training to accommodate residents.

'It's going to be beautiful'

For John Downie, a resident at Holy Family, it's been important to have more control over how his living environment is set up. 

"I have a lot of clothes and shoes, and the closets we have were very small," he said.  

Staff helped him convert a bathroom into a large closet to get around the problem, which Downie said is working out "fantastically."

He also mentioned to staff his desire to have more of a focus on nature in his room.

"Within days, I had a beautiful nature scene waterfall and mountains and forests hanging in my window and I'm thinking 'Wow, what a beautiful gesture,'" Downie said.  

The rest of his room, along with the facility in general, is expected to be done with the redesigns by summer.

"I'm really looking forward to it," he said.

"It's going to be beautiful."

Model gaining traction

Other facilities in the province have jumped on board with the model, including a privately-owned project, opening this year in Langley.

The Czorny Alzheimer Centre in Surrey is also based on a similar concept, with six home-like cottages for residents in a secure setting. 

"We just want to begin to have living environments that are not hospitals," Johnson told CBC's Jennifer Chen.

"We talk to our residents and our staff about what would they like their household to be like."

The doors at Holy Family Residence now resemble the doors you'd see on a house in a residential area. (Jennifer Chen)

The flipside of more personal care, however, is that the facility had to reduce the number of beds available to provide a more community-minded approach to hospital life: Holy Family is developing two households of 12 residents.

With files from The Early Edition and Jennifer Chen

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