This mechanic's garage and nursery help dementia patients feel at home in long-term care
Kitchener's Sunnyside Home is exploring new approach to help residents with dementia
The Buttonworks wing at Kitchener's Sunnyside Home doesn't look like a typical long-term care home.
The walls are painted in bright, eye-catching shades of purple, blue and orange. The dining room is furnished with 1950s formica tables and an old jukebox.
Down one hallway is a mechanic's garage, complete with work bench, can crusher and license plates. Another hallway has a nursery, where residents can look after baby dolls.
This colourful village-like atmosphere is all part of Sunnyside's new approach to caring for people with dementia.
The goal is to help residents feel more comfortable and at home, while at the same time reducing staff burnout.
"It's been really touching to see … these changes, not only to the physical environment but in the way that staff are interacting with one another and residents are interacting with one another — it really has created that feeling of community and that feeling of home," said Lindsay Marinovic co-ordinator of fundraising and promotional events for seniors' services with the Region of Waterloo, which runs Sunnyside Home.
The changes have already had a positive impact on many residents, including Anne MacGregor's husband, Wayne.
Wayne was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2012 and moved into Sunnyside in 2018.
"When we go by certain areas he says, 'Oh like it here, that's so beautiful,'" Anne said. "The flowers and the waterfall in the patio and all those things. He really likes that and it makes him comfortable."
Wayne has also bonded with a robotic therapy cat. The mechanical pets are used at Sunnyside to help calm people with dementia and provide a sense of companionship.
"He was always an animal lover, so when we found out he liked the cat, we bought one for himself and he goes everywhere with it," Anne said.
Sunnyside Home plans to measure the impact of the changes by looking at depression rates, social engagement and the use of antipsychotics among residents.
It also hopes the new model will help reduce sick time and improve job satisfaction for staff working in the wing.
In the meantime, Marinovic said they plan to replicate Buttonworks wing in other parts of Sunnyside.
"Some of the next things that we're hoping to do here on Buttonworks is to bring in some more items that are personal to the people who live here — photographs, items that really connect people to their past," she said.