Ottawa

'Butterfly' model transforming dementia care by creating meaningful moments

An Ottawa seniors' residence has adopted a new model of caring for people with dementia that focuses on creating meaningful moments on top of meeting their day-to-day needs.

Glebe Centre 1st in city to employ model that focuses on creating connections

'Butterfly care' emphasizes personal connections with staff to promote emotional well-being among patients. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

An Ottawa seniors' residence has adopted a new model of caring for people with dementia that focuses on creating meaningful moments on top of meeting their day-to-day needs.

The Glebe Centre in Ottawa is believed to be the first facility in the city to adopt the model, known as "butterfly care."

I think that we can bring about joy in their lives.- Lawrence Grant, The Glebe Centre

Lawrence Grant, the centre's executive director, said traditional care models tend to leave the residents out of the equation.

"They're really not engaged," he said. "I think that we can change that. I think that we can bring about joy in their lives." 

Bright colours, fancy hats

It's called butterfly care because the idea behind it is transformation, but it also involves a healthy dose of bright colours: some of the centre's beige walls have been painted over with vibrant shades.

"It generally lifts your spirits. It generally makes you feel better," said Sally Knocker, a trainer with the consulting firm Dementia Care Matters. 

Staff, volunteers and visitors are encouraged to build connections and relationships with residents. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Staff are encouraged to wear different outfits so they don't all look alike to the residents. Knocker said at some of the care homes she's worked with in the U.K., staff even don fancy hats and feather boas.

That helps them come across as individuals, she said.

Engaging tasks

An important part of the model is to give residents small but meaningful jobs such as folding laundry.

"We deprive people of those opportunities to still be busy," Knocker said.

The idea is to find a task that's meaningful to each resident, she said. For example, one woman at a facility in Ireland who used to work as a secretary was given a phone and notepad. Staff would call her throughout the day and she would take down messages in shorthand. 

It's a new model of caring for people with dementia. Focusing on 'meaningful moments' at the expense of institutional routine. A local care facitliy is the 1st in Ottawa to give it a try. Ottawa Morning asks what difference it might make. 8:29

Eating meals together

Mealtime is also different in butterfly care. Residents sit at communal tables with platters of food in the middle, reminiscent of a large family dinner.

Staff, including personal care workers, cleaners, managers and volunteers may join residents for a meal and conversation. Visitors are also encouraged to join in and stay for longer periods. 

The very language staff and residents use to describe the centre is also beginning to shift.

Susan Zorz, the director of resident services at The Glebe Centre, said they no longer use institutional terms such as "unit" or "floor" to describe where the residents live. Instead, they use words like "home."

"It's changing the mindset," Zorz said. 

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