Sudbury pilot project offers overnight care for dementia patients, caregiver relief

The Alzheimer Society in Sudbury recently started a pilot project that's helping caregivers of people with dementia.

Alzheimer's Society in Sudbury offering overnight respite beds for dementia patients every weekend

Jean Marc Boulanger, 82, recently stayed overnight in one of the respite rooms at the Alzheimer Society in Sudbury. It allowed his wife Estelle, who is his primary caregiver, to get some rest on the weekend. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

It was almost three years ago that Jean Marc Boulanger of Sudbury was diagnosed with dementia. Now, the 82-year-old is cared for daily by his wife Estelle Boulanger.

She typically gets a break several times a week when her husband attends the day program at the Alzheimer Society.

But, Estelle got to enjoy a stress-free weekend when she took advantage of a new pilot project which offers respite for caregivers.

"It sort of reset or reboot my independence," she said. 

The Alzheimer Society site in Sudbury has four beds for people with dementia to stay overnight on weekends. The nine-week pilot project runs until the end of March.

It's meant to provide caregivers with some down time on the weekends, said Stephanie Leclair, executive director of the Alzheimer Society Sudbury-Manitoulin North Bay and Districts.

"We've really found that caregivers came back recharged, and when caregivers are well rested, we know that has an impact on hospitals, on long term care," she said.

Stephanie Leclair is the executive director of the Alzheimer Society Sudbury-Manitoulin North Bay. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

When the person  with dementia stays overnight, they are cared for by two qualified workers.

"At a certain time of the day [individuals with dementia] might have a little bit more responsive behaviours so yes, our staff are fully trained and know how to deal with situations reflecting some response behaviours," Leclair said.

Caregivers return 'recharged', 'well rested' 

Estelle said she didn't worry about leaving her husband overnight because he's already comfortable at the facility due to his regular day time visits. 

"I stayed home alone. I never get to do that really. Well, I do when he is at the program during the week. But my weekend was my weekend. I stayed home. I read," she said.

Jean Marc enjoyed himself too.

"My wife was away, which was great to be here. It was perfect to be here. The best place to be here," he said.

When Estelle picked up her husband after his two-night weekend stay at the Alzheimer Society, she says her husband was happy, but a little confused.

"He said 'I've been looking for you' and I said "I'm here now.' But all in all he was happy. He was a little exhausted because he had done so much, they kept him so busy, which is wonderful," she said.

Since the pilot began just a few weeks ago the beds have been booked up steadily.

Leclair attributes the success to two things: "One — I think that people with dementia feel very included and this is a space they already know."

"And then when the caregivers came to pick them up it was like, 'I am able now to keep caregiving moving forward because of this little break," Leclair added.

'Desperately' needed

Leclair hopes the program can continue after the pilot wraps at the end of March because of the huge response.

"I think we just needed to see if this was something that people would use, and now we know that this is something people desperately need."

The respite beds are available for individuals from across Sudbury, Manitoulin or North Bay, who have been diagnosed with dementia.

There is a small co-payment caregivers are asked to pay to help with food and activities for the day, but the rest of the pilot program is funded by the provincial government.


Angela Gemmill


Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 15 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to


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