Graphic design of a dementia village, which is planned for Comox.

Dementia village concept takes shape

Providence receives $3 million kickstart for first project

Thanks to a $3 million donation from the estates of Beatris and Peter Jurazs, Providence Health Care can get a head-start on a dementia village project in Vancouver and apply what they learn to a similar village in Comox.

On April 1, the Vancouver-based, non-profit health care provider takes ownership of St. Joseph’s Hospital. A ‘campus of care’ plan will initially focus on vulnerable seniors, particularly those challenged by dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Providence has begun making changes to a wing that will become its first dementia village at Holy Family Residence in Vancouver. The plan is to create two households of 12 people now living onsite.

“It’s not the 155 people, I think, in Comox, yet, but even just to get the residents within close proximity to each other,” said Jo-Ann Tait, Providence corporate director, seniors care and palliative services.

“We’re going to start to build and put it in kitchenettes, for example, where people can come together around meals. We’re going to start to look at how residents can be supported with dementia to participate in preparing food again, and see what abilities they still have. That’s our exciting part.”

The vision for a dementia village at St. Joseph’s follows a Dutch model for seniors care in De Hogeweyk, Netherlands. The village will support a group of people faced with moderate to severe dementia. The idea, through involvement in everyday things, is to improve a person’s quality of life.

At Holy Family Residence, Providence has started to create an outdoor space that will replicate the secure outer perimeter of the village, where residents will have the freedom to come and go from their front door.

In an effort to make the facility feel like home, photos and murals of Gastown and Hollywood will decorate the walls.

“They want to see those old pictures of what Vancouver used to look like — to be transported into a period of time where it brings some comfort and helps them reminisce,” Tait said.

Another feature is motion sensor lights underneath beds, a project initiated in another care home with students from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. When residents swing their feet off the bed, a light comes on.

Providence will initiate a community consultation process after it takes ownership of St. Joe’s.

“When we complete the community consultation, we would like to know what we can start there as well, even before the village is constructed in Comox,” Tait said.

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