Canadian Dementia Village Stimulates the Senses
Georgian Bay Retirement, just outside the Greater Toronto area, helps make life better for seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by catering to their specific interests from their prime of life.
Reshawn Devendra, a physical therapist and a founder of the community, discusses how the treatments provide a promising memory care alternative for Canadian families.
Dementia in Canada
Finding memory care for a loved one in Canada is not only a daunting task, but also very emotional. No one wants to see their loved ones moved to white-walled, institutional and sterile buildings where there is no joie de vivre. According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, 1-in-20 Canadians over 65 has Alzheimer’s. That figure jumps to 1-in-4 for Canadians over 85. Dementia is a growing problem in Canada where there is a need for quality and informed care.
Today there are options for families. Many assisted living communities in Canada offer socialization, gourmet meals, planned activities and a plethora of stimulating amenities. Memory care offers all of this, as well as a living environment catered to those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Georgian Bay Retirement Home in the Toronto area is one of these communities.
Customizable Dementia Care
Some of the cutting-edge memory care communities around the world include The Netherland’s Dementiaville, England’s Grove Care, and Scotland’s dementia-friendly Stirling, where residents are free to wander in Back-to-the-Future-style environments, replicating the 50s and 60s.
Physical therapist Reshawn Devendra saw the need for this type of community in Canada. Reshawn’s vision for a better life for memory care residents materialized at Georgian Bay Retirement Home in Penetanguishene, Ontario, where residents walk freely in open settings.
“My background in physical therapy and working in assisted living gave me an idea to work with all the space we had. I thought, ‘Why not try this?’ and from there we created comfortable spaces for senior residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia in a combined indoor/outdoor setting with many rooms.”
With the community’s extensive space, Reshawn and the other founders created picturesque, themed rooms catered for their residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia, which includes:
- A barber shop
- A vintage kitchen
- A garage with a 1947 Dodge
- A nursery with life-like babies
- An artificial beach
All of the doors in these rooms look like bookshelves, so residents won’t recognize them and stray.
“By providing Alzheimer’s and dementia residents purpose in life, everyone is happier,” Reshawn notes. “Our task is to provide quality care that also includes a fun atmosphere for residents living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s a delicate balance.”
Rashawn recounts that after the building was purchased from the County, he was given carte blanche to reinvent the former long-term care facility into a new state-of-the-art retirement community. Rashawn was eager to try a completely new approach to care and ancillary services, which includes:
- Greater staff to resident ratios.
- 20,000 square feet of indoor space and 18,000 square feet outdoors, allowing residents to wander safely if needed.
- Specialized training for both nursing and activities staff, with a multi-media memory care library for both families and staff.
- Specialized high-tech equipment, such as Snoezelen therapy, a controlled multisensory environment using lighting effects, color, music and scent to stimulate the senses.
- Various programs like music therapy, gardening, past hobbies, storytelling and more.
There are themed areas that resemble the 1950s and 60s – a time when many residents were most active. “All of our programs have merit,” says Rashawn. “It’s finding the right selection for each resident that has the most meaningful impact for them.”
One resident, a former police officer, enjoys spending time inspecting the new police cars and riding around with the current officers. “Police officers come to take him for a ride in their police car.…[H]e always looks forward to this.”
Catering to Each Individual
Good memory care comes down to humanity. While the disease changes people, those people still live within their bodies: “Some people love to golf, so we created a putting green in the corridor. Some of our ladies love sewing and gardening, so we have created nice spaces for them to enjoy these activities. Some residents enjoy holding the dolls — whose skin feels real — in our nursery. We tried to create an ambiance that caters to our residents’ individual needs,” notes Reshawn.
There are also ideal approaches through tactics, such as appealing to their memories and senses, as well as approaches for effective communication. iPad apps and some of the other more recent Alzheimer’s innovations are helpful, but in Reshawn’s mind, providing a safe, normal environment that allows for a lifestyle you enjoy, including art, music and stimulation, is the most important.
Is there an activity or interest that you’d like to see your loved one enjoying in memory care? Share your suggestions with us below.
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