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Home for dementia patients 'revolutionary'

Twyla Hayes knows this is just a start. She knows the re-development of a two-storey historic building in the Calgary community of Renfrew can only help so many people. But Hayes is optimistic.
Allen Jovica of Jovica Property Management, therapist Twyla Hayes, builder Cory Krygier and developer Santo Stante inside Lfe House during construction.
Allen Jovica of Jovica Property Management, therapist Twyla Hayes, builder Cory Krygier and developer Santo Stante inside Lfe House during construction.

Twyla Hayes knows this is just a start.

She knows the re-development of a two-storey historic building in the Calgary community of Renfrew can only help so many people. But Hayes is optimistic. Hayes, who has a background in behavioural therapy for children with autism, is part of a group that is overseeing the development of the Renfrew Memory Care Home, which will house 10 people who have dementia. The project, says Hayes, can be the start of a revolution in the way Alberta houses people suffering from dementia.

“The number of people suffering from Alzeihmer's and dementia is growing exponentially,” says Hayes. “The stats are overwhelming and it's really important that our society recognizes that this is going to be our generation's health issue. It's not cancer, it's Alzheimer's.

Hayes and her team – which includes real estate agent and developer Sano Stante and builder Cory Krygier – are developing a care home that takes into account every need of someone with dementia.

The Renfrew Memory Care Home is expected to open this fall and will include full-time medical care staff like licensed practical nurses, health care aides, wellness coaches, alternative therapy practitioners and a doctor.

The home itself, which is the former Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate convent, will include 10 resident bedrooms, six universally designed washrooms, a spa bath, a library, arts and crafts room, respite room, nursing station and family room.

“Everything in this home is really designed to heal,” says Hayes. “We have our lighting, which is all on dimmers and time clocks so that the lighting in the home is very intuitive. The lights are a particular spectrum so that we can kind of highjack the internal sleeping clock, we can help regulate people's sleep. Monitoring sleep is something that is not always done in health care settings. It's quite revolutionary.

“We have dedicated entertainment and therapeutic rooms in the home, where we offer alternative healing therapies or concerts by local musicians. We support education for our elders as well. We believe that at any age and at any stage of life, you deserve to learn and grow. Our healing program and the activity program is all designed around learning.”

A wave of people with dementia is already impacting the health care system, and it will only get worse as the baby boomer generation ages. Most people are unprepared for what is to come.

“Most people don't even know until they experience it first-hand and, at that time, when the services aren't available, it's devastating. There's one early onset day program in all of Calgary and the number of people suffering from this is in the thousands.”

Dementia, of which Alzheimer's disease is the most common form, is a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to the degeneration of the brain. As the disease progresses, a number of changes can take place with a person. They include a reduction in cognitive and functional abilities, change in emotions and moods, and changes in physical abilities like coordination.

More than 500,000 Canadians are currently living with dementia and that number is expected to grow to over 900,000 in the next 15 years. Most of these people are in institutionalized care and staff are often ill-equipped to provide the best care.

“A hospital cannot properly care for those illnesses. They're not equipped to deal with the behavioural patterns of someone with Alzheimer's,” says Hayes.

Hayes says the Renfrew Memory Care Home would have been possible without the financial support of angel investors. Life House Cares, the non-profit health care society, continues to seek donations. Hayes believes this is just the start and hopes to see additional care homes developed in Calgary's established communities.

For more information, visit lifehousecares.org