Dawn Harsch has developed a radical new way of doing business when it comes to senior care.
Harsch is a Registered Nurse, who also holds a business degree. She's worked in the long-term care system in Alberta. She's also implemented a business plan for an alternative way of caring for the elderly.
"I felt the way we look after people says a lot about us as a society," she says. "There's a feeling that the elderly are old and have lived their lives, and that we don't need to give them as much respect as we would want ourselves."
The care facility Harsch built is a 7,000 sq. ft. residential home, situated on a residential lot, in a residential neighbourhood. It looks like any other estate home, though it's built to commercial specs. At ExquisiCare, ten residents live in a place that looks, feels and operates like home.
At the entrance there is a sitting room and a large winding staircase (there is also an elevator). There is a country kitchen and a dining room for special meals, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are ten small bedrooms, each with an ensuite and a walk-in closet. The staff are dressed in street clothes. They do everything from cooking to cleaning, just as it might happen with a caregiver at home.
"And most importantly," Harsch says, "We give our clients lots and lots of love. That's the biggest thing that's missing elsewhere.
"[In institutional care] we talk about safety and quality and innovation. All of that is important. Here we provide that, but we also give love and attention."
The residents also tend do better. The food is home cooked fresh food, naturally lower in sodium and fat. Still most clients gain from 10 to 20 pounds. Staff eat with the residents. There are fewer falls. There has never been an incident of a bed sore. Family members can come and go at any time of the day or night. Residents can go to bed when they want and get up when they want.
"We have one lady who sleeps in until 11 a.m.," Harsch says. "She and her husband worked in the theatre business. This is what they were used to their entire lives. And, we're not going to change it."
Residents with dementia tend not to wander as much.
"One fellow said this looks great and thanks for the meal, but he had to get going to Winnipeg.
"We just loved him and made it work."
And it did work.
"I love what I do," Harsch adds.
ExquisiCare has one home in Edmonton and will be opening two others in the near future.