Let’s Talk About It: Choosing a residence for people living with Alzheimer’s

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There are 230 certified private residences in Montreal listed on the Santé et Services sociaux du Québec website, making your search for an appropriate residence seemingly endless. But, if you are Anglophone and want to live in the west end of Montreal, the list will shrink considerably. If you are searching for specialized dementia care, the list is even smaller.

Sorting through the list is no easy task. I receive many frantic calls from already stressed families who have contacted a few residences and feel lost and overwhelmed. After hearing which residences they explored, I understand their frustration. Many are not suitable to care for the needs of their loved ones.

“Integration”, as a philosophical approach, disserves all residential clientele when it comes to Alzheimer’s Disease. Residents who are cognitively well and want intellectual stimulation will be frustrated because they must share activities with the cognitively impaired, whose dementia behaviours may be inappropriate or seem offensive.

Caring for someone with AD is difficult. Staff should be trained to deal with the behaviours and abilities that result from this neurological disease. It is crucial to verify staff expertise when researching a residence.

A specialized approach is required to make the person’s life as meaningful as possible. Few facilities exist in Montreal with units that can cater to those with dementia using a dignified personal care approach. Residents living in a world different from ours need to feel at home in a residence that recognizes their special needs.

A Dementia Village does exist in the Netherlands. Called Hogewey, it is described as follows: “There are no wards, long hallways, or corridors at the facility. Residents live in groups of six or seven to a house, with one or two caregivers. Perhaps the most unique element of the facility is its approach toward housing. Hogewey features 23 uniquely stylized homes, furnished around the time period when residents’ short-term memories stopped functioning. There are homes resembling the 1950s, 1970s, and 2000s, accurate down to the tablecloths, because it helps residents feel as if they’re home. Residents are cared for by 250 full and part-time geriatric nurses and specialists, who wander the town and hold a myriad of occupations in the village, like cashiers, grocery-store attendees, and post-office clerks. Finances are often one of the trickier life skills for dementia or Alzheimer’s patients to retain, which is why Hogewey takes it out of the equation; everything is included with the family’s payment plan, and there is no currency exchanged within the confines of the village.”

Until we are able to replicate such a village, we need to focus on specialized dementia care for our loved ones with trained staff, homelike non-institutional looking settings, pets, music, and dignified personalized care that recognizes the background and lifestyle of each resident.

When visiting a residence that offers dementia care, ask about staff training, staff-to-resident ratio, activities that cater to this specific clientele, access to the outdoors, the presence of pets, and ask for references.

Families I assist in their search are often surprised by the questions I ask the residence. I insist that promises about leasing arrangements and special services be put in writing. The staff person whose hand you are shaking now may not be there when issues arise.

If you are not receiving the assistance of a housing consultant familiar with senior residential leases, do your homework. Take your time. There are private consultants to assist in your search. I base my recommendations on my own research, and on client feedback.

Here are some useful sites:

3 Comments on "Let’s Talk About It: Choosing a residence for people living with Alzheimer’s"

  1. Catherine Fenn | May 5, 2016 at 10:58 pm | Reply

    Hi there. I am wondering how to contact Bonnie Sandler. We are looking for a residence in Montreal for our Mother who has dementia. Thanks for your help!

  2. How can one get a list of the appropriate residences that are publically funded? that can be filtered for specific areas, costs and needs?

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