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Cobourg’s Palisade Gardens building new 23-unit wing dedicated to dementia care

New ‘state-of-the-art’ memory care wing to open by end of year

by Sarah Hyatt Northumberland News


Palisade Gardens in Cobourg is growing with a new 23-unit memory care neighbourhood. General manager Micki McLean says the new suites are set to open by end of year. - Sarah Hyatt/Torstar

COBOURG – Residents and families struggling with dementia have a new avenue for help with an expansion project underway at the Palisade Gardens Retirement Community.

Construction is happening now on a “state-of-the-art” 23-unit addition to create the new Harmony Memory Care at Palisade Gardens. The new “neighbourhood” will be solely dedicated to people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.


“This will be a 23-bed wing, which should open, we hope, around the first of December – that’s what we’re shooting for,” said Micki McLean, Palisade’s general manager. “The grand opening would be the 15th of January.”


The number of Canadian seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia is rising steadily – and as a result, so is the demand on caregivers and health-care systems nationwide, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) reports.


“We feel, by building this, we can provide a better quality of life for individuals and families by keeping them within the same community for as long as we possibly can.” Micki McLean, general manager Palisade Gardens.


In a CIHI study, in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada, it states about 76,000 new cases of dementia are diagnosed every year in Canada.


These figures are expected to continue to rise and Northumberland certainly isn’t immune.

About two years ago, staff started talking about how to address this issue, and then this project came as a result, said McLean. People are living longer because we have better health care, so the industry has to keep evolving, and supporting increasing numbers of seniors living with dementia is part of this, said the manager.


In the retirement home setting, where it’s mostly independent living and people come and go as they please, if a resident develops dementia, the next move is usually to a long-term care facility. This is often necessary for safety (think about people wandering, forgetting where home is, where they are, their names, et cetera).


For people in this setting, who don’t have “heavy care needs,” but they wander, it’s kind of a shame the only option is long-term care, says McLean. And it’s said there are “a lot of people in this category.”


When asked about the need in this area, Jason Mercier, director of operations, described it as “extensive.”


“When we were conducting the market studies, the demand was extremely high and more so than retirement living, actually,” he said.


The “secured neighbourhood” addition means at least some, in the near future, have another option.


“We feel, by building this, we can provide a better quality of life for individuals and families by keeping them within the same community for as long as we possibly can,” said McLean.

Historically, and currently, Palisade’s condo units are often occupied by couples. Staff expect the addition could mean the world to some of them.


“If one (of the two), which we’ve seen many times over the years, does develop some form of dementia, this will allow couples and families to stay connected and together within their community,” said McLean.


Once complete, the new wing will be a “bright, self-contained space,” with the 23 private suites, all with ensuite washrooms.


“It’s got its own nursing station, its own (large indoor) activity area, its own dining area, (and) its own outdoor space (a secure courtyard), so it is really a neighbourhood within the neighbourhood,” said Mercier.


In other words, there will be “ample” space for mingling and activities like arts and crafts and enough room to simply “enjoy each day.”


Throughout the wing, its design is all about “enhancing memory” and helping residents’ better function on a day-to-day basis in a “relaxed and friendly” atmosphere. (For the entire layout, including the suites, doorways, hallways, furniture, textures, flooring, and lighting, and even the colours and décor used, Palisade Gardens brought in an expert in dementia designing.)


The new wing will also have a “full complement of highly trained staff” 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


“We’ve been undergoing training for the last several months (and) hiring specifically for that wing,” said McLean.


The addition is creating “at least 10 to 15 new jobs.” All staff are undertaking training in three top-tier dementia courses.


This training will help staff with tailoring care and activities to each individual and their needs, it was explained.


Last week, there were about six people on the waiting list for the new suites, though advertising just started this month. It’s expected the units will “fill up very quickly.”


With construction ongoing, tours aren’t possible just yet. Staff are asking anyone interested in the units to call 905-372-1150 and ask for Brenda Thompson or McLean right away so people can get on the list.


Staff will call to set up tours when viewings are possible, said McLean.

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