Cutting-Edge Dementia Care Built Into Canada’s Georgian Bay Retirement Home

Photo: Tuned_In / iStock / Thinkstock

When the Canadian physical therapist and dementia care advocate Reshawn Devendra decided to found a memory care facility, he aimed high.
Like the rest of the world, dementia is a growing problem in Canada, where 1 in 20 people over 65 has Alzheimer’s/dementia. The figure climbs to 1 in 4 for Canadians over 85, according to a Senior Living Blog article.
So when Reshawn decided to design the Georgian Bay Retirement Home outside Toronto, he looked to other cutting-edge memory care facilities around the world for inspiration, including the Netherland’s Dementiaville, England’s Grove Care, and Scotland’s dementia-friendly Stirling, where residents are free to wander in environments designed to replicate interiors from the mid-20th century.
Reshawn’s vision was on its way to becoming reality when a former long-term care facility was put up for sale by local government, and he was given free rein to reinvent it as a state-of-the-art memory care facility. 

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Eager to implement a new, transformational approach with his memory care and ancillary care concept/design, Devendra includes these 5 essential features:
  1. Greater staff to resident ratios.
  1. 20,000 square feet of indoor space and 18,000 square feet outdoors, allowing residents to wander safely.
  1. Specialized training for both nursing and activities staff, with a multi-media memory care library for both families and staff.
  1. Specialized high-tech equipment, including Snoezelen therapy, a controlled multisensory environment using lighting effects, music, and scent to stimulate the senses.
  1. Various programs like music therapy, gardening, past hobbies, storytelling, and more.
The community’s vast space helped Reshawn and other founders create rooms designed around themes that are meaningful to residents. 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,says Reshawn. Examples of rooms designed especially for residents include:
  • A barber shop
  • A vintage kitchen
  • A garage with a 1947 Dodge
  • A nursery with life-like babies
  • Gardens
  • An artificial beach
One innovative design feature of these rooms is doors fashioned to look like bookcases, so residents won’t use them to exit and stray.
The main idea linking the different themes was recognition and involvement by the residents. “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.
“By providing Alzheimer’s and dementia residents purpose in life, everyone is happier,” adds Reshawn. “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.”
What is your facility doing to make your residents feel more comfortable, aware, and involved?
For another inside look at cutting-edge memory care architectural design, check out this interview with Amy Schoenemann, Director of Design Development and Project Architect for PDC Midwest.