Red Deer and Calgary will be the first cities in Alberta to have continuing care facilities flexible enough so seniors can live there as they age, no matter what their level of care.
The province is working with Covenant Health to build a 100-bed facility in both Red Deer and Calgary that will be demonstration models for the new concept in care where residents don’t have to move if they need more care.
“We can adapt our staffing to meet the resident’s needs as opposed to having the resident meet the staffing model that we’ve created,” Patrick Dumelie, president and CEO of Covenant Health, said at the announcement of the new model in Red Deer on Wednesday.
“All of these beds are designed to accommodate care up to long-term care.”
“We think they’ll have a tremendous impact on the system, and across the entire province, and even across Canada,” Dumelie said.
The province contributed about $30 million for construction and Covenant Health put in $21 million.
Both projects are tender-ready, with construction to be complete in two years.
The two-storey Red Deer project, first announced in 2010, will be built in Clearview Ridge, west of 30th Avenue and south of 67th Street, directly south of a proposed commercial centre.
Mayor Morris Flewwelling said Red Deer is leading the way, again.
“We had the first seniors care facility in Canada so we’ve been at this for 55 years,” said Flewwelling at the announcement held at the Sheraton Hotel.
He said splitting up levels of care into different facilities is very administratively handy so that’s the way things tend to be done. The new model is more organic and more humane.
Health Minister Fred Horne said the concept was developed by Premier Alison Redford during the leadership campaign to allow aging in place.
“What we mean by aging in place is really designing a facility that allows us to fund and support the needs of seniors as they change over time, all the way from quite an independent level of living in a facility right through to higher levels of supported living (and) long-term care, which is a great need in our province, and support for end of life care as well,” Horne said.
“We want this model to help us avoid the unnecessary situations that we hear about where seniors end up waiting in hospital to access sometimes long-term care, sometimes just to access basic community care.”
Horne said he’d like to think the new model of care could work in many existing seniors facilities. Barriers sometimes have nothing to do with “bricks and mortar” and are created by regulations.
He said the province will continue with its goal of opening 1,000 additional seniors spaces a year, but was adamant the new direction will not “evolve into a cookie cutter model for the rest of Alberta.”
“The philosophy is to reconnect with local communities and planning for continuing care and to work with partners, such as Covenant, to develop a model and a philosophy that works for that community.”
Doug Janssen, vice-president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging, said the new model of care “heralds a new day in the care of seniors in Alberta.”
The council has lobbied hard for more long-term care spaces in Red Deer.
“There’s a lot of details yet to come out, but the philosophy is truly a gigantic step forward,” Janssen said.
“It will be very interesting to see how the staffing model is implemented. It will have to be quite a flexible staffing model.”
Between 80 and 100 employees will be employed at each facility.
Dumelie said even though changes in care will be accommodated, he doesn’t expect a huge fluctuation in staffing. Both full and part-time permanent jobs will be available.
There will be a segregated unit for dementia care, but dementia patients will be able to live in other parts of the facilities depending on their needs. Respite care will also be available.
Eight couples suites will allow spouses to continue to live together. The facilities are also designed to be affordable spaces for seniors.
Dumelie said enough property was purchased for a second stage to the Red Deer facility, with services to be determined by the needs of the community.