Covenant Health site leader Russell Janzen

Villa Marie ready to become a home

Senior care is evolving, said one impressed local MLA on Thursday after the first official tour of Villa Marie, the new supportive living facility for seniors in Red Deer.

Senior care is evolving, said one impressed local MLA on Thursday after the first official tour of Villa Marie, the new supportive living facility for seniors in Red Deer.

As one of the last window panes was being fitted into place, Red Deer MLAs Cal Dallas and Mary Anne Jablonski walked through the 80,000-square-foot, 100-bed home on Carrington Drive run by Covenant Care, a non-profit partner in Alberta’s health system.

“I’m very pleased to have it in my constituency,” Jablonski said. “They do prepare the food here on site and that’s really important for people because when you’re in care one of the things you look forward to is something good to eat . . . . There’s flexibility here and I know certainly as I grow older I like flexibility. I don’t like to be told what to do. I like to have some choices and you get that here.”

After two years of construction, Villa Marie opened on schedule earlier this month with the first resident moving in on Jan. 16.

It features six suites for couples, 70 single bedrooms and 24 memory care single bedrooms for those needing specialized dementia care. Every room is outfitted with a shower and can also include a microwave and mini fridge. Memory boxes are built in the wall outside each unit so residents can personalize their space.

“One of the basic premises is that these are suites that they can furnish and they can have their own towels, bedding — we can help with that but we’re coming into their space rather than the other way around,” said Russell Janzen, the site administrator.

There are also bariatric care rooms for larger patients equipped with helpful lift equipment.

Other amenities in the building include spa/tub rooms, a chapel, hair salon, four large dining rooms, secure and non-secure courtyards, patios and numerous sitting areas.

Three meals are served each day, along with snacks, and, unlike many other facilities, breakfast has a flexible time window from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m., Janzen said, to appeal to all personalities.

A feature numerous families have commented on, he added, is the abundance of south-facing windows and all the natural lighting. The railings along every wall with three grooves at the end to let those with failing eyesight know the support is coming to an end is another stand-out component.

The $30-million facility (which came in on budget) is still putting the final touches on some rooms and is waiting on a few last items like blinds, which were delayed due to the ice storm in the eastern parts of the country. But for the most part it’s ready to become a home and more seniors were moving in on Thursday with large furniture pieces being unloaded from trucks parked out front.

More than 500 people applied for a spot in Villa Marie, said Janzen, and all 100 rooms have been now claimed.

He could not comment on the state of a waiting list.

Rents for supportive-living residents at the facility are in line with the provincial standard, at $1,785 per month, including utilities, food, housekeeping and care.

So far, three-quarters of the staff have been hired and Janzen expects a full roster by mid February.

Villa Marie is named for Sister Marie Agathe, the first Superior of the Daughters of Wisdom, who opened St. Joseph’s Convent in Red Deer in 1909 and brought Catholic education to Red Deer.

An official grand opening is being planned for sometime in June.

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