Michener: The Closing Doors — Part 8 — Care improves over the history of Michener Centre

Screaming, kicking and biting in the dentist’s chair sounds extreme. But Lily Breland said her sons Ryan Breland, 40, and Daniel, 35, regularly lash out in anger and fear when they visit the dentist.



Screaming, kicking and biting in the dentist’s chair sounds extreme.

But Lily Breland said her sons Ryan Breland, 40, and Daniel, 35, regularly lash out in anger and fear when they visit the dentist.

That’s why her sons, who both have severe mental disabilities and autism, visit the dental services at Michener Centre.

“They only work with disabled people so they’re used to whatever behaviours happen. They’re used to the conditions of the guys’ teeth,” said Breland, who lives with her sons in Red Deer.

Every three months, they visit Michener Centre for a dental checkup and for as much teeth cleaning as they will tolerate. Every two years, they are sedated for X-rays and necessary dental work.

She said lab and X-ray services were eliminated at Michener a few years ago. It was another exceptional service where distractions were minimal, wait time minimal and staff experienced.

“There wasn’t anything that the guys threw at them that they hadn’t seen before, behaviour-wise.

“That makes a difference. If you’re working with them and you start to freak out, they just escalate their behaviours,” Breland said.

Dentists at Michener Centre have looked for ways to improve the dental health of patients through the years.

In 1992, dentist Don Perenack developed a lemon-flavoured jelly toothpaste containing an anti-bacterial agent to better protect teeth from decay. Decay is a problem for the developmentally disabled, who often cannot brush their teeth, or they take medication that impacts dental health.

Care has shone in a variety of ways at Michener.

Since 1999, Michener Centre has won seven Premier’s Awards of Excellence to recognize outstanding work by public employees. They were singled out for hosting a conference for persons with developmental disabilities, pandemic planning, and preparing the 2008 Moving Ahead Project report that plans for the consolidation of residential services on Michener’s south site to allow residents to live out their lives at Michener if they choose.

Michener also received an award for operating Camp L.G. Barnes in partnership with the Society of Parents and Friends of Michener Centre. The year-round camp on Gull Lake was purchased in 1955 by the parents to provide a recreation option for people with developmental disabilities. It has wheelchair accessible equipment like a pontoon boat, as well as adaptive horseback riding, a petting zoo, a two-storey eating shelter and viewing deck, and more.

In 2001, Michener’s Psychotropic Drug Review Program received a Premier’s Award along with national recognition with the Commitment to Care Award for Hospital Pharmacy from the journal Pharmacy Practice, as well as an Alberta College of Pharmacists Award of Excellence.

Three pharmacists — Denise Stefura, Judy Lorenz and Kathy To — received the award that changed Michener’s focus from medicating behaviours of residents to treating underlying mental illness.

The program, developed by Stefura and former Michener medical director Dr. Robert Lampard, led to a dramatic drop in drug usage over a 10-year period and required reviewing years of data, sometimes going back to residents’ files from the 1930s.

Lampard said the psychotropic review evolved into a total, annual medical review where health-care professionals and staff reviewed changes in residents’ behaviour and medication.

Medical care plans were developed that were straightforward and concisely contained on a single sheet of paper to keep both staff and family up to date on residents.

“We had it all. We had total life history. We had the total drug history of a resident at Michener. You don’t have it on yourself and I don’t have it on myself. But we had it on every resident at Michener for the length of time they were at Michener, which on the average was about 30 years,” Lampard said.

In fact, Michener staff started putting together similar information sheets on their own family members and surprised their family physicians with its precision and depth, he chuckled.

Lampard said stability and quality of care are why Michener has lasted so long.

“The pre-1923 care was terrible. But when Alberta focused on care of the handicapped in 1923, they did a good job. They put in an excellent administrator. They sent him to Boston, the best place on the continent for education, and he came back and stayed almost 10 years and he did his best to not just admit, but discharge. I don’t know of any institution that has the quality of history that Michener has in terms of stability and very good people.”

Lampard said in about 1960, Alberta Premier Ernest Manning travelled around the continent looking for the place that could offer the best care for his eldest son Keith. While in New York, Manning was advised to check out Red Deer.

Keith Manning had epilepsy and arrested mental development as the result of a birth injury.

“(The premier) went back and more closely examined the Provincial Training School in Red Deer and realized it was one of the best places on the continent. It was just a confirmation of the quality of care that Michener has always provided.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

Coming Tuesday: Number of people in institutional care fell dramatically across Canada over three decades.

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