Seniors residence celebrates grand opening

Gerda Klanke can now visit her husband without driving all the way to Rocky Mountain House.

Gerda Klanke can now visit her husband without driving all the way to Rocky Mountain House.

Sybren Klanke, 80, moved into Covenant Care’s brand new Villa Marie in Red Deer in February after spending a year in a Rocky continuing care facility.

“I always needed somebody to go with me. I can drive, but I can’t drive long distance because of my health,” said Gerda Klanke, 78, of Red Deer, at the grand opening of Villa Marie on Friday afternoon.

She said her husband was becoming abusive towards her when they lived together in Red Deer and was eventually diagnosed with dementia.

“All of a sudden he got really paranoid at home and he couldn’t find anything anymore. He could not talk anymore.”

At first she was worried that returning to Red Deer could be difficult on her husband because he was kind of settled at the Rocky facility.

But his secure 12-bed dementia ward at Villa Marie is very bright with plenty of space to walk, which was always one of his favourite activities, she said.

“Personally I’m quite happy with it,” Gerda said.

The 100-bed Villa Marie, located at 10 Carrington Drive, opened in January with 24 supportive living Level 4 beds for people with dementia, and 76 regular supportive living Level 4 care beds, including six one-bedroom suites for couples.

Level 4 is one level below long-term care, which is the highest care level for seniors.

The $30-million facility was one of two built by Covenant Care touted as a new model of care where seniors could age in place without having to move as their care needs change.

Villa Marie, which is being run as a supportive living facility, opened about a month before the Calgary facility.

“We’re really proud of not only the facility, but the innovation that comes with the facility,” said Patrick Dumelie, president and CEO of Covenant Care.

“As (residents’) care needs increase, we’re able to change the care plan and not the location of care. That’s the real beauty of this facility. We don’t want to displace residents and have them cut off from their community, from their friends, from their caregivers, from their family,” Dumelie said.

He said residents were able to move in quickly because jobs were filled right away. The culture of innovation at Villa Marie likely appealed to workers.

“It’s hard on residents to move from facility to facility. It’s also hard on caregivers because they develop a real bond with residents,” Dumelie said.

Kerry Bales, chief zone officer with Alberta Health Services Central Zone, said 21 of the Villa Marie residents were transitioned from Symphony Senior Living Aspen Ridge after that facility eliminated its AHS-funded beds.

“That was a little bit unfortunate in the sense that probably utilized some of the capacity here quicker than we had hoped,” Bales said.

Shirley Thomas, Central Alberta Council on Aging vice-president, said the council is hearing there is bigger need for long-term care beds rather than the supportive living facilities that the province prefers to have built these days.

She said two years ago it was announced that Villa Marie would provide all levels of senior care, including long-term care.

“What they have delivered is a far cry from what was presented at that time,” Thomas said.

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