May 28, 2019

Masterpiece facility trying to tackle dementia with Butterfly Home model

Originally written by Scott Roblin and published by
May 28, 2019

MEDICINE HAT, AB – A breaking of physical and metaphorical walls took place at Medicine Hat’s Masterpiece senior’s care residence on Tuesday morning.

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With the symbolic removal of a pane of glass, the process began to bring two separate wings together for close to 30 seniors living with dementia.

According to Masterpiece president and CEO Tim Garforth-Bles, it’s a move that’s been months in the making.

“It's really about our people and how our people feel,” said Garforth-Bles. “It's that feeling that we're trying to address today because our people have been cooped up behind that wall now for 18 months and it's just not right.”

This comes after Garforth-Bles attended a course in Edmonton ran by Dementia Care Matters that was centred around the approach of ‘Butterfly Care Homes.’

Developed 24 years ago in Great Britain, the Butterfly model focuses on creating a homey environment for residents with dementia through things like brightly coloured walls, familiar objects residents can touch, and even pets to cuddle.

Connie Shorrock is one of those residents prepping for the move and said she’s optimistic about the proposed benefits of the new space.

“It would be wonderful if it works because there's a lot of people losing their memory, myself included,” said Shorrock.

Shorrock is one of over 500,000 Canadians living with dementia and said on occasion it can be a frustrating process.

“It can be, but you know what's happening to you,” she said. “So, you got to stop and say, ‘I'll start over again.’”

The project will be the first ‘Butterfly Care Home’ in Medicine Hat and the sixth in Alberta, following builds in Lethbridge, Calgary, and Edmonton.

Six staff members will continue to work with these specific residents, however Masterpiece is moving three staff over to the new space as well.

“We'll have nine staff on this area during the day, which actually drops the ratio to about three of our people to one staff member,” said Garforth-Bles.

Much of the repair and restoration work is being done in-house, with initial estimates pegging the project to cost between $25,000 and $30,000.

A drop in the bucket compared to the $45 million price tag of the entire Masterpiece facility according to Garforth-Bles.

“Funding is static, we don't think the new government is going to provide funding for AHS,” he said. “AHS have said, ‘You're not getting anymore this year.’ So, we're trying to be creative.”

More than anything, residents like Win Walker are happy to see topics like dementia being addressed more openly in the long-term care system.

“It's out in the open now, they used to hide it,” said Walker. “It's better for people when it's like the way it is.”

Fellow resident Leonard Lukey has travelled around the world, but said he hasn’t seen too many places where those battling degenerative diseases are treated the same as their peers.

“They are here, they are allowed here, there's a place for them,” said Lukey.

Along with the dismantling of the glass wall on Tuesday, residents will get the chance to explore the space and learn first hand what the ‘Butterfly Care Home’ model is all about before completion.

While the new space might be an adjustment for residents like Shorrock, she’s eager to see it all come together.

“You learn things as you go,” she said. “I'm coming in here kind of green, so I'm going to have to learn a lot of stuff.”

Construction on the space will continue over the next four weeks, which is expected to wrap up on July 2 with the grand opening.

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