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New Calgary dementia centre expected to ease pressure on emergency rooms

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WATCH: A new long-term care facility designed for dementia patients has just opened in southeast Calgary. The hope is that the 210 beds will take some of the pressure off the city's acute care system. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Sep 18, 2018

A new care centre designed specifically for people with complex dementia celebrated its grand opening in southeast Calgary on Tuesday.

Bethany Riverview is a 210-bed long-term care facility located in the Dover neighbourhood. The $67-million project is funded by the Bethany Care Society and a capital grant from the Alberta government. All rooms are private, have enough space to accommodate family and include an en suite bathroom. The facility is designed to allow patients the freedom to wander, which experts say helps reduce anxiety.

“When you care for someone with dementia, often times you will hear them saying, ‘I want to leave. I want to go home.’ That feeling of confinement can really increase some of their feelings of agitation,” said Janine Ollenberger, care service manager with Bethany Riverview.

The new facility is a much-needed space for some of the 44,000 Albertans with dementia, helping those get the care they need and easing the burden on the province’s acute care bed system.

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“We are at a better place than where we were three years ago with the addition of 2,000 long-term care beds of which this forms a part of,” said Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci at the opening event. Ceci said the province is on track to create 2,000 new long-term care beds by 2019.

The Bethany Riverview long-term care centre opened in southeast Calgary on Tuesday. Global News

Emergency room physicians said the addition of 2,000 long-term care beds has been helping move seniors out of emergency rooms and acute care beds.

“It sounds like a sizable improvement but as our population is aging, I can imagine that a few years down the road, we will probably have to revise that to show that our need is even greater,” said Dr. Eddy Lang, department head of Emergency Medicine at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine.

READ MORE: Students and seniors living together in Calgary retirement home

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“Fortunately, I think we are seeing an improvement,” Lang added. “There’s a concerted effort across Alberta and in the Calgary zone to open more long-term care beds. We also see a lot of growth in home care services so families are able to care for their frail elderly longer before they have to place them into nursing homes.”

The Bethany Riverview long-term care centre opened in southeast Calgary on Tuesday.
The Bethany Riverview long-term care centre opened in southeast Calgary on Tuesday. Global News

While Bethany Riverview has all the comforts of a modern, spacious home, that’s not the case with many other long-term care centres. Jennifer McCue, CEO of Bethany Care Society, said not only does Alberta require more beds, but old facilities need to be replaced too.

READ MORE: Caregivers of loved ones with dementia experience distress, isolation: study 

“We probably need to be building somewhere in the 1,000-beds-a-year range in order to meet the demand, because we have to replace that old capacity,” McCue said. “We cannot continue to use that old stuff. We need to be able to care for people in this kind of environment as we go forward. I am not going to want to live in one of those old buildings.”

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LISTEN: Bethany Care President & CEO Jennifer McCue joins Danielle Smith to discuss the new care centre

McCue said every bit helps when it comes to creating more spaces for Alberta dementia patients.

“If you can take 210 people that are not in the right place right now and put them in the right place and deliver that care to them, that’s a huge impact,” McCue said.

“It’s an addition to our system and much needed capacity addition. I think it’s a celebration of being able to design intentionally for that population because as the population ages… expectations change about how they want to be cared for.”

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