Sherbrooke Household Kitchen in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where residents have been living in households since 1998. To find out more about Sherbrooke read Culture Change Now magazine, Volume 3 to be released September, 2004.
Why would you be willing to give up the comforts of home at a certain age? How often do we find ourselves looking forward to crawling into our own bed, or relaxing into our favorite chair, or joining with those we love around the kitchen table? These things all seem even more important when we are ill, or feeling vulnerable and especially if we are feeling alone. Renovating a facility into home can help elders deal with these often-faced challenges.
The neighborhood and household models are designed to bring residents closer together in a smaller, cozier environment than the standard long hall of bedrooms. Most neighborhoods, or households, can accommodate 10 - 20 residents. Neighborhoods have their own dining rooms and perhaps small kitchenettes. Households have their own dining room, but also a functioning kitchen and living room. There are multiple households or neighborhoods in a single facility. Facilities moving to these innovative models will sometimes have a town center or main street for all the residents, including destinations such as a movie theater, beauty salon, chapel and physical therapy spa.
One of the most rewarding renovations is the household kitchen. Set up much like a home kitchen with standard appliances and cupboards, it is a place for activities, snacks and one of the shining stars of culture change, the open breakfast. Usually, residents in a traditional facility are awakened at a designated time to have whatever is prepared that day for breakfast in their rooms or in a large centralized dining room. Open breakfast in a household or neighborhood allows elders to decide when they want to eat, what they want to eat and to come out into the small kitchen area to enjoy their meal.
"Open breakfast is our greatest accomplishment," espouses Brett Dewolf, Director of Environmental services at Halcyon House. "[Under the previous model] staff was rushed and the residents didn't like it either. So, now we have open dining times."
We've all heard, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." For the elders at Pennybyrn at Maryfield, where Rich Newman is Administrative President, the new morning schedule sets the tone for the day. "Waking residents up and bringing them food in their rooms was self-destructing," he said. "Now they come out and eat in the sunroom/solarium. It's amazing how much they love doing the morning now and how much better they feel when they are not woken up to eat and then go back to sleep."
Bathing rooms can also be uncomfortable with their institutional decor and bath lifts. A team at Pennybyrn renovated their bathing room by adding towel racks, fish decorations and heat lamps. At Halcyon House residents, staff and maintenence were presented with choices for tubs, wallpaper, tile and paint. Everyone weighed in with their ideas of what would make an ideal bathing room before it was redone. Residents at Perham Memorial Hospital and Home even have the option of taking a shower.
When it came time to redo the living area at Halcyon House, residents were given a say about what kind of furniture they wanted to see and were it would be placed. The residents and staff at Pennybyrn moved furniture around to create more intimate spaces within their living areas. It seems like a little thing, but a resident at Halcyon House, suffering from dementia, had a rare lucid moment while visiting with her family in a newly renovated room "It's just so nice to sit in a quiet room," she said.
Wireless paging systems with no overhead alarms, silent pagers at Halcyon House, and medications kept in resident rooms instead of on a cart at Perham all help the staff do their jobs efficiently. What's more, they take the institution out of the facility, and replace it all with home.
Most of us are at our best at home. We can be ourselves, relax and feel safe. When a facility becomes home, it becomes a place for everyone there to have a more fulfilling life. Perhaps more importantly, it becomes a place to have good days again, and once in awhile a place to enjoy a great day!
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