Canada’s Peel Region took a big risk, with a plan to transform its long-term dementia-care home, hoping that residents – and staff – could find joy and a purpose. Watch what happened!
Here is the dramatic journey of a nursing home dementia unit that tries to transform itself from a cold, clinical warehouse for seniors to a home of laughter, warmth and love. Peel Region’s Redstone unit could serve as a blueprint for Ontario nursing homes at the same crucial time as baby boomers move into their vulnerable years.
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Kenroy Foxe leaves his basement apartment in north Brampton, hops into his beat-up Honda and drives south for an afternoon shift at the nursing home where he will inevitably get punched in the head.
Kenroy is tired of being a human punching bag, taking jabs from residents. It’s a job hazard, for sure, but as he weaves his car through traffic, Kenroy starts thinking about the visiting dementia guru from England. His ideas seemed subversive at first but now Kenroy wonders, could they work?
By the time he arrives at the dementia unit, Kenroy has a plan for Fred, the 89-year-old whose fists hit hard. Kenroy does something that could get him fired in another home. It works so well that word of his success grabs the attention of the home’s senior medical director, upending his long-held notions of care.
(Kenroy Foxe works in Malton Village’s Redstone unit, the site of a year-long pilot program called the Butterfly program, which aims to transform care in nursing homes.)
Kenroy’s epiphany is one of hundreds of small but momentous changes inside the Redstone unit at Peel Region’s Malton Village long-term care home. They could transform the way Ontario cares for its aging population, proving that a warm, lively nursing home is not that difficult to create.
Kenroy just doesn’t want to get hit. The fastest jab belongs to Fred, who doesn’t understand why Kenroy wants to pull down his pants and change his briefs. He gets scared and defensive. His tough side emerges, maybe from his years as a civilian mechanic with the Pakistani military, and he punches Kenroy.
Kenroy has been listening and learning. He decides there’s a better way. So one day in late August, he does what his original training forbids.
He hugs Fred. A big bear hug. Fred hugs him back. “Let’s go to the toilet Fred,” he says. They walk down the hallway, arm in arm.
“He hasn’t hit me since,” Kenroy says.
In September, before a council meeting, Peel’s long-term care director Cathy Granger shows a note describing Kenroy’s hugging solution to Dr. Sudip Saha, Peel’s senior medical director of its five long term care homes. Dr. Saha also holds senior positions within the William Osler Health System, including medical director, division chief of seniors and senior medical director of long-term care.
…Now, Cathy watches Dr. Saha as she reads aloud from the note about Kenroy’s story. His face shifts. The next day, Saha tells her that the Kenroy-and-Fred solution could help people with dementia in Peel’s other homes and hospitals.
“I was pleased,” he says later, smiling. “Very, very pleased.”
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One Peel nursing home took a gamble on fun, life and love. The most dangerous story we can tell is how simple it was to change.