Ottawa Citizen interviews Greg Fougere

Perley Rideau to become dementia “centre of excellence”
OTTAWA — October 7, 2012 --- See Photos 

The Perley Rideau Veterans Health Centre, the largest long-term care home in Ottawa, has embarked on a multi-year plan to to become a “centre of excellence” for dementia. It is a major initiative to research the degenerative brain illness, develop expertise, and advance how dementia patients are housed and treated. “You have to build trust, and that’s part of being a centre of excellence,” says the Perley’s chief executive officer Greg Fougère. “(Families) are handing over the care to strangers. People have to trust that you have an understanding of dementia.”

The 450-bed centre, which opened in 1995, sits on an 11-acre campus on Russell Road in Alta Vista. While 200 of its beds are open to all, 250 beds are reserved for veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War. Sixty per cent per cent of the elderly residents have dementia, the most common cause being Alzheimers disease.

There are currently about 13,000 people in Ottawa with dementia. That number is expected to double in the next 20 years. After cancer, it is the second most-feared disease of aging.
“Long-term care homes will be places where 90 per cent of people have a dementia in addition to other diagnoses,” predicts Fougère. To cope with an elderly and growing population of dementia sufferers, there will need to be alternatives to long-term care, which is costly to the health care system, he says. And, as care homes take on greater numbers of severely-affected people, they will need specialized and efficient new approaches. Dementia affects memory, disorients, causes delusions and changes personality. Some people become incontinent and bed-ridden. Others live in locked units because they wander or lash out. There is currently no centre of excellence for dementia in the province.

“We would really encourage that,” says David Harvey, chief public policy and program initiatives officer of the Alzheimer Society of Ontario. “There is a lot of concern about the quality of care at the moment. “A centre of excellence is an organization that takes to heart the idea of doing the very best in service, research, and education.”

The Perley Rideau has a three-point plan which will take until 2025 to complete.
The first phase — a $42.3-million project to build a new model of housing called a “seniors’ village”— is already underway. It will offer apartments to people over age 65 who can live on their own, with or without support services. That includes a section for people with dementia.
During the second phase, from 2015 to 2020, as the number of veterans declines, as many as 130 of their designated beds will either be converted to supportive housing for people with early-to-mid-stage dementia, or become community long-term-care beds.

In the third phase, from 2020 to 2025, the Perley Rideau will establish an applied research centre and create a geriatric training centre for staff.

Scientists will study approaches to caregiving that could ease troubling symptoms, such as agitated and aggressive behaviour. Certain techniques can make activities such as eating or bathing more pleasant for patients. An emerging area of research is cognitive training to improve a person’s awareness. “There is a huge need for this kind of research,” says Harvey. “Part of a centre of excellence is to make the centre available as a laboratory.” The training centre is meant to attract and keep the best workers “who will see elder care as an exciting profession requiring leading edge skills,” says a Perley Rideau report.

The scheme expands existing dementia services at Perley Rideau. A 12-bed guest house provides short-term respite care for people with dementia in order to give family caregivers a break. About 70 people a week attend a dementia day program for social activities. Sixty people receive assisted living services in their homes, including people with dementia. The Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County is located on campus.

The seniors’ village is currently under construction. It will consist of two apartment buildings with 139 units for up to 225 people. Tenants will have access to on-site services such as a pharmacy, eye clinic, hearing clinic and dentist. They can receive physiotherapy, attend chapel, get their hair done in the salon, or eat in the cafeteria. Plans call for a family medicine clinic that will also focus on ways to keep seniors healthy.

The idea is to keep people independent as long as possible and avoid or delay placement in long-term care, freeing beds up for those who need them most. It offers the chance for residents to move to different levels of care as their health declines. Some tenants can manage on the their own or with homecare. Round-the-clock assisted living services will be provided to 70 eligible tenants.

Funded by the Champlain Local Health Integration Network, services include bathing, housekeeping, meal preparation, medication administration, 24-hour response system and more.

Fougère believes this program will grow, allowing the Perley Rideau to provide assisted living to more people in the village as well as the community. “This is where caring for seniors is at.”
The first apartment building opens next February or March. It is three-storeys tall and has 45 apartments, each with a balcony.

Walter Treml, a 92-year-widower and retired translator, will move from his bungalow to a one-bedroom apartment. He has had two heart attacks and uses a walker and scooter.
“I’m at a stage where I hesitate to go out alone,” he says. “It will be good to be in an environment where I feel safe.”He adds that he’s looking forward to the company of other residents. Treml will have help with medication and meals from the assisted living program and will pay for a cleaning lady.

The second building opens in October 2013. It is a five-storey structure attached to the main building and will have 94 apartments. The dementia area will be in this building, organized in four clusters of 10 studio apartments. These will be overseen by a personal support worker 24 hours a day. Each cluster shares a kitchen and dining area, where meals will be prepared and served.

“It will definitely be filling a gap,” says Kathy Wright, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County. “There are many people with dementia who can no longer live at home but don’t need the intensive care available in a long-term setting.”

Monthly rents range from $2,050 for a one-bedroom apartment (680 square feet) to $3,290 for a two bedrooms plus den (1,086 square feet.) A 407-square-foot studio apartment costs $1,210. Food is extra. There will also be 45 apartments at below-market rent.
Among the features are wheelchair accessibility and scooter parking stalls equipped with electric outlets for charging. Up to 30 per cent of the apartments are for veterans.
Shared amenities include a fitness centre, dining room and party room with terrace. There will be 4,000 square feet of commercial space, lounges and leisure and learning activities. For more information contact the rental office at 613-526-7170 extension 2006, or

The project is funded by a $32-million mortgage, $5.4-million in government grants and a $5-million fundraising campaign. It is one of the first seniors’ villages in Ontario. Bruyère Continuing Care is building a similar project in Orléans.

“We’re evolving to a centre of excellence but we’re already there in a number of ways,” says Fougère. “There’s much more we can do to meet the needs of seniors.”

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen -- Maria Cooke