Home Month and Year April 2024 The Need for More Dementia Care Facilities

The Need for More Dementia Care Facilities

With the growth rate of the 65-plus age group expected to double in 20 years, much needs to be done to ensure there are enough care homes for those who develop dementia.

With the growth rate of the 65-plus age group expected to double in the next 20 years, much work needs to be done to ensure there are enough care homes for those who develop dementia.

It’s no secret that people are living longer these days. With life expectancies in Canada increasing over the past 50 years, many believe this to be a good thing. 


For example, in 1970 the average lifespan for men was 73 years old and 81 years old for women. Fast forward to today and those figures have increased to 78 for men and 84 for women. 


While aging can be a great thing for those in good health, it may be lesser so for those individuals who are suffering from incurable dementia-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 


Essentially, Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that worsens over time that causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to eventually die. Considered the most common cause of dementia, those afflicted will see a gradual decline in memory, thinking, behavior and social skills, all of which can largely affect their ability to function. 


In advanced stages, those afflicted can suffer a severe loss of brain function that can cause dehydration, malnutrition, infection and death. While medicines may improve or slow the progression of symptoms, and programs and services can help support people with the disease and their caregivers. 


Early Signs  

Olivia Chubey is the chief service and operations officer at Silvera, a non-profit non-health care organization in Calgary that provides a diverse selection of housing with services and supports for independent older adults. Silvera has grown to 1,758 units in 27 supportive living and independent living communities in all four quadrants of the city.  


She says early signs of dementia include forgetfulness that impacts one’s life, safety concerns or social isolation.  


“If such concerns become repetitive and impact a person’s ability to care for themselves, it is important to take note and approach the person with dignity and compassion. If you’re witnessing these signs with a loved one or if you’re feeling overwhelmed caring for someone who is experiencing these signs, it may be time for your loved one to be assessed by a medical practitioner.” 


Lindsay Kulyk is community builder/leasing specialist at Wellings of Calgary, an independent community for adults aged 55 and over. While Wellings does not provide dementia care, Kulyk is no stranger to this unrelenting disease. 


Kulyk was her grandfather’s care provider for three years and saw the impact dementia had on him and her family. 


“When one gets dementia, it can be uncertain how long they will live as it depends on what kind of dementia they have,” she says. “There is not a specific life expectancy. The decline can be gradual and for others it’s a sharp decline. It all depends on how the disease progresses.”  


With her grandfather, the family could see it coming for three years.  


“This was the onset. He was very active and prone to roaming. I went out for a hike with him every day. Then there were three years where it was quite bad. He passed on about a year after that. We had seven years with him after the diagnosis.” 


She adds that when you live with someone or are close to them, you generally know their baseline as far as moods, emotions and behaviors.  


“When you start to notice things outside that behaviorsuch as forgetting the name of their close friendthe best thing to do is take them to a doctor.” 


Care Option Shortages 

Once your friend or relative has a dementia diagnosis or has been assessed as having cognitive impairment or early to mid-stage onset, they may require memory care with an organization like Silvera Beaverdam Commons.  


Located in the community of Lynnwood, Beaverdam offers a memory care program that supports seniors living with mild to moderate memory loss or early to mid-stage dementia.  


“The 59-unit allows seniors with memory challenges to continue living independently with 24/7 home care delivered by Silvera’s partner CBI Health, full dining services, weekly housekeeping, leisure programs to promote physical, cognitive and social health, and an emergency call-bell system, says Chubey. 


While this is a first-rate facility, the problem that still remains is the massive shortage of care options for seniors in Calgary, the province and across Canada, especially for those with early-to mid-stage stage dementia.  


“As a result, it’s not easy to find a place to live for aging Calgarians who require memory care, particularly in community-based housing,” explains Chubey. 


“Traditionally, older adults experiencing dementia are assessed for continuing care housing, which has limited capacity to keep up with the growing number of people with dementia-related needs.”  


Silvera operates Beaverdam Commons, a unique community-based lodge with 24/7 home care supports, which supports older adults with memory loss and early to mid-stage dementia to remain as independent as possible without the need to move to continuing care.  


“We need more community housing models with 24/7 home care such as Beaverdam,” adds Silvera. “This program demonstrates that older adults with dementia can age in place longer with the right supports.” 


Kulyk adds that there are only a handful of buildings she would recommend for dementia care. 


“I wish there were more. There are a lot of people fighting for more housing solutions for these folks and companies determining how to offer this care at an affordable rate. Some care homes are being changed into dementia-friendly homes. For example, they will make one floor devoted to dementia care, and refit spaces to accommodate them. But this is still not solving the problem.” 


The Future 

With the growth rate of the 65-plus age group expected to double in the next 20 years, much works needs to be done to ensure there are enough care homes for those who develop dementia. 


“The growing demand for memory care outstrips the housing supply,” says Chubey.  


“The solution will require the right partnership between the government, private partners, and housing providers, such as Silvera, to meet the growing need for housing for seniors with early-to-mid-stage dementia.” 


Kulyk agrees and adds, “The biggest thing I can say is to embrace it. If it’s happening, it’s happening.” 


Alberta Dementia Statistics 

According to the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories, approximately 46,000 Albertans are living with dementia. By 2043, this is expected to increase to 225,000 Albertans.  


According to the 2016 Population Estimates of Dementia in Alberta (PEDA) report, the number of people living with dementia in Calgary in 2020 was 36,800a number that is projected to increase to 59,100 by 2030. That means an average annual growth rate of those with dementia is 4.9 per cent. This is slightly higher than the national average of 4.8 per centand much higher than the global rate of 3.6 per cent, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.  


To emphasize the rapidly growing trend of people with dementia in Calgary since the pandemic, the estimated and extrapolated increase is a staggering 18.1 per cent from 2020 to 2023. Furthermore, the prevalence of dementia more than doubles every five years for Canadians 65 years and olderfrom less than 1 per cent for those 65 to 69 to approximately 25 per cent for those 85 and years and older.