Skip to main content

Practical nurse, Nicole Donaldson, stands in front of the house that will soon be an adult day centre, the Open Heart Adult Day Centre, for people with Alzheimer's and dementia, in Colwood, near Victoria, July 21, 2010.Deddeda Stemler for The Globe and Mail

When Nicole Donaldson opens her new daycare this September, she will offer a familiar array of programs and services - snacks, field trips, play time, social opportunities and all the gentle guidance that professional caregivers are trained to provide.

But instead of catering to rambunctious preschoolers, she'll be looking after seniors with Alzheimer's and dementia.

A licensed practical nurse with three decades of experience caring for the elderly, Ms. Donaldson is on the verge receiving final approval for what is believed to be the first privately run adult daycare in Greater Victoria.

Located in a nearly renovated home in Colwood, Open Hearts Adult Day Centre is aimed at family members who need a break from the relentless demands of caring for ailing relatives.

"This is so exciting and so needed," Ms. Donaldson said. "More and more people are having to care for elders with dementia at home. I want them to be able to go for lunch, make an appointment or visit friends - just have a normal life for a few hours."

The Vancouver Island Health Authority operates 21 adult day programs for seniors with chronic health problems, serving upwards of 1,000 people at any given time.

But few of them operate five days a week and, at a subsidized cost of about $10 a day, the programs can have waiting lists as long as five month, Ms. Donaldson said.

Open Hearts Adult Day Centre will have space for 10 clients, the maximum allowed under Colwood's daycare bylaws, and operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The facility will also offer a bathing service for dementia patients, a difficult and uncomfortable task for many family caregivers, Ms. Donaldson said.

Denuda Grzelak, a Victoria resident who quit her job last winter to care for her mother-in-law, an Alzheimer's sufferer, said a lack of available flexible adult-day programs has prevented her from returning to work

"There's not really anything out there you could have on a day-to-day basis so you could go and work," she said. "We've lost a lot of income."

According to a recent study released by the Alzheimer's Society of Canada, the number of dementia cases in Canada will more than double over the next 30 years, from 480,000 to 1.1 million.

As a result, demand for long-term care will increase tenfold, with a cumulative economic burden to society of $872-billion over that time, says the report, entitled Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society.

Barbara Lindsay, the public policy manager of Alzheimer's Society of B.C., said demographics are the driving force behind the increase.

"It's largely because of aging baby boomers, that's where the numbers really take off," Ms. Lindsay said. "It's going to be challenging to build enough long-term care beds, so the pressure on families is going to increase."

After dreaming about running her own adult daycare for years, Ms. Donaldson purchased a house in a residential neighbourhood this spring and started renovations, despite uncertainty about the project's ability to meet local licensing and bylaw requirements.

Since Colwood has no bylaws specific to senior daycares, and Ms. Donaldson's didn't qualify as a children's daycare, she was forced to make a rezoning application.

As of last week, the rezoning bylaw had passed the first three readings of council and Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders said the proposal generated minimal opposition at a public hearing earlier this month.

"It's something the city is looking forward to having," he said.

Vancouver Island Health Authority spokeswoman Shannon Marshall said the province's Community Care and Assisted Living Act regulates children's daycare but not adult day programs.

However, she added the idea has been discussed at the management level and may receive more attention if there's marked increase in the number of adult daycares.

Special to The Globe and Mail