Opening of a respite hotel for people with dementia in Oakville

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Memory & Company, a facility that provides short- and long-term memory care, as well as a day program for people with dementia, opened in Oakville.

Located on Iroquois Shore Road, Memory & Company is an upscale respite hotel and day program with 24/7 nursing care, high staff ratios, and programs and activities that include fitness and cognitive, music and art therapy.

“Brain health is so important. Caring for people with dementia by keeping them active, social and mentally engaged is key to slowing the progression of dementia,” said Ashley Kwong, who, with her husband Victor, founded Memory & Company, Respite Hotels and Premium Day Programs.

“Memory care isn’t part of what we do, it’s what we do.”

Memory & Company is designed differently than many nursing homes where the emphasis is on common areas and studio apartments, rather than apartment living, CEO Kwong said.

Those who use the facility, whether they visit occasionally or stay longer, are called members.

“We discourage our members from spending the days in their suites. Instead, we encourage them to participate in our ongoing programs and activities which are offered throughout the day. It keeps them active both physically and mentally, and really helps with sleep and mood.

Motion sensors in every room let staff know when a member is awake so they can be assisted with their personal needs, she added.

“We also design the environment as circular because people with dementia tend to wander or walk and it gives them space to do so without hitting dead ends, which can cause restlessness. We’re also safe so it’s a safe place with no fear of getting lost.

High contrast colors are used because people with dementia also live with depth perception issues, Kwong said.

“We also use lots of natural light throughout our space with floor-to-ceiling windows and over 40 skylights throughout the building. It helps with sleep, wake cycles and improves mood.

Kwong has worked in the aged care industry since she was a 16-year-old co-op student. She held a senior management position at Sunrise Senior Living, working as coordinator of the Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias department, then as general manager.

Kwong had dreamed of opening his own senior care home since his co-op internship.

“I felt like I could really make a difference. Through my experiences, I have seen a significant number of burnt out caregivers. Caring for people with dementia is one of the toughest jobs there is. It takes a lot of support to care for someone with advanced memory loss.

Families often try to take on too much of themselves and burn themselves out, which can lead to premature institutionalization of the person with dementia, she said.

“Often families who get breaks when they need them, whether it’s just a day, a weekend, a month or something longer term, can continue to be healthy, happy caregivers and can continue to support their loved ones in the community.”

Memory and Company’s Markham location predated the opening of the Oakville facility in 2015.

“We started by offering only our Premium day program, and expanded our offering in 2018 based on feedback from member families. Families have absolutely loved our Premium day program, but some need more respite than the day. This is what motivated us to open our respite hotel.

Interest in Memory and Company west of Toronto prompted the Oakville site.

“Our family also moved to Oakville to open this location last September and we are in love with this community,” she said.

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