Nicole Donaldson sits in the empty living room of the home she formerly used for her Colwood business Open Hearts Adult Daycare. After two years

Nicole Donaldson sits in the empty living room of the home she formerly used for her Colwood business Open Hearts Adult Daycare. After two years

Dementia care model in Colwood too far ahead of its time

Unless unexpected source of funding found, vision of a private service to complement crowded public care is not yet financially feasible.

The house is silent and empty now but Nichole Donaldson’s dream is still vividly alive.

Donaldson made headlines for her vision of a new way to care for the elderly as they make the difficult transition from independence to the need for constant care.

Open Hearts Adult Daycare welcomed its first clients to a refurbished home at 647 Kelly Rd. in April 2011.

On June 15, the service closed its doors for the last time and the house was put up for sale.

Unless she can find an unexpected source of funding, Donaldson says her vision of a private service to complement crowded public care is just not financially feasible. Not yet anyway.

“I’m still very passionate about the model of care,” she said, listing off demographic stats to support her case.

Aging Baby Boomers are beginning to suffer from dementia and the population bulge their generation represents has caused concern that public health care can’t keep up.

A primary nurse with 30 years of experience, Donaldson believes groups of people with dementia can get along fine.

“It only takes two people to look after 10 instead of 10 people looking after 10,” she said, explaining why she thinks her model will have to one day replace the labour-intensive model that remains in place. “We won’t be able to sustain that.”

Donaldson, who has worked for two decades at Mount St. Mary in Fairfield, says it’s usually when people are taken out of social situations and isolated that negative behaviours begin to manifest. People need to express themselves and will act out if no one is paying attention to them.

What’s more, Donaldson said, problems arise when people who have been isolated are then reintroduced into a group.

Her idea appears to have worked, judging from the testimony of those who used the service before it shut down.

It just couldn’t compete on costs against public services that are heavily subsidized by the health authority.

“You keep hearing about this growing tide of dementia but I, for the life of me, cannot understand why VIHA would not support her efforts,” said Barb Denney, who used Open Hearts about once per week for respite from caring for her husband.

“My husband continues to be a very difficult guy with his dementia,” Denny said. “Nichole was the only person, of all the resources I tried, who was able to make a connection with my husband.”

While other services she tried felt almost like baby-sitting, Donaldson had the empathy needed to get through to dementia patients.

Her husband is now receiving full time care at Kiwanis Pavillion, where he’s doing well.

Mary Moreau started using Open Hearts for its bath service. Donaldson had converted the home’s entire garage into a comfortable space for elderly clients who needed help bathing.

Moreau was leery of going to a government run facility because of a negative experience she had when her mother needed the service.

“Her bath was not the highlight of her day,” Moreau said. “It was often an ordeal.”

But when she took her dad to Donaldson, his bathing ritual became something he looked forward to every week.

“He was a little nervous,” she said. “But he did want to try it. And when he did try it I’ve never seen a smile so big on his face.”

When Donaldson closed her doors, Moreau says she felt stuck. “Dad would not feel comfortable at all with having a nurse come to the house.”

Donaldson, who had continued to take nursing shifts around her day schedule, helped ease the transition by getting Moreau’s father to use the facility at Mount St. Mary.

And while Moreau was grateful, she thinks the subsidized service might make it too difficult for private alternatives to do business.

Public care is a fraction of the cost — about $5 compared to $40 for private.

The problem is that public facilities are more prone to refuse outsiders during annual routine flu seasons, which can last for months.

“In which case we’re up the creek. We have no option. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

While the original goal of Donaldson was to run Open Hearts without government assistance, she realized that the business model just can’t work without subsidies.

Donaldson said she eventually did approach the Vancouver Island Health Authority with cap in hand.

But when the decision came down that no money would be made available for her, she realized it was time to put her dream on hold before losing everything.

Donaldson, a Licensed Practical Nurse, is continuing to support people with dementia and their families. She offers a companion service.

For more information, call 250-391-9827.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

Looking back

To follow her dream of a new model for caring for people with dementia, Nichole Donaldson bought a three-bedroom rancher in Colwood and worked with the city to make sure it met municipal requirements.

After a new zoning category was created for her and bylaws adopted to regulate her one-of-a-kind facility, the home was retrofitted with reinforced floors, fire sprinkler system and other work.

“Because it was the first of its kind it went though lots of municipal process,” Donaldson said.

It was an expensive investment, but Donaldson doesn’t begrudge Colwood.

She says every municipality has its hurdles no matter where she looked at setting up.

– With files from Gazette archives

Just Posted

Victoria Regional Transit System routes 7 UVic/Downtown, 21 Interurban/Downtown and 53 Colwood/Langford will undergo changes as of June 28. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria school routes scaled down for summer by BC Transit

Service changes take effect June 28, enhanced service returns this fall and winter

Hot rods, rad rods, muscle and sports cars spanning the decades made their way in a parade from North Saanich to Victoria on June 19. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Classic cars cruise Saanich Peninsula in advance of Father’s Day

Retirement home residents from North Saanich to Victoria treated to a spectacle of hot rides

A bathtub kitchen garden is part of the lineup for this year’s Teeny Tiny Garden Tour to benefit Victoria Hospice. (Screenshot/Teeny Tiny Garden Tour)
Virtual garden tour for Victoria Hospice features trio of back yards

Online tour is free; calendar purchase and donation options raise money for the cause

Al Kohut, owner of the new photographers GALLERY, checks out Looking Back by David Bradt. The photo printed on canvas is among 50 images featured in the Birds on the Wild Side exhibition showing until July 3. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Photo gallery in Sidney plucks out top bird photos

Birds on the Wild Side show running at the new photographers GALLERY until July 3

The Town of Sidney supports efforts to rename Reay Creek to KELSET, its traditional SENCOTEN name. (Black Press Media file photo)
Town of Sidney signs off on Reay Creek name change to KELSET

Name change does not affect surrounding parkland, but public supports doing so

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read