Providence aims to revolutionize B.C. seniors care at groundbreaking ‘dementia village

Goal is open the site at former St. Joseph’s General Hospital grounds in Comox by spring 2024

According to Providence, the long-term home will replace The Views in about three years’ time.

According to Providence, the long-term home will replace The Views in about three years’ time.

A revolution in the way we take care of seniors is on track to emerge on Vancouver Island by spring 2024.

Providence Living’s “dementia village” — the first on the Island and just the second in all of B.C. — is touted as the province’s first such publicly funded development of its type.

The $52.6-million project will be home to 156 residents, with design and care that promotes resident autonomy and choice, freedom of movement and access to the outdoors, and everyday living that brings joy and engagement with the broader community, including children.

RELATED: Former Comox hospital turning into Vancouver Island’s first ‘dementia village’

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Amenities at the site of the former St. Joseph’s General Hospital will include an art studio, community hall and spaces where residents, family and friends can spend time together. Additionally, there will also be a daycare; Comox Valley Children’s Day Care Society will partner with Providence and operate the facility with 32 spaces for children.

“We really believe this project will be a major benefit to the town and its residents,” noted Chris Kelsey, director and officer for the organization.

After feedback from the community, it was determined the project will not be built higher than two storeys — 3.5 acres of land will be used to support a horizontal development, said Jane Murphy, president and CEO of Providence Living.

“Households within the village are designed to each to accommodate 12 residents. At courtyard level, each household has a front door into the courtyard to promote a feeling of home and direct access to outdoors. On the second level, households will have direct access to a deck and an elevator to the courtyard.”

Due to the slope of the property, she noted there will be a partial entry-level floor off Rodello Street in order to support some underground parking.

Following community consultation, Murphy explained Providence received many favourable responses to the project, particularly the need for additional support for seniors within the community.

“(The project) will minimize the impact with its height — it’s two-storey height with a flat roof,” she added.

“The challenge is certainly sighting and the other challenge is the existing buildings. They need to stay intact until the new village is open. In part, because there is care being provided to seniors … and the acute care building also supplies the utilities for The Views and we’re also providing care in the acute care building. There really isn’t any other options,” noted Murphy.

Providence’s status as a faith-based organization raised questions about whether the facility would be LGBTQIA+ inclusive and if residents would have the option to access MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) if that was their wish.

“We do not discriminate on any ground — we feel privileged to care for the unique individuals that wish to live in our homes and consider it a privilege to come alongside them and be respectful for their choices in their lives,” Murphy said.

Providence works within the MAiD policies of the province and Island Health. An assessment can be done on site.

“We support that. Based on our ethics, the provision of MAiD is provided elsewhere and we manage that in a very careful and respectful way working within the policies of Island Health. We have had a few cases … that we respectfully work with that, the physician, the family and the resident to have that service at a site that is able to provide that.”

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