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Healthy Canadians Grant Spotlight: Pilgrims Hospice

The Healthy Canadians Grants program is designed to provide support for community-run initiatives that will improve the quality of life of patients and vulnerable populations living in communities across Canada, and will have a positive impact on the community as a whole. The program is a joint collaboration between the CMA and the CMA Foundation and each year up to 14 Healthy Canadians Grants will be awarded – one $10,000 grant to each province or territory, and an additional $20,000 grant to the home province of the CMA president.

Thanks to a Healthy Canadians Grant, Pilgrims Hospice in Edmonton, Alberta, is expanding their popular Adult Respite Day Program with a new initiative focused on providing care for seniors suffering from dementia. The Care for Seniors with Dementia Program aims to improve the quality of life of seniors living with the condition by providing a “home away from home” where clients receive therapeutic support through opportunities for socializing, guest speakers,music therapy, pet therapy, and art and recreational activities.

Funded in part by Alberta Health Services, the current Adult Respite Day Program offers compassionate care for individuals living with a terminal illness, enhancing dignity and quality of life, until the end of life. With a whole-family approach, the program also supports caregivers and those grieving the death of a loved one. The program also provides individuals caring for family members a much-needed break, as they know their loved ones are in good hands.

Pilgrims Hospice found that many of the people using their services were seniors who also suffered from dementia. A need for a separate program with targeted activities focused on this vulnerable group of seniors was identified and led hospice administrators to apply for a Healthy Canadians Grant in the spring of 2018.

Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti, former president of the Canadian Medical Association and member of the board for Pilgrims Hospice Society, says the funds from the Healthy Canadians Grant “will allow Pilgrims Hospice staff and volunteers to access specialized training in dementia care. Funds will also help purchase specific resources aimed at improving the well-being of seniors with dementia. These resources will help reduce wandering and exit-seeking behaviours, as well as encourage clients to be active and engaged throughout the day.”

Part of the $10,000 grant is being used to purchase games and activities specifically for seniors with dementia, including art, music and sensory items that have been shown to greatly improve the mood of people with moderate to advanced dementia. Those with dementia tend to have good long-term memory and enjoy reminiscing. Memory books and photographs can improve the quality of communication, evoke memories, prompt conversation and provide mental and physical stimulation.

Most importantly, seniors in the program feel like it is making a real difference in their lives. As one participant stated, “When I come to the program, I relax and enjoy other people’s company — I can be as I am and feel at home. I know I’ll have a day of fun and laughter.” The Canadian Medical Association and CMA Foundation are proud to be a part of such a worthwhile initiative through the Healthy Canadians Grant program.