A senior housing complex approved for south Sarnia will use a non-traditional approach called the “butterfly care” concept for residents with dementia.
Construction of the Overture on Devine is expected to begin early next year on the site of the former Devine Street School.
The $41-million project will house 260 residents and employ about 130 people, said Don McLeod, managing director for Overture Investments.
“It’s care from a social perspective, not just a clinical perspective,” he said. “Butterfly care looks at a person with dementia as a person, not a patient or resident.”
The interior will use special flooring and lighting to create a homey, village-type atmosphere, with each floor having its own “neighbourhood,” he said.
Each neighbourhood will consist of independent studio-type suites that surround a centralized kitchen, lounge area and sunshine room.
Cooking will take place within the unit, not a centralized kitchen, and residents can take part in supervised meal preparation as part of their regular routine.
McLeod said the layout — as much as possible — will eliminate traditional barriers to create a warm and caring environment.
Staffing will be different as well, with only very caring individuals hired, he said.
“They will be special people first, and great staff second,” he said, adding clinical abilities won’t be the first question asked in the hiring process.
According to McLeod, a Vancouver-based developer, Sarnia’s will become only the second butterfly-care facility in Ontario, with the first opening in the Peel Region. The concept originated in the UK in 1995 and has since spread to B.C., Alberta and Australia.
According to a study in the Australian Journal of Dementia Care, butterfly care reduces falls, increases positive interactions and can help reduce the need for medication.
An estimated 3,000 residents over the age of 65 are currently affected by dementia in Lambton County.
Sarnia council green-lighted the development last month after officials determined the site has adequate water pressure for both the facility and fire protection.
The complex will include the five-storey memory facility for 126 residents, and an eight-storey seniors residence with 134 suites.
The eight-storey building will allow for assisted living, meaning the partners of those housed in the memory-care facility will be able to live near their loved ones.
The development will also include a 162-space underground parking garage with additional room for 58 scooters, and a “podium” connecting the two towers with room for medical, entertainment and recreational uses.
City planner Jordan Fohkens said Overture must still go through the site plan process, which could take at least three months.
The three-acre site was home to one of Sarnia’s first schools, a one-room building dating to 1882. The land has been vacant since Devine Street School closed in 2010.
Officials are hoping the construction project will get underway next spring, take 14 to 18 months to complete, and open to its first residents in the fall of 2020.