Central City Lodge is a unique home for seniors in the Downtown Eastside who have lived with mental illness, addiction or poverty and who face barriers that might prevent them from receiving the complex care they need in their aging years.
Central City Lodge is the only care facility in the inner city of Vancouver that provides both care for seniors with these unique challenges, and through tolerance and acceptance, treats residents with dignity as they age.
“We focus on resident centred care,” said Seamus O’Mellin, executive director of the City Centre Care Society which runs the Lodge. “We’re always trying to meet people’s needs.”
Central City Lodge is unique in providing three different programs in one building: addictions recovery, complex residential care and special care. The majority of residents are male, which is the opposite of most other care facilities. Many have aged prematurely, with the average age of the population being 70 years-old. Most have multiple conditions including addiction, dementia, schizophrenia, HIV and hepatitis.
The City Centre Care Society provides more than just a roof and 24-hour medical and mental health care. Only 30 per cent of patients have active family members or friends, so over time the staff become family and often close friends for these men.
“Some people lived in isolation and really seem to blossom when they come in,” said O’Mellin. “I think our tolerance and that we treat people with respect is really important to them.”
Central City Lodge shares its roots with the Central City Foundation in the Central City Mission Society, founded more than 100 years ago. In 1993 the Central City Foundation evolved to its current form, built the Lodge and the City Centre Care Society was born. At the time the Lodge provided mostly long term residential care, but as the need for more complex care arose on the Downtown Eastside, the Society upgraded its facilities and staff to provide care for those who would likely be rejected by other facilities due to the complexity of care, alcoholism, substance abuse or smoking.
Central City Foundation donors have helped the Lodge over the past two decades as well. In 2002 CCF provided capital funding to refurbish parts of the facility, and now CCF donors are stepping up again to help the Lodge update the third floor dining room, lounge and activity space for people living with dementia.
The Special Care Unit on the third floor has at all times cared for 26 men living with dementia and other illnesses. The floor has not had any upgrades and in the past decades, a lot has been learned on how the living environment can affect a person living with degenerative disease.
“Boredom, isolation and loneliness are the three main problems in long term care.” said Dale Romanyck, Resident Care Coordinator. “The new space will allow for more activities for them, which will be huge for their health.”
The renovation will use new design standards, creating a space that stimulates activity by day and calmness by night. Walls will be taken down to create an open concept space, which will allow residents who use wheelchairs – about 50 per cent of the population – to move about freely. Adjustable lighting and soothing colours will make the space feel more home-like rather than institutional. Also, safety upgrades will ensure that no residents with dementia will be able to wander out of the building.
“It will be a better place for them.” said Romanyck. “For many of the people here, this is the nicest place they’ve ever lived, so we’re excited to see the improvements.”
The renovation of the third floor is expected to be complete in January 2016 thanks to the support of CCF donors.