BREATHE Project Supports Seniors With Dementia

BREATHE Project Supports Seniors With Dementia


Michelle Pinon
News Advertister


The Covenant Foundation was founded in 1998. Its mandate is to raise funds to help support leading-edge programs and services, research and education, and state-of-the-art equipment at 20 Covenant facilities across Alberta.

One of the unique programs that came as a direct result of fundraising efforts was the Building Resilience in Elders through A Therapeutic Hospital Environment (BREATHE) Project at St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Vegreville.

Hospital Site Administrator Anthony Brannen, In Patient Unit Manager Kim Weinkauf, and Community Services Board chair Tara Kuzio spoke about BREATHE and the positive impact it has made on seniors with dementia.

Brannen explained that older seniors and those experiencing dementia that spend time in rural acute care hospitals frequently deteriorate mentally and functionally more quickly that younger active people that are in hospital for shorter periods of time.

The intent of the BREATHE Project was to develop a model of care to address the needs of that population within the acute care facility. Often, added Brannen, 50 percent of patients are waiting for placement in a more suitable facility. Interaction and physical activity play a key role in the health of patients with dementia. To that end, a breakfast club, exercise groups and social activities have been implemented for the residents.

Weinkauf said the goal was to have patients maintain mental and emotional stimulation for patients and aide in the recuperation process for those who are convalescing from an illness or operation.

Back in 2018 a mural depicting farm life was donated and painted by local artists Gloria Sen and Lauraine Ziegler. It is located in the patient lounge and triggers a lot discussion and memories for the seniors. Bright and colourful, the mural appears to take on a life of its own.

That same year Gloria Sen and Marg Varga also painted a mural in the hallway depicting the seasons. There is a third mural on that was painted by members of the Vegreville visual Arts Society Association that has proven just as popular among patients. Weinkauf said the murals are a great way for staff to create relationships and build a rapport with patients, and it also makes it easier to provide the care they need. “It also gets the patients motivated to go outside of their room.”

Kuzio said any funds that are raised by the Covenant Foundation stay in the community. One example of that was a radio-thon that was held in 2018. “Last year we hosted Malanka, and we are looking at hosting another radiothon.”

Brannen said they hope to have a recreational consultant in place and order more supplies and equipment for residents. Having an IPad also keeps the patients stay connected, and has been a great addition to the hospital. They also have a motion sensored cat and dog at one of the stations for patients to interact with. There are a total of 30 acute care beds at St. Joseph’s General Hospital.