Dementia-friendly plan growing in Qualicum Beach

One town councillor is calling for caution and more consultation

A proposal to try to make Qualicum Beach the most dementia-friendly community in the country is gaining steam.

“After attending a presentation on dementia-friendly communities in early December, and from my own experience with family members who have lived with dementia, I am interested in what could be done to make our town more dementia friendly,” said Coun. Anne Skipsey.

She introduced a motion for the town and stakeholder groups to explore possible steps, highlighting the “‘safe harbour initiative” for immigrants in larger cities, but she’s looking for input.

“People who have dementia, they have a disease — it’s not like they are dementia,” she said, pointing to little things like decals in windows and education that wouldn’t have to cost much.

Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer agreed it is important to explore, but that council also funds “youth and family protection groups, the chamber of commerce, downtown business association, tourism association, that are trying to attract people to our community.”

“I think the banner of Qualicum Beach as a dementia-friendly community might be running in direct opposition,” he said, calling for council to proceed with caution and consult with those groups.

He said “Canada’s oldest community” isn’t “a real strong calling card when you’re trying to attract youth and families to our town.”

Coun. Barry Avis countered that Qualicum Beach is already a retirement community with more seniors moving in and with dementia increasing nationally, “it’s our responsibility to see what we can do. It is a reality, it’s what we are.”

Mayor Teunis Westbroek added that “It’s something that shows we actually care. It’s not that we’re embarrassed about it or afraid. One of the worst things for a person that has been diagnosed with dementia is to live in a community that doesn’t care.”

“It’s not to attract people necessarily, but it’s to show we care when people do come here,” he said.

Coun. Neil Horner said Luchtmeijer’s point should be considered, but not be the main consideration. “We have to face reality that we do have the oldest community in Canada,” he said.

Meanwhile, the proposal is gaining momentum among residents, with local seniors’ advocates supporting a proposal to use the town-owned house on Sunningdale Road for a dementia day program, as proposed by Deanna Breuker.

Not directly related, Dianne Jorgenson said a working group is being assembled “that will include town staff, and likely a representative from The Alzheimer Society of B.C., so that best efforts can be provided in developing a ‘strategic action plan’ that will support residents with dementia in our community as long as possible.”

“We need all interested parties, including the government, private sector, and the community at large to come together in this regard.”

Town council is exploring long-term uses for the Sunningdale Road house, and is considering donating it for use for a Syrian refugee family for a year in the meantime.

Skipsey’s motion to explore the issue was supported unanimously and staff will provide more information for council at a future meeting.

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