The proposed Providence Care Centre will include 160 beds offering home-like care.
CALGARY – Father Albert Lacombe was known for many achievements.
The French-Canadian missionary evangelized the Cree. He founded schools throughout the West. He also negotiated construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway through Blackfoot territory.
But it was his last mission, completed at age 82, the creation of the Lacombe Home in Calgary, that he gave his heart to. Built in 1910 for seniors and orphans, he called it "the most beautiful dream of my life."
Now, more than a century later, in partnership with Alberta Health Services, the Father Lacombe Care Centre Foundation is putting shovels into the ground across the road from the existing facility for a new 160-bed care centre. The official sod turning is set for Oct. 4.
The new building, more like a home than a hospital, will offer larger resident rooms in ten 16-bed units, and larger spaces for gatherings and programs.
Situated in the south Calgary community of Midnapore, the $38.5-million facility will be known as the Providence Care Centre.
Raymond Cormie, chief executive officer for the society, says the new care centre is being built in response to current and anticipated needs.
"Unfortunately, there comes a time for some when living at home - even with help - is no longer the right or safe option. At any given time, over 1,000 Albertans are awaiting placement into continuing care homes. That challenge is now being compounded by a wave of baby boomers who will double the population of Albertans over the age of 75 within the next 20 years," said Cormie.
Evelyn Stewart, director of development for Father Lacombe Care Centre, said more than half of those 1,000 Albertans awaiting placement into continuing care homes are in hospitals, which is often not the ideal place for them.
"Hospitals are really designed to cure us and keep us as safe as possible. What happens with seniors is they get into the hospital, and they've got these complex health care needs and, as a result, someone comes along and says, 'Sorry, we can't release you. You're not safe to be at home.' Then they are looking for a bed, but there aren't enough beds, particularly in the city of Calgary," explained Stewart.
She expects the new nursing home will open in April 2015.
"We're doing what we can in relieving the congestion because it affects the senior who's not getting the right kind of care. They need to get up and get dressed, and they often can't get that kind of help in a hospital. But it also creates congestion for people like you and I, their family members, who can't get into the hospital because there are so many beds already occupied by seniors waiting on getting into a home," said Stewart.
Lacombe intended his home as a Catholic institution devoted to the care of everyone, regardless of religion. That vision continues as the core of all current and planned activities of care. As Calgary's only Catholic-based seniors' facility, it provides care to people from all religious groups, as well as those not religiously affiliated.
After Lacombe's death in 1916, Lacombe Home was run by the Sisters of Providence and depended entirely on donations to thrive.
As years went by, "providence" was an apt descriptor of their resources, especially during time of war and epidemic. Donated deliveries included everything from pigs and produce to a piano and even a car.
Out-buildings were built over the years, including a laundry and a barn. A large wing was added in 1921, and in 1956 Providence School was built on the south edge of the property. A novitiate became part of the north site in 1958.
As orphanages faded away in the 1960s, the last children left in 1963. In 1966, the elderly were also moved to the new Father Lacombe Nursing Home, just east of Lacombe Home. That same year, the Sisters of Providence moved their headquarters to Edmonton, and a little white convent was built to house the remaining sisters.
The Inter-Faith Lacombe Centre was built in 1974, allowing the home and other buildings to be used by various organizations. But the buildings fell into disrepair and were abandoned.
In 1979 the original Lacombe Home was designated a provincial historic site. A fire destroyed the landmark on April 1, 1999, and an important piece of Alberta's heritage was lost.
A new dementia wing opened at the nursing home in 1980, with further renovations undertaken in 1991.
In May 2002, its name was changed to Father Lacombe Care Centre, and is now home to 114 residents, with about 85 additional people from the community participating in its adult day support program.
With the new centre, Stewart said that 120 rooms will be allocated for supportive living. These residents are stable or with predictable health needs and wanting to enjoy privacy and independence with the comfort of knowing required health and personal care are on site when needs arise.
Thirty rooms will be designated for long-term care - for those residents with complex, unpredictable medical needs.
"What makes us quite unique is that we have 10 beds reserved for retired priests and other clergy," said Stewart.
Residents will enjoy beautiful surroundings, private studio rooms, ample common areas, lounges, libraries, and secure courtyards with walking paths and gardens.
Stewart has worked in many long-term care institutions, but the Father Lacombe Care Centre is different because of the special, modest presence of the Sisters of Providence. Residents can feel the compassionate care, she said, describing the sisters as "a wonderful, compassionate, caring group of people, and we're all behind them to make this happen."
Bird Construction is the general contractor for construction of the Providence Care Centre.