Research could help improve the dining experience of those suffering from dementia

Vancouver, June 24, 2010 —
The results from the first phase of a ground-breaking research pilot project could help improve the dining experience and quality of life for seniors living with dementia.

Researchers at the Centre for Healthy Aging at Providence (CHAP) recently studied how the physical and social redesign of a care home’s dining area influenced the quality of the dining experience for the residents.

The changes included redesigning the common kitchen area and outdoor patio, installing subdued lighting to the dining area and enabling more one-on-one interactions for the residents as opposed to large groups of people talking and making noise.

The study included 77 hours of observing residents in the dining area both before and after the renovations, focus groups with staff and family members and a series of interviews with residents over the duration of the research.

The findings from the study revealed that great care had to be taken with the design of care environments. Planning must take into consideration the types of dementia residents have as it can greatly affect their interactions with people in these environments.

The study also demonstrated that the social environment was just as important as the physical environment in helping people with dementia, that dining was a social event that could greatly enhance the eating experience, and that people with dementia are aware of their surroundings.

“These findings are important in that they underscore the importance of understanding environments from the perspective of people who live and work in them” said Dr. Jean-Francois Kozak, the Research Director with CHAP and one of the researchers for this study. “People with dementia are aware of their environments; and who they are as persons, the nature of their disease, and the presence of others greatly determines how effective these environmental designs are.”
These and other results of the study are helping to develop guidelines for how dementia care units should be constructed.  The researchers hope that the results of the study will be used by other organizations that treat seniors with dementia.

“The results of this study could be of great benefit to people with dementia living in care homes, helping them, for example, to maintain eating skills for longer and enjoy their food more,” said Ann Corrigan, CEO of Tapestry Foundation for Health Care, the organization engaged in raising funds for this research. “By enhancing the dining experience, one can improve the enjoyment of food, promote independence of eating skills and greatly enhance the quality of life of both people with dementia and their care providers.”

Further dementia research is being planned that will explore whether the use of new audio-visual technology, namely flat screen TVs displaying captured video images of the outside world, can stimulate and maintain the spontaneous interests of seniors with high cognitive impairment.

A secondary goal of this upcoming research is to determine if such images can assist residents in their pacing and wandering around a special care unit by visually redirecting where they walk. The images displayed on the screens will vary by scene type (e.g. park, street etc,) as well as time (e.g. morning street scene changing to an evening street scene) to explore whether such changes can act as positive cues for residents (e.g. evening scenes reinforcing bed time).

Tapestry Foundation for Health Care is committed to raising funds for research into better ways of caring for individuals with dementia. The Foundation is one of 25 charity partners in the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon and 5K on Sunday June 27. Through the event, the Foundation hopes to raise $50,000 in participant pledges to support the Centre's audio visual study. Online donations can be made
to support the Tapestry Foundation Team “Tapestry Trailblazers” at or by calling 604.877.8335.

Tapestry Foundation for Health Care was established in 2007 as an umbrella fundraising organization to serve and support seven Providence Health Care sites including Brock Fahrni Pavilion, Holy Family Hospital, Honoria Conway at St. Vincent's, Marion Hospice, Mount Saint Joseph Hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital Langara, and Youville Residence. The Foundation supports these sites by raising funds for medical equipment, programs, services, education, and research in the field of elder care. For more information, please visit

Providence Health Care is one of Canada's largest faith-based health care organizations, operating 14 health care facilities in Greater Vancouver. Guided by the principle “How you want to be treated,” PHC's 1,200 physicians, 6,000 staff and 1,500 volunteers deliver compassionate care to patients and residents in British Columbia. Providence’s programs and services span the complete continuum of care and serve people throughout B.C. The organization’s $655-million budget covers 646 acute care beds, 700 continuing care beds, 76 rehabilitation beds, and 12 hospice beds. PHC operates one of two adult academic health science centres in the province, performs cutting-edge research in more than 30 clinical specialties, and focuses its services on six “populations of emphasis”: cardio-pulmonary risks and illnesses, HIV/AIDS, mental health, renal risks and illness, specialized needs in aging and urban health. For more information on Providence Health Care, please visit our website at

Dementia Facts

Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia is the second most feared disease for Canadians as they age.
Dementia is a progressive degenerative disease that destroys vital brain cells. It is not a normal part of aging.
70,000 British Columbians are living with a form of dementia.
10,000 of those British Columbians are under the age of 65.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease which accounts for 64 per cent of all dementias in Canada. This will increase to 68 per cent by the year 2034 (within a generation).
One in 11 Canadians over the age of 65 have dementia
Dementia is a syndrome consisting of a number of symptoms that include loss of memory, judgment and reasoning in addition to changes in mood and behavior.
More women are affected by this disease than men; women account for over three-quarters of all those with dementia.
In five years, 50% more Canadians and their families could be facing a dementia related disease.
Tapestry Foundation for Health Care is committed to raising funds to support dementia research through the Centre for Healthy Aging at Providence.
Proceeds from Tapestry Foundation’s participation in the Scotiabank Group Charity Challenge will support dementia research.
Source  – Alzheimer Society of Canada, Alzheimer Society of BC websites -