The Southwood Care Centre, a dementia care centre in Calgary, is trying something new and their patients are seeing big health benefits.

A year and a half ago it tried out the Butterfly Household Model of Care which encourages covering the walls of wards with familiar items.

90-year-old Fred West has dementia and his daughter, Sandra Cody, wants to ensure he has the best care.

 “Every now and then he has his moments. They are getting fewer and far between. It’s hard on the family. You lose your parent,” says Cody.

Cody was asked to create a board of memories for her dad so staff has things to ask him about to spur more meaningful interactions.

 “When I walk in and they don’t see me walk in and I can see dad sitting down in the lounge area and he’s got the staff sitting with him making a fuss which is really nice. I feel that when I can’t be here. I feel he’s being cared for as a family member and that’s the whole goal of this butterfly program,” says Cody.

The staff finds the memory boards or just a few key items on the walls make a big difference for their patients by triggering emotional memories.

“They remember oh I used to go fly fishing or it triggers a story or a positive experience memory for them,” says Lydia Wright the faculty leader at Southwood Care Centre.

Often a dementia diagnosis causes patients to become emaciated and aggressive but with the butterfly model staff has found improvements in other areas.

“We found we had significant improvements in weight gain which is unusual and we also found that resident aggression dropped and people were more mobile and independence improved.”

 “I’m so excited every time I go to work here.  I love them you know just touching their hands and hugging them you know the feeling of connection and security and have a chat with them,” says Norway Prestousa who has worked as a healthcare aid at the facility for six months.

Southwood Care Centre plans to pit the model into another ward soon.

The facility provides for care for Albertans at a flat fee and in contracted by Alberta Health Services.