The Day Program Difference

Kwong, 34, is launching Memory & Company with her husband Victor Kwong, a public and media relations officer with Toronto Police. She says she has seen her fair share of subpar programs over her 17 years of working with seniors.

During a co-op placement as a teenager, Kwong met personal support workers who weren’t educated on handling people with dementia. She later worked in a long-term care facility that had no air conditioning in the heat of summer. “(Residents) were left stripping themselves naked,” she recalls.

She heard stories about cockroach-infested buildings, and learned of people getting turned away from facilities because they were showing signs of dementia.

Memory-Company-Roxy-Club-house-dog Roxy is the club house dog, a Coton de Tulear, which is a hypoallergenic breed. Roxy has six years of experience as a seniors therapy dog. (Photos courtesy Memory & Company)

“I saw a need and I needed to fill that void,” Kwong says.

The company’s launch comes at a good time. Wait lists for long-term care homes in areas like Toronto and York Region are often hundreds of names long, with some people waiting for years on end, according to data from local Community Care Access Centres.

Meanwhile, the number of seniors across the country is rising. In 2011, about five million Canadians were 65 or older, according to federal government data — and that’s expected to double by 2036.

Despite the growing demand for seniors’ care services, launching Memory & Company was an uphill battle.

Kwong first incorporated the company in 2008 while she was moving up the ranks at a Sunrise Senior Living facility. After serving as executive director of the facility for three years, Kwong left to focus on Memory & Company full-time — and that’s when the roadblocks started.

Finding a spot for the building was tricky due to zoning restrictions and the fact that the company doesn’t easily fit into a clear category. It’s not exactly a medical centre, day care or seniors home, but a blend of all three. “It’s something that’s never been done before,” Kwong says.

The Kwongs tried getting approvals for buildings in various areas, from midtown Toronto to Richmond Hill, before finally finding a site in Markham — a process that has cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

“My husband and I sold our house,” Kwong says. “We put everything we have into making this a reality.”

Despite the challenges, Kwong is thrilled that Memory & Company is finally launching and offering a new option for people with Alzheimer’s and their families.

“People with dementia can still live happy, vital lives,” Kwong says.

For more on animal therapy, read Dementia dogs, in-home care and street guide.

Reproduced with permission – Torstar Syndication Services

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