The world has changed. Within a few short weeks people around the globe were forced to reconsider what was considered essential and how we would interact and care for each other. For some, however, that duty of care has always been a driving passion – one that is helping to build hope and inspiriting others right here in Edmonton.
Exquisicare is an organization, founded by Dawn Harsch, that aims to transform the culture of long-term care by providing “real loving homes for our elders so they can live with safety, security and love through all the remaining phases of their life.”
Through Exquisicare, Harsch wants to help seniors live more comfortably by providing them with an alternative to traditional, institutional long-term care homes, and to “create a nurturing and loving environment where elders are cared for with reverence in a residential and family-like setting.” As Harsch explains, private care facilities are very important, since “our funded system becomes increasingly more and more taxed . . . and there are people that want a different way to care for their loved ones outside of the healthcare system.”
Located in West Edmonton’s Cameron Heights, Exquisicare’s third home, which is planned to be completed this year (dependent on current COVID-19 circumstances), combines everything the company learned from building its first two long-term care homes.
Harsch explains, “This new location will be for individuals that have had a stroke or some other disease that does not affect their cognition. It’s for people that don’t have dementia. We are very excited about the location, and residents in the community are also excited that they will have an option close to home for their aging parents, and that they will have seniors integrating into the community. The Cameron Heights Community League even offered us a garden plot that is next to a playground to help with generational mixing.”
Harsch notes that the construction process on Exquisicare’s third home has been going very well thanks in large part to their excellent contractor, Rescom.
“I can’t say enough good things about Rescom,” she praises. “Since they construct for both residences and commercial facilities, they have a very unique understanding of what we do. Our residential homes are built to a full commercial spec but maintain that homey residential feel.”
With the current crisis, Harsch believes that she has a duty, now more than ever, to provide care for seniors. “I have not only a duty to them to provide care,” she says, “but a duty to society on a whole to continue to provide care for seniors and help keep them out of the emergency rooms.”
She understands what trying times we are in, and guarantees, “We are doing everything we can to keep people working and to build. Regardless of how this goes, there is still going to be a huge demand for senior care, and we want to be able to meet that demand.”
Jessie’s House, a project started by Lynne Rosychuk and the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation (JMMF), will be a shelter for individuals seeking refuge from abuse.
After her daughter, Jessica, was tragically murdered by her abusive common-law husband, Rosychuk and others from their community formed the JMMF in order to address the shortage of shelter beds in the province.
Teena Hughson, community engagement coordinator of the JMMF says, “According to the latest release of data from the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, the rates of domestic abuse are the highest they have been in 10 years, with 23,247 Alberta women, children and seniors reaching out to shelters but being turned away. With just 10,128 of the people reaching out being sheltered, the current turn-away rate in the province is nearly 70 per cent.”
Understanding fully the difficult and scary position abuse puts many people in, Rosychuk and the JMMF devoted themselves to helping those in need. In 2016, the Town of Morinville donated land, which allowed the JMMF to break ground on Jessie’s House. Construction commenced in 2018.
Rosychuk calls the construction process “a remarkable experience.”
“The contractors have worked extremely hard,” she says. “Many of them offered their labour at a reduced rate or even for free. Some even donated items needed for the house. All of the contractors left Jessie’s House with a better understanding about domestic violence and the severity of it.”
Not only the local community and contractors, but even members of Parliament have shown their support for Jessie’s House. Having witnessed everyone’s hard work, care and attention given to the project, Rosychuk thanks everyone involved, stating, “I have seen people’s hearts through this journey and I can’t thank you all enough for what you’ve done for Jessie’s House, as well as for our family. Because of you, we get to honour Jessica and replace the horrible story with one of hope and healing that will help so many families begin their new journey.”
Hughson acknowledges the fact that “the current health crisis has certainly made it more difficult to pin-point an exact date for the completion of the project,” but ensures that their work has not stopped and they are all confident that Jessie’s House will be operational this spring.
As a facility, Jessie’s House will be state-of-the art, offering a variety of options for people from different situations. For example, it will have family rooms with multiple beds, as well as single rooms for individuals who require more privacy. What’s more, as Hughson states, they have “also put careful consideration into the needs of their youngest residents, creating both a child-minding area and a play space, as well as a sensory space for future programming.”
With the current COVID-19 crisis, Hughson states, “We expect to see increased demand for domestic violence support since the resulting stress, economic pressures, and isolation have been shown to increase the likelihood and severity of family violence, including child abuse. Shelters are more than just beds. Shelters are life-saving facilities that provide safety and basic needs, laying a foundation for hope and healing.”
COVID-19 has changed many things including the economy, but construction continues on several projects in Edmonton, including projects specifically designed to bring help, hope, happiness and healing to our population.