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North America’s first smart-tech care home for patients with dementia and Alzhemier’s being built in Hamilton

Hamilton facility’s first floor is for research into helping technology

Artist rendering of Ressam Gardens, a high-tech long-term care facility that will house and care for dementia and Alzheimer's residents in what will be a first of its kind in North America.

A high-tech home in Hamilton for 48 dementia and Alzheimer’s residents will be a first for North America says the engineer who developed the concept based on a care model in The Netherlands.

Nafia Al-Mutawaly, a former McMaster University engineering professor, designed the project, which is being built by a private group of investors.

Al-Mutawaly said the $16-million long-term care facility is based on a Dutch Alzheimer village called Hogeweyk, “in terms of memory care” and “quality of life.”

The idea, he said, is to treat residents as guests or family members and to help them live as normal a life as possible.

“We took the Dutch model and added a vertical concept (the living units are all in one building), and we introduced smart sensors and AI technology to learn more about dementia and dealing with it.”

The official groundbreaking for the home, Ressam Gardens, is on Thursday, June 13, with the opening planned for December 2020.

Al-Mutawaly said what makes this facility unique is that it will use artificial intelligence (AI) and smart technology to help care for the residents and to research Alzheimer and dementia care, as well as new technologies to improve care.

A GPS-type system, for example, will track the residents’ whereabouts at all times, indoors and outdoors, to assist staff locate residents and find them quickly if they are missing, he said.

“This will allow for safety measures and emergencies, so that if one of the residents wanders into another’s room, staff will know right away. This monitoring system will prevent that.”

The four-storey building will have three floors of resident units, managed by Extendicare, which owns nursing homes across Canada.

The first floor is reserved for the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging and McMaster University’s engineering researchers.

“The main role is not to be commercial,” said Al-Mutawaly.

“We’re trying to prove the concept (of this type of care) works,” he said. “It is meant to be a prototype for future facilities, a place where we can learn all the pros and cons” to new developments.

It is a first in North America for this type of residence, he said.

Lotfi Belkhir, an associate engineering professor involved in its research, said the key to Ressam Gardens is that it will serve as a “living lab” for developing and testing technology catering to those suffering from dementia.

It will be an AI-driven facility in that it will use sensors — even in the furniture — and technology to develop intelligent solutions, he said.

“You need the testing data (from real-life subjects) to develop the technology in the first place … (and) to guide the development” to make it applicable to the real world. “So much can be done to improve the well-being of patients or to slow (dementia) down,” he said. “It’s terribly exciting.”

All residents must agree to be part of the research, Al-Mutawaly said.

Each resident floor will have a kitchen, two living rooms and only 10 to 12 people, “so residents will feel as if they are still at home.”

Ressam Gardens is solely a private facility for people to apply to directly. They are not required to apply through the local LHIN, the health agency that regulates placement into long-term care homes, Al-Mutawaly said.

He expects the fee to be $5,000 to $6,000 a month. ($60,000 to $72,000 a year), which is higher than the usual.

Ressam Gardens is near and dear to Al-Mutawaly, who lost his mother, Rasmerauh Sadik, two years ago to Alzheimer’s. She suffered from the disease for five years while Al-Mutawaly and his wife cared for her.

“She is the spirit of everything you see here,” he said.

In fact, Ressam Gardens is named after her. Ressam was her childhood nickname.

“No matter how you describe the disease, it’s different when you live it,” Al-Mutawaly said about Alzheimer’s.

It is only then that you truly know how nasty it is and how it renders someone incapable of doing everything, he added.

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