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CONNECT Shines for German Tour

CONNECT was the diamond in the rough for a group of health practitioners visiting Canada from Germany in October.

CONNECT was touted as the "gem" of the visit, even though it has a brain injury focus and the group was more interested in studying aged and dementia care.

Representatives from the German Association of Home Managers and Home Directors were in Canada for two weeks to conduct research and site visits of aged and dementia care facilities. They visited CONNECT in Langley to see if the model could translate into elderly care.

"Every two years we visit a different country to see how they are doing things, what practices they have adopted, and we take certain things back for development in Germany," said Christian Mueller-Hergl, a researcher at the University of Witten/Herdecke , who accompanied and translated for the group. "Some findings result in political lobbying with our ministers and state officials."

He said the Canadian system, in general, seems to be extremely regulated, sometimes sacrificing a person's freedom and liberties in exchange for a culture of safety and security.

The group was impressed with the impact physical therapists and occupational therapists were making in residents' lives and liked the idea of the nurse practitioner job, which Germany currently does not have.

"There were some things we really liked about the places we toured, but we found most settings very clinical. So while places looked very beautiful and some were incredibly sterile, none of them felt like home to us. We didn't see a person's personal belongings or pictures of their families."

Mueller-Hergl said Germany favours a more integrated model, like CONNECT, where people live in small-scale units with five or six others and have plenty of interaction with the surrounding community.

The most advanced country in terms of aged care, according to Mueller-Hergl, is the Netherlands, which has a Welfare Mix model. This involves small-scale living units, which are integrated into a neighbourhood so care can be shared between families, professionals, neighborhood services, volunteers and others.

"All of CONNECT fully meets what you should do with aged and dementia care. In Germany, we have shut down all residential care because it doesn't work. Everything CONNECT is doing is very much in line with our findings in much more progressive countries."

Mueller-Hergl said his group found that Canada is currently where Germany was 15 or 20 years ago in terms of aged and dementia care.

"When we visited Canada in 2003 and 2005, the country was much more advanced than it is now. I think Canada has stepped back in development because of a fixation on safety rather than balancing freedom with risk."

The group will produce a report about their Canadian visit and will share it with Fraser Health, CONNECT, and the other places they visited during their tour.