Louise Johnson has been improving and innovating long-term care for seniors with dementia for well over three decades. As a Quality Coordinator at Park Place Seniors Living, Louise has fostered an organization-wide culture shift, changing both workplace philosophy at Park Place and the quality of care received by people and their families. Her vision has always been unwavering: life-enriching long-term care for those with dementia.

Louise Johnson
Louise Johnson

When she first began at Park Place, the organization was quickly growing but had no formalized policy or procedure manuals. Louise worked tirelessly writing and compiling handbooks that addressed all aspects of care, putting a solid foundation of quality in place that would allow Park Place to continue to grow and develop.

Soon after, Louise began to develop her Special Care Dementia Program, an initiative she hoped would be a learning opportunity for staff as well as a chance to rethink the current “custodial” model of care. Under this program, she managed to completely transform the way staff view the work they do, moving towards a “home” model of care which puts the focus on forming relationships, listening to people’s needs and wishes, and making family members partners in care.

Just one example is “Resident’s Day,” a day completely devoted to each person being able to do the activities they enjoy – a deceptively complex undertaking. Resident’s Day is a coordinated effort to give people truly individualized care: a “voice and a choice.” It has been recognized by Accreditation Canada as a leading practice – practices recognized on a national level as being particularly innovative and effective in improving quality of care. Resident’s Day is now in place for all 1,347 people living in Park Place care homes across BC and now into Alberta.

Change, however, didn’t happen overnight. While all caregivers and nurses at Park Place started to learn more about the new “home” model and receive their Dementia Certifications, ongoing coaching and support was needed to truly implement this new way of care. Caregivers had to learn to not simply be task-focused, and instead listen to the people they were caring for, hear their concerns, and take the time to help create special moments on a daily basis.

Eventually, Louise’s work started to pay off: fewer incidents of aggressive incidents were occurring as staff learned how to better resolve potential situations by learning to give up control. Where before staff felt compelled to maintain strict routines, now individuals and family members were being given choices in how they wished to receive their care and live their lives.

Today, staff at Park Place are encouraged and rewarded for sharing creative ideas, creating fun experiences, and providing care in a way that meets the wishes of each individual. Park Place now has a “Going the Extra Mile” Award (GEM), where peers nominate each other for innovation, creativity, and care that goes above and beyond.

During her long and impressive career, Louise has transformed the face of dementia care at long-term complex care homes throughout British Columbia. Where long-term care used to be a place of quiet routine, now there is laughter, activity, and spontaneous moments of joy.

Louise is a recipient of the 2014 BC Care Providers Association Innovation of the Year Award for the continuing care sector, and a 2014 HEABC Excellence in BC Health Care Award in Innovation for her Ethical Decision-Making Framework for complex care.