A Community of Caring

Shepherd’s Care Foundation

Shepherd’s Care Foundation’s mission is to celebrate life in a caring Christian environment. The organization’s vision is “to be the leader in providing innovative aging in place services with excellence,” with its accommodations, services and health care in individually matched packages that allow residents to access affordable support and health care services as they need them.

The roots of Shepherd’s Care Foundation began back in 1970 with the German Pentecostal Benevolent Association. In 1978, a contract was signed to begin construction of Millwoods Manor, now part of the Millwoods Campus. The Foundation has grown to include multiple housing and care options for seniors from the Millwoods Campus to the Kensington Campus and small communities in Edmonton and Barrhead. The Foundation currently houses over 1,600 seniors.

The Millwoods Campus has expanded over the years to provide the full range of aging in place options within a Christian community. All the buildings are connected which enables residents to access the care and services they need both today and more importantly in the future as they age-in-place.

Kensington campus opened in 1998 with seventeen acres of land and over six hundred residents. It has expanded several times and includes a choice of ownership or rental of units, a full service restaurant, home care, assisted living, memory care and long term care.

At Shepherd’s Care Foundation, the team practices person centered caring (PCC). “We build warm relationships with our residents, their families, our volunteers and each other in our caring communities,” says Mr. Pray. “We take to heart Jesus’ teaching in the bible, to love our neighbours as we do ourselves.”

Autonomy, choice and flexibility are the core components of PCC. Residents live in the way that they want to. Their choices and goals are used to meticulously and individually tailor make services. In this system, the residents’ voices are always heard and staff members become “flexible solution masters.”

The province of Alberta categorizes continuing care services for seniors into three streams: home living, supportive living and facility living. Shepherd’s Care Foundation offers all three services within a single campus location which makes it unique in that respect. “The sense of community, familiarity and meaningful activity is offered in all SCF communities,” Mr. Pray shares.

With the aging in place philosophy, the care environment changes to meet client needs with an adaptation of living space as required. This serves to reduce loneliness and depression and also keeps couples together as the model of care offers all care levels in one building. As Mr. Pray explains, “We can accommodate couples who wish to live together – or in close proximity, when the needs of one changes over time to require more care.”

These are difficult times in health care and Shepherd’s Care Foundation has its share of obstacles to overcome. “We have a very visionary and knowledgeable board of directors who are concerned about the current business model of continuing care in Alberta. The business model of many of our historic health funded seniors care programs needs to be modernized. We are working closely with Alberta Health to resolve what has been four years of chronic underfunding through Alberta Health Services.”

As well as CEO of Shepherd’s Care Foundation, John Pray is currently the president of the Alberta Continuing Care Association and is the chair of the Minister of Health’s Continuing Care Forum. He is working closely with the government to try and rectify current business model issues and most importantly create a new vision for continuing care in Alberta. Despite challenges, the Foundation is looking to expand services through innovative, sustainable growth, and is examining other growth opportunities such as the expansion of home care services throughout the age in place campuses.

Part of the growth of the organization can be seen in its recent condo developments. In 2009, Shepherd’s Care Foundation began development of a condominium high rise in Millwoods. The complex is attached to the foundation’s other Millwoods buildings to create an entire age in place campus. “The condo was very successful and sold out quickly. Shepherd’s Care Foundation has development of seniors condominiums based on an age in place model as part of our key strategic directions and are currently in pre-sales at our second senior’s condominium near our Southside Pentecostal Assembly (founding church) in Edmonton.”

To learn more about care related issues and improve the quality of care, Shepherd’s Care Foundation is partnering with the academic community. University-based researchers are working together with Shepherd’s Care Foundation and currently are involved in twelve different research projects totalling over $10 million in research grant funding. Some of the projects being looked at are:

• How the culture of organizations impacts the use of best practice to improve care
• The needs of residents with Alzheimer’s disease in assisted living and long term care
• Best practices in care of persons with dementia in assisted living
• Best practices in technology in supportive housing and assisted living

It takes a special kind of person to work within the Shepherd’s Care Foundation. A good candidate is looked at as a long term prospect. The foundation has developed and redeveloped its interview and orientation process in order to attract and retain great employees. “Over the past five years, we notice that our employees stay at Shepherd’s Care,” says Mr. Pray. “Key to this is our movement towards a more person-centred culture of care and service at Shepherd’s Care Foundation which we began to emphasize in 1999.”

Volunteers play a key role and are always needed. Making a difference in the lives of the aged is an extremely rewarding experience. Volunteering gives back to the community and provides for some good understanding of the healthcare field. “It can guide career paths, build resumes and offer opportunities to apply fresh ideas to programs and services.”

As a testament to the team’s planning and efforts, the foundation’s sites rated much higher than provincial averages in the last Health Quality Council of Alberta survey on quality of life. The survey showed that 98 percent of residents feel respected by the staff; 97 percent feel safe; 95 percent are satisfied with the religious and spiritual services provided; and 93 percent would recommend Shepherd’s Care Foundation to a friend or family member. Residents were found to be less worried, happier, less bored and less lonely than residents of other sites in Alberta.

On what to expect from the future of aged care, Mr. Pray says, “We believe that the ageing boomer generation will change continuing care. We believe that the senior of tomorrow will want to remain in their homes, apartments or condos for even longer than before and we are developing all future projects with that in mind. We also believe that seniors of today and tomorrow want more options that allow them to stay at home including the option to purchase additional services – meals, housekeeping, transportation and healthcare.”

Currently, the world has an aged population previously unseen in human history and the need to provide adequate services for the elderly is increasing rapidly. For forty-four years, Shepherd’s Care Foundation has led the way. Anyone who steps through Shepherd’s Care Foundation’s doors will live the rest of their lives the way they want to – with the care and respect that they deserve.