Business Profiles

Until there’s a cure, there’s Deer Lodge Centre: Province’s third-largest healthcare facility fundraises for dementia care

Courtyard Before

After more than a century of specializing in serving the specific needs of the community, Deer Lodge Centre isn’t about to stop now.

What began as a facility looking after returning Veterans of the First World War in 1916 has evolved into a centre specializing in care for dementia residents, rehabilitation and chronic care patients, as well as bariatrics—people who are more than 100 pounds overweight with complex medical needs—and members of the transgender community.

“There are so many programs and services offered here that people don’t know about,” says Nicole LaTourelle, executive director of the Deer Lodge Centre Foundation.

One area of specialization is dementia care, as the number of diagnosed cases in the province continues to grow.

Dementia is a brain condition characterized by progressive loss of intellectual function, including impairment of memory and abstract thinking. It is often accompanied by personality changes.

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, there were more than 55 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2020 and there are 10 million new cases every year—that works out to one new diagnosis every three seconds.

Deer Lodge recently welcomed residents to its completely refurbished Tower 7 unit—one of five catering to dementia—which features elements inspired by the latest medical research. For example, each hallway section is painted in a different bright colour because residents are able to recall colours in a way that they don’t with other things—and every room door has been configured to look like the outside door of a house, so they come to think of their room as their home.

The unit’s overhaul cost more than $550,000 but the foundation’s work is far from over.

LaTourelle recently began fundraising for a $1.5-million modernizing of Deer Lodge’s more than 16,000 square-foot courtyard. The blueprints call for replacing the paved bricks with a new flat surface, making it easier for walking or pushing a wheelchair or walker, gardens in which patients can tend to their tomato plants, new trees and plants, an Indigenous corner with a mobile fire pit for ceremonies and a stage area for concerts and other performances. The entire space, of course, is secure so patients and residents aren’t able to wander off.

“People aren’t aware of what Deer Lodge is all about. Many of them have a story to tell about a loved one who has come here. We’ve always been very quiet but now that we have bigger goals, we’re reaching out to the community,” she says.

Lindsay Gillanders, communications coordinator with the DLCF, says the unit refurbishments and the courtyard will play “huge” roles in the care provided by its staff—Deer Lodge employs nearly 1,000 people—as well as giving staff a place to sit and unwind.

“The bright colours will help people find their way and by opening up the sight lines and flow on the unit, it will be so much better for the people who live there. The majority of Manitobans will know somebody who will need this kind of care,” Gillanders says.

“Deer Lodge has become one of the most progressive healthcare centres in the province. We’re transforming from caring for Veterans to a chronic care revolution in Manitoba.”

Located on one of the busiest stretches of Portage Avenue in St. James, Deer Lodge has 419 beds, making it the third-largest healthcare facility in the province, trailing only the Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital.

LaTourelle says the biggest challenge for Deer Lodge is the relative lack of awareness in the community about its programs and services. For example, Deer Lodge provides speech language therapy to members of the transgender community to help them adapt their voices to their new identities.

There’s a swallowing clinic to help people who have suffered strokes relearn how to swallow as well as operational stress injury facilities for RCMP officers and military personnel who battle
post-traumatic stress disorder.

Deer Lodge continues to provide long-term care for Veterans from both the Second World War and the Korean War. Its oldest resident is 103 years old.

LaTourelle says Deer Lodge will continue to evolve with whatever the community’s needs are over its next century of service.

“Until there’s a cure, there’s Deer Lodge,” she says.

To find out how you can help Deer Lodge Centre, visit or call 204-272-8911.


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