Opinion

Fir Park in Alberni has busy 32 years

Lots of renovations and signs of physical improvements can be seen at Fir Park Village these days.

After 32 years, the building is going through major changes aimed to make it more functional and to accommodate the needs of the 67 residents of this multilevel care home.

Fir Park Village opened its doors to the first residents on Jan. 26, 1981 (the official opening was March 6, 1981), thanks to the untiring efforts of a dedicated group of citizens like Walter Behn and other committed board members who made a reality of a longtime dream of the community.

They lobbied the government and sought support from many groups and individuals to build a place for seniors in need of care and socializing, thus becoming the first intermediate care home in the Alberni Valley.

But most importantly, the empty building was transformed into a home in which tenants became actively involved in the decisions that affect their lives; fulfilling their desire to continue playing some of the roles that they had played in the community and, of course, the freedom of choice.

The philosophical mission of the home was to focus on wellness rather than sickness.

“These concepts are still in effect, despite the changes in the status of many seniors who live here now,” says Leanna Fines, Director of Residential and Community Programs.

Fines is responsible for the creation of programs, activities and residents’ well-being at both Fir Park Village and Echo Village.

She has been responsible for the creation and implementation of such programs for the past eight years.

Fines says that with the changes in the residents’ population, the programs have also had to be adapted, especially due to the fact that a large percentage of the residents are affected by some type of dementia.

“Our programs used to be entertainment with large attendances, but gradually we began working with smaller groups—four to eight people—and one on one.

“We now have what we call Snoezelen, which is a controlled multisensory environment (MSE)  therapy for people with disabilities,” she adds.

In addition, Fir Park Village also offers music therapy programs, conducted by Dorianne Miller, aiming to help seniors improve their health across various domains, such as cognitive functioning, emotional and effective development, behaviour and social skills and quality of life.

Both, Fir Park Village and Echo Village are owned and operated by Alberni-Clayoquot Continuing Care Society, which also offers an adult day care program for seniors who still live in their homes but are in need of social programs and companionship.

“The adult day care has always been a good addition to Fir Park,” Fines says. “Its participants benefit from some of the regular activities offered to the residents, but at the same time they can take part in their own group activities that would suit their needs.

“We have between 25 and 27 participants in the program. I would like to see it grow, because there is a need for this type of service to seniors in the community.” The adult day care (formerly called “Care and Share Program”), which also offers bath services, began functioning in June 1981, six months after the opening of Fir Park Village.

An important component of Fir Park Village is the role of the Residents Society, established in 1982. Each resident is a member of the society, run by a Residents Council, whose members meet regularly to talk about their home, to voice their concerns and to discuss ways to raise funds for their causes.

“It’s an active group, which acts as a ‘customer service’ monitor, including food service,” Fines says.

The Residents Council has raised funds for various items, such as the construction of the front lawn gazebo; the purchase of equipment for programs; the funding for a special meal program (“Galloping Gourmet”, a taste of different meals, once a month); and support for the baking sessions every Thursday.

In addition, the council assists with the funding of a number of activities and bus trips, helps maintain and inspect the bus.

The two homes count on a caring group of men and women, members of the staff, plus hundreds of volunteers and by the support from their board of directors and executive director, Barb Stevenson, and by the Fir Park Village/Echo Village Foundation, a non-profit Society, led by its president, Jack Buffie.

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