Written by Christine (McKeen) MacAskill- owner of Serenity Lodge
Serenity Lodge’s story is very much a virtues’ story…………that began from a personal need within my family.
“Idealists dare to have big dreams and then act as if they are possible!”
“Honor is living with a sense of respect for what you believe is right”
quotes from the reflection cards “Idealism” and “Honor” of The Virtues Project (virtuesproject.com)
In the year 2000, as a family with a personal need for our Mum, and whom was living in the fastest growing Municipality in our province of Nova Scotia we asked the following question to our N.S. Department of Health………
“Why is there no local long term seniors’ care facilities for our loved ones in their time of need?”
Hearing that the nearest approved long term care facility was 100 km away from Wayne’s Mum’s primary home; was unacceptable to us. Calling on our virtue of initiative when we were told… ‘No one had started a home in our area’… we said …….”well tell us what we have to do!”
My husband and I share a faith that guides us when making decisions in our lives. That faith lead us to risk our economic stability to invest in a project we believed could add even more purposefulness to our lives. We both share an attitude of gratitude, especially for our parents. We acknowledge the many who have contributed to our being able to enjoy the freedom to live as we have over the years. We felt called to put our gratitude into action and find a way to make quality care for our loved ones a reality. We endeavoured to make this quality care equally available to all seniors in need. Working towards this meaningful goal would bring us closer together, we would find.
We were told by a Dept. Of Health employee, we had to build the building before you can apply to license it ……….MAYBE WE HAD A LITTLE TOO MUCH TRUST…………. as it was not quite that simple…..the long and the short of it was …..It was a long road…… with lots of time in those first four years that called for much faith, courage, and perseverance to believe we could make a difference for our local seniors that needed this service.
Due to the progression of my husband, Wayne’s Mum’s, (Janie MacAskill) disease of Dementia /Alzheimer’s ( over a period of thirteen years) by the year 2000, our MacAskill family had a immediate need that couldn’t wait until someone built a closer facility. We couldnot work things out quick enough to open with a license from the N.S. Department of Health. This was due to a many issues for new facilities wanting to open as part of their Continuing Care Sector.
With much hope and, faith that we could indeed find a way to open the doors to all seniors equally we contracted Cozy Homes, Paul Momberquette’s company to build us a four bedroom Lodge at 39 Russell Mckeen Drive in Enfield in June 2001. Serenity Lodge was built and ready for opening in September 2001. We had room at Serenity Lodge for three seniors besides Wayne’s Mum, Janie. This meant Janie could receive the quality of care she needed when we, her family couldn’t be there 24/7. The unfortunate part was; by operating outside of the Province’s Continuing Care sector it limited who could live at the Lodge. Most families were like our own we could not afford the high lodging fee to pay privately for quality care for Janie. We soon learned the costs of employing trained staff and operating a new facility was very high. Most seniors in need of long term care, desperately wanted to live at the Lodge, but they too could not afford the $2500.00 monthly fee.
We gained some consolation by our ability to provide quality care for at least our Mum and for three other seniors. While we operated privately we continued working towards the long term goal of equality for all seniors to have access to the Lodge.
Over the next four years we persevered to get Serenity Lodge opened as part of the Nova Scotia Department of Health`s Long Term Seniors’ Care system; so that residents could receive financial assistance for their care.
As business owners we could have been content to “not worry about” those that couldn’t afford to live in our nice Lodge.
I personally believe, I am who I am today, because of the many people who have influenced me. Many people who saw my virtues and acknowledged them when I couldn’t see them for myself.
Many of us that have been blessed with the example of a family that has put their virtues into action very often follow that example. I feel that was the way it has been for my spouse and I.
With knowledge comes responsibility. When we became aware that quality long term care funding was not equally available to all seniors in our province, we felt we had a responsibility to make this information known to seniors in need, and their families.
During the “white Juan” storm of 2004, Wayne’s Mum fell and broke her hip. She survived the operation and returned to Serenity Lodge once it became clear she would not be able to recover from the surgery. Janie passed away ever so peacefully after seven days of her family and the staff of the Lodge surrounding her with much love and service for all her needs. This second death experience at Serenity Lodge made us very aware of the amazing gift it was to journey with someone through their last days and moments of life. The love and gratitude each resident offers, we the staff, for our service, furthered the commitment of we the owners to offer this service equally to all seniors.
The spring of 2004 found Wayne very busy working long hours to keep the Lodge going financially while I took on the activist’s role within our community. Through public meetings I continually spoke to people in our community helping them to be aware of what we saw as a financial injustice towards seniors. I asked our community to stand together to asked our government to address this situation…..and we did indeed unite and stand together.
We formed a community seniors’ advocacy committee, which we called the East Hants Senior’s Advocacy Group. A small group that lead with the virtue words and others followed because we proved we were honoring our elders by being their voice. We acted with integrity, respect and tact but also with assertiveness.
One might say we fought city hall and won, but truthfully I know we used our virtues and earned respect and cooperation from our government. I personally, believe the timing was right for the provincial government to address that there were no licensed long term care beds in the Municipality of East Hants. The government was open to suggestions on the interim basis, for our area.
Wayne and I believed in the service our team was creating. My primary interest was not in promoting my own business, but being part of offering quality care for all seniors in a fair, just manner, equally to those in need within in our communities. Seeking unity; I approached other locally owed privately run senior care facilities to be part of the efforts to become licensed by meeting all government standards. I had to accept that all facilities do not seek the same standards of excellence, and accountability to such standards of excellence.
Our Nova Scotia Provincial government listened to small groups like the East Hants Seniors’ Advocacy group. On January 1st 2005 the government brought forth changes to how funding is allotted for long term care within our province. That January, a petition, with over 2500 local signatures, gathered by the members of the East Hants Seniors Advocacy group and its’ supporters, was presented to the N.S. Minister of Health. The public asked the Department to look at the small homes such as Serenity Lodge, and another in our area that also joined the appeal. The petition asked the government to decide if these Homes for senior care could be part of the province’s Continuing Care sector, even on an interim basis, due to the immediate emergency needs within our Municipality. The government did listen and agreed to look at the two homes, quite likely due to the fact that there were no long term care beds in the Municipality of East Hants, at that point in time.
Once the inspectors visited Serenity Lodge, they were very impressed with our facility. The Dept. Of Health suggested we invest in a few renovations to be able to offer care to six residents rather than four. We accepted their suggestions. Once we completed these renovations we met or exceeded all standards set by the Department‘s representatives.
Unity does work. Working together for the good of all is valued. We can proudly say we brought the first licensed long term care facility to our community of Enfield.
As of August 26th, 2005 Serenity Lodge became an approved Long Term Care Facility of Nova Scotia. We are a facility that offers a holistic approach to quality care for our six seniors. We are a workplace that embraces the “Virtues Project” (viruesproject. com) within ourselves and others. As Serenity Lodge’s team leader, I am committed to guide our trained staff to use their innate virtues to serve all needs, of each resident in our care.
Each resident has brought their own special part to our history at Serenity Lodge. We have been blessed to have had the privilege to serve many wonder “filled” folk over these first ten years at Serenity Lodge!
The idealism of creating an extended family for the residents of Serenity Lodge for residents that can no longer live in their primary homes was a dream we had, for Wayne‘s Mum. It is “awe” mazing to think that it has become a reality for her and for so many more since!
Thank you to each to our family for their support to make Serenity Lodge a reality. To the residents, to the many families that have become part of the Serenity Lodge legacy. So much love and joy has grown in the garden of friendship that Serenity Lodge has created.