Eastholme Home for the Aged Screen door country care
It’s not every Director of Resident Care (DoRC) who can say they have a screen door to their office, but Dorothy Dunn is one director who can.
Eastholme Home for the Aged is nestled in the cozy commu- nity of Powassan, Ontario, a quick 20 minute drive south of North Bay on Highway 17. With a municipal population of 3200, it’s a town where someone likely knows someone who knows you; a stark contrast to senior care facilities in major urban centres.
Dunn grew up in Powassan, so did her husband, but the lure of the big city kept Dunn in the Toronto and Hamilton area for four years following the completion of her nursing education in Hamilton.
Following a short stint in acute care settings in both Toronto and Hamilton, Dunn and her husband decided to return home. Quickly finding employment with Eastholme “on the floor,” Dunn is set to retire this fall after 35 years there, 12 of those as Director of Resident Care.
Steve Piekarski, Eastholme’s administrator, also grew up in Powassan and returned to work in the home after many years away, some of which included earning a degree in mathematics from the University of Waterloo as well as his CA designation and a seven year stint in North Bay at radio station KPMG. He’s worked at Eastholme for 25 years now.
When asked what the differences are between a rural and an urban senior care facility, both Dunn and Piekarski answered with a single word: resource and familiarity. While different, both are equally intriguing.
Dunn quickly names the services that homes in bigger cen- tres often take for granted; dental, hospital transportation, and physiotherapy to name a few.
While larger urban areas offer specialized transport to and from hospitals for non-emergent trips, Powassen has no access to wheelchair accessible buses or taxis. So Eastholme arranges for one to come from North Bay to transport resi- dents or tries to arrange these non-emergent trips through family members, the East Parry Sound Community Support Service Program (a volunteer group of over 50 seniors) or private medical transport services in instances requiring closer medical attention.
Similarly, physiotherapy was a service that Piekarski used to arrange through the Community Care Access Centre. Thankfully, that process of acquiring physiotherapy has ceased with the contracted services of a physiotherapist who visits with an assistant twice a week.
Piekarski’s response of familiarity was especially intriguing. “There is familiarity on two fronts,” he clarifies. In small towns, he explains, “staff very often knows either the resident or the resident’s family before the resident of the town becomes...a resident of Eastholme.”
Residents of Eastholme come from the same community where the staff live which has a positive effect on the level of care the residents receive. Piekarski is quick to offer that having 128 beds helps too, and by no means does he suggest that big- ger homes and bigger centres provide less care, but knowing a resident and their family gives an added personal touch that is unmatched elsewhere.
Piekarski offers a perfect and personal example: at 54, he’s admitting the parents of friends he’s known since school. “It puts a different perspective on things.”
The second point of familiarity is the rural setting itself. Eastholme has a catchment area that extends to Huntsville. There are a lot of other small towns and farms in this area and there is a certain comfort level in the transition from home to Eastholme. The stress of changing from rural to urban (or perhaps vice versa) later in life just isn’t there.
“The rural setting of Eastholme alone makes the transition much easier,” comments Dunn.
So what does this have to do with a screen door on an office? Dunn’s office used to be part of Eastholme’s resident library, with a door leading to the outside. After the library was moved to another floor, a wall was constructed in the middle of the room creating two offices.
Having an office with a cottage style screen door was es- sentially a happy by-product of renovation, a detailed metaphor that puts an exclamation point on a rural nursing home’s setting.