Save Our Northern Seniors (SONS) – A Brief History
FORT ST. JOHN
SONS is a group of dedicated people wanting to make a difference in our community.
During the 1990’s we had local Health Councils, which gave us an opportunity to provide local input and to provide the Council with an awareness of the needs in the health community. SONS President Jean Leahy was on the first Peace Liard Community Health Council, which pushed hard for the creation of long-term beds, leading to the construction of Heritage Manor I and Heritage Manor II retirement housing in Fort St. John.
It was a painful time for a number of our families as there was a shortage of long-term beds in the North Peace and many loved ones had to be placed in Dawson Creek or Pouce Coupe. It tore couples apart causing a lot of grief. If the spouse left at home could not drive, it made the 50 mile drive seem like 500.
The drive for more beds picked up steam. A plan was put together for the North Peace Care Project. More beds were to be built and additions were to be made to the North Peace Care Facility.
Nothing happened. There was no money for facilities. Statistics proved that we would continue needing more beds in our area, and so the fight began.
The group of concerned citizens that would eventually become SONS applied for Society status and held information sessions. It made the community sit up and take notice.
SONS members attended every meeting and public event that they could to spread the word—Trade Fairs, Select Standing Committees and Peace River Regional District among others.
SONS continues to advocate for infrastructure to help seniors living in Northern BC to age-in-place.
The purposes of Save Our Northern Seniors Society are:
- To build a facility which will ensure the safety, respect and dignity of our seniors;
- To provide current and reliable information for the number of facilities and beds available in our area;
- To pursue all avenues of support for our community – rural and urban – such as Supportive Living, Assisted Living, Intermediate Care, Extended Care, Special Unit, Psycho-Geriatric Care, Adult Daycare, Home Care, and Emergency Care.
SONS is well known for advocating on behalf of Seniors.
Our goals are:
- To pursue all avenues of health support for our community no matter what the ages;
- To have Seniors live in their community with support to keep them safe, independent, healthy, and happy;
- To have a third house at Peace Villa which would accommodate a minimum of 60 residents, including a Daycare, to support recruitment and retention of NH Employees.
Eagle Valley Community Support Society
A Profile, History, Roles and Partnerships
Our Mission Statement: To improve through education, the social, and emotional well-being of all members of the community, and to provide a place where services to support families and individuals are centralized and easily accessible.
Our Vision: To provide inclusive services and supports that enhance the social well-being of residents of Sicamous and its surrounding rural areas, regardless of age, gender, race, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. To seek out, advocate for and apply for support services needed and to act as a partnering agency to enable others to successfully provide support services and programs of EVCSS and those of others whose services benefit the community.
Eagle Valley Community Support Society (EVCSS)was incorporated as a BC Society in 1992, and became a registered Canadian Charity in 1994. Its first program was resource and referral services and help with photocopying, faxing, form filling and applications. In 1995 the society expanded into children’s programs, in 1996 added a food bank and also began working with CRA to deliver the Volunteer Income Tax Program for low income households. During this phase EVCSS served as an umbrella organization for a local group of100 youth who fundraised to build a skateboard park, applying for grants and managing the funds that within 4 years built the Sicamous Skate Park, designed by and construction supervised by two local youth and a lead adult contracting on the project. So began their significant partnership role in the community and area….a role destined to grow.
In 2001 EVCSS leased the old Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union building in the community and within a year of moving in had a plan to purchase the building with the strong support of then SASCU CAO Michael Wagner and a SASCU board member Alice Duck. The additional space encouraged steady growth including contracts with MCFD and IHA to deliver support services such as counselling, youth and family support, the creation of an early childhood development coordination body and programs, community development with other groups like Eagle Valley Sports and Leisure Society who designed and ran recreation programming using the building as their home base.
The society added a bus and service to outlying rural areas and developed food security programs such as the Canadian Diabetes Association sponsored “Food Skills” programs; the latter was shared regionally.
EVCSS has also been instrumental in the Development of a monthly Sicamous and Malakwa Interagency network group, the Shuswap Community Resources Co-operative (a co-op structure that provided support services to non profit members) and the work of building relationships between the Shuswap’s indigenous and non-indigenous communities through the Moving Forward Together Regional Planning learning/sharing events that became known as “Together Shuswap”.
All of the partnership work bringing programs and services to Sicamous, Malakwa locally and with other Shuswap groups and communities starting up new services opened the doors for the society in 2013 to take on a large regional contract for a program called Better at Home, a non-medical seniors support program designed to support seniors safely in their own homes longer. We are appreciative of the support given us by peer agencies to manage this Shuswap wide service contract with an impact on 20 communities and rural areas.
With incredible financial support and a lot of fundraising over many years the Sicamous location has been renovated the building for accessibility, creation of a teaching kitchen and a backyard garden for producing, processing and supplying the food bank, upgrades to lighting, heating and cooling, a new phone system, and furnishings inside the building and in the garden for a ‘serenity’ area for counselling and solitude. Most recently, automatic doors, and cold storage was added to help us store fresh produce for distribution year round due to more amazing food partnerships coming our way. For the past several years we have been hugely supported by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District Area E Director Rhona Martin, the community of Malakwa and individuals to open a satellite Resource Centre and Food Bank in Malakwa.
Access being a challenge to those living 15 minutes and beyond out side of the Sicamous’ centre as like many rural communities we have no regular transit system yet. Much of our time that is not direct service hours has gone into supporting the work of others that make a difference in our community such as the Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap, the efforts of the Community Futures Shuswap and Work BC to support businesses and employment projects. The society works with Okanagan College to bring courses to the communities, Eagle Valley Senior’s Housing Society, the Malakwa’s Playschool Society, Sicamous and District Seniors’s Centre, local and regional governments, Interior health and others in the development of low income housing, health and wellness service planning and planning for much needed licensed daycare.
We are constantly networking with other groups and directly engaging community members about how they experience to life in Sicamous and area through a variety of surveying, interviewing projects and alongside many partners. The society is known locally and provincially for their passion, innovation and ‘wrap around’ approach to problem solving and has been recognized twice in past years by the Province of BC for the leadership shown.
Now in its 27th year of operation, EVCSS is still seeing many shifts, changes and challenges, but is moving ever forward towards building sustainability of the communities it serves locally as well, for all Shuswap communities impacted by its services now and hopefully for many years to come.
Autumn Services Centre
Autumn Services Centre is a welcoming, age-friendly hub, that we recently renovated and re-located to the shop-ping centre in Fraser Lake. We became a not for profit in 2009 and just recently received our Charity status. Our centre is open Monday to Friday 10-2 pm, and we have enjoyed 100,000 visits since opening our doors in 2013.
To address community need and food security issues we run a Food Share and a Soup & Bun program two days a week. To provide social supports we offer potlucks, Fun Bingo, coffee chats and bring in speakers to address topics like Wills, Elder Abuse, Building Confidence, Scams and safety around the home.
For healthy alternatives we offer a walking group and a light exercises with the focus on balance. Using our professional printer, we assist with printing documents and help with tech problems with lap tops and phones. We have organized 6 Health Fests, cooked three turkey dinners for 150 seniors, and we’ve hosted 4 Elder Abuse Awareness events. We offer a Better at Home Program to assist seniors to age in place and to focus on aging and rural isolation we write and mail a free community newspaper to all mail-box holders in our catchment area.
The Village of Fraser Lake, the Mens Shed, the Crisis Centre and Northern Health support our programs and use our centre for meetings such as: Care-giver Support, Inspirational speakers, Wildfire Mental Health, Wharf Man-agement and ongoing craft and exercise programs.
Our daily hosts man the centre up to 200 hours a month and our board of directors organize and attend many of our big events. We pay overhead costs through grants, funds raised from our membership fees, our UPS delivery, ads from our paper, room rentals, and donations from our soup program. Everyone over here is a volunteer and while we are constantly on the look-out for core funding, we push ahead, knowing that our hub is essential to the health and well being of so many who drop in on a daily basis.
I feel like a bit of an impostor claiming “rural health” status. My husband and I moved to Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast in September 2018. Since my husband is a therapist and still sees clients three days a week in Vancouver we still live there part time. So I’m 4/7 rural and 3/7 city. However, we aspire to live on the Coast permanently in a couple of years. I hope to learn from all of you about rural health issues. Some of it I know about since I’ve been a member of the BC Patient Voices Network since 2010 and have been in conversations and meetings with lots of my rural compadres. But there’s nothing like the lived experience!
As for me, I’ve been a member of several patient groups advocating for patient safety and better care, especially for elders and particularly focused on medication safety and overmedication issues. It is our family’s history with a serious drug interaction experienced by my mother in law that inspired me to try to change a system that I saw wasn’t working well, or listening well to the patients and families it serves. As well as the Patient Voices Network, I am a long-time member of the national group Patients for Patient Safety Canada.
I am on the Public Awareness Committee for the Canadian Deprescribing Network and as part of our mandate we have reached out to senior’s groups across Canada. What we have found from working with these grass-roots senior’s organizations, is that there is a hunger for information about appropriate use of medication and avoiding overmedication. We’ve also found that these groups all have newsletters and we have worked to provide them with articles and other materials for re-publishing to spread the information to their members.
I worked as the “patient partner” on the Steering Committee of the provincial Polypharmacy Risk Reduction Initiative for five years, working to reduce medication burden for those in Care Homes by doing meaningful medication reviews designed to reduce unnecessary drugs for those who live there. Often folks are put on drugs and just left on them indefinitely. Of course the more medications you’re on, the greater the chance of drug interactions and trips to the Emergency Ward.
I serve as the public member on the Geriatrics and Palliative Care Committee with Doctors of BC. As well, for about 5 years I have been co-teaching a course in Care of the Elderly with some excellent doctors to the first year medical students as an Honorary Lecturer in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia. I teach about the value of including the family as part of the team when caring for the elderly. I’ve also taught in the PharmD program for the past two years on medication issues in Residential Care and the importance of family involvement. I am a team member in research studies at both UBC and McMaster University concerning medication safety. As you can see, I’m a bit of a one-trick pony but I hope I can be helpful to your organization and learn from all of you.
MEMBER OF THE MONTH FEBRUARY
The Slocan Valley is an 83km long lake valley located in south eastern BC. There are three small rural villages located along Slocan Lake – New Denver, Silverton and Slocan. As well there are several smaller outlying areas.
The Slocan Community Health Centre was built in 1982 and served as the hospital for the entire Slocan Valley for many years. It was successfully operated by a local society.
In 2002 the entire site was taken over by the Interior Health Authority. In 2003 IHA announced their plans to close the entire facility. After a lengthy and intense battle a combined Valley-wide citizens’ group lobbied the Health Ministry and succeeded in keeping the health centre open until this time.
Over the years the facility has been allowed to deteriorate and until recently two physicians with locum help were able to keep up with patient demand.
Two years ago one of the physicians announced plans to relocate and suddenly we were faced with the same problem many small BC rural municipalities are facing – namely physician recruitment and retention. Visit www.slocanlake.com to see our video!
The Slocan District Chamber of Commerce decided to expand its long dormant health committee and took the leading role in physician recruitment. After two years of meeting and negotiating with IHA we are still at an impasse. The stumbling block as in so many small, semi remote rural BC towns is retention of our 24/7 emergency services.
The Health Committee joined the BC Rural Health Network in 2018 and recently the Village of New Denver has formed a Valley-wide health select standing committee. This committee is composed mostly of elected officials from the Slocan Valley and a representitive from the Chamber Health Committee.
Wish us luck and good luck to you all as well in our health service related struggles!