Cobden -- Renfrew County is ending an adult day program which began operating in 2012.
At its September 29 meeting Renfrew County council voted to terminate the lease for the St. Paul’s Anglican Church Hall where the program had been provided until it was suspended due to COVID-19 in March of 2020. It was an outreach initiative of Bonnechere Manor in Renfrew under the jurisdiction of Renfrew County Long-Term Care.
It has not resumed at the Cobden location on Crawford Street since then. However, it is once more running at Bonnechere Manor, and former Cobden clients have the opportunity to participate. Transportation is being provided by community transportation services such as the Sunshine Coach operating out of Renfrew and Pembroke-based Carefor.
Families appreciated not only the opportunities for members with a variety of challenges, but also the respite provided for them as caregivers.
Irene Hill’s sister, Mary Anne, attended for a number of years when she was living independently in Cobden.
“She used to walk to the program,” Mrs. Hill said. “She was offered bus transportation but she lived nearby and preferred to walk. It gave her a sense of belonging in a place other than with family. Because it was in Cobden, she knew most of the other people who attended. She is hearing impaired and so everything is visual for her and she appreciated many of the activities. And lunch was provided, so we knew that on the days she attended she would have a good meal.”
When walking became more difficult for Mary Anne and her care needs increased, she moved to the Caressant Care assisted living facility in Cobden and activities there continue to meet her needs for activities to fill her time.
Cobden-area parent Karen Payne’s 36-year-old son, Evan, began attending at an Eganville location at age 20 when he finished high school. This was before the Cobden site was established. Since September 8 of this year, he has been attending the program at Bonnechere Manor for one day a week, down from the three days a week he used to participate in Cobden.
“It was nice when it was in Cobden because it was close to our home,” Ms. Payne said. “But Renfrew is okay. As long as it’s somewhere.”
She is hoping the Renfrew program will be able to expand to accommodate Evan for three days a week as was his routine in Cobden.
“Evan uses a wheelchair and needs help with all aspects of daily living,” she said. “It’s an extremely important program, very good in providing stimulation and a different perspective on life.”
She said the year and a half the program was suspended due to COVID-19 was extremely difficult.
“Mom and Dad can get pretty boring,” she quipped.
She added she is hoping the Renfrew program can increase Evan’s time there to three days a week again.
Mike Blackmore, Director of Care for Renfrew County Long-Term Care, said the decision not to re-open in Cobden was prompted by the low attendance leading up to the time the program was suspended in 2020.
“We were down to three to five participants on any given day,” he said. “Pre-2020 there were from nine to 13 on the books.”
He added that exploration of ways to serve clients in surrounding communities is continuing.
“We are looking at ways to rebuild our services to communities and exploring what that will look like in a post-COVID world,” he said. “We have to be more flexible and a bit more inventive.”
While the Cobden hosts of the program, the congregation of St. Paul’s Church, were always aware of the provision in the lease for cancellation with 60 days’ notice, they were still taken aback by the decision to terminate the lease, given the health and safety upgrades carried out at the church’s expense at the request of the program just this past summer.
One of the landings on the access ramp had be enlarged to accommodate larger wheelchairs, and basement washroom floors, kitchen floors and countertops were replaced. Hand railings to the basement were improved to meet the building code and roof supports were installed in the basement.
“For the eight years that St. Paul's has partnered with Bonnechere Manor, the relationship has been nothing short of congenial,” said Alice Ferguson, one of the church wardens at St. Paul’s. “It has been a stimulating program for the clients and my hope is that this program will continue to serve the needs of our community.”
Linda Humphries, who lives across the street from St. Paul’s church and hall, said she enjoyed having the program in her community.
“You would see them (the participants) out in the community,” she said. “They would attend the monthly luncheons at the United Church. They grew vegetables in raised garden beds and there were other activities on the lawn as well. Various people, including family members of clients, would provide music from time to time.
“The staff was very friendly. They were good neighbours and they will be missed.”
Bishop Michael Bird, one of the four-member clergy team of the Parish of the Valley which includes St. Paul’s, said it is with regret that the news is shared with the community that the lease has been terminated and the Adult Day Program operating out of the church hall has ended.
“Since 2012, St. Paul’s have been proud to partner with the County of Renfrew’s Bonnechere Manor Long-Term Care to provide this wonderful program for clients in our region, and we give thanks to God and commend all those who have worked so hard to allow this program to be offered,” he said. “We hope that those who benefitted from this program in our region will continue to be served and should the County of Renfrew Long-Term Care decide to re-open an Adult Day Program in our community, we remain open to that being located in the St. Paul’s church hall. We continue to be committed to the quality of life for all of the people in our community.”
Marei Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader