‘Great sense of community’ at Comox hospital’s complex-care facility

The Views has been a part of St. Joseph's General Hospital for over 30 years and has seen many changes in that time.

Longtime Views resident Wilma McKenzie enjoys competing in the Pioneer Olympics each year.

Each month, the Comox Valley is featuring articles about the history of St. Joseph’s General Hospital, which celebrates its centennial this year.

The Views has been a part of St. Joseph’s General Hospital for over 30 years and has seen many changes in that time.

Nestled on the top of the hill below the hospital, the Views was first known as the St. Joseph’s extended-care unit when built in 1982. Fifty beds were added on in 1993, bumping the total number of beds to 125, all of which are publicly funded.

Now a complex-care facility instead of an extended-care facility, the Views has two units — Eagleview Manor (75 beds) and Oceanview Manor (50 beds) — both of which are named for the Views’ view overlooking the Strait of Georgia, Beaufort Mountains and nearby nesting eagles.

Rick Sawatzky, a registered nurse at the facility since the early ’90s, says a big change over the years has been the increase in activities for residents, something he says is very good.

“What I say about nursing is I just need to help people be healthy enough and get them prepared for their real day, and that’s the activities that they do,” he says, noting the Snoezelen, which offers quiet stimulation for residents with advanced dementia, is one example of an activity the Views picked up over the years. “It’s actually a great thing for people who have difficulty relating to this world any longer, with dementias, severe dementias.

“That was cutting edge (when implemented) — in all of the country it was cutting edge.”

Brenda Phillips, activity director at the Views, notes the addition of the Physical Activation Recreation Centre (PARC) has also been welcomed by everyone at the facility.

“That’s been an amazing addition to us to be able to run programs there and that was all (built) by donations from the community,” she says.

“It’s been wonderful having that space,” she continues as she points to a balance class happening in the PARC. “It’s used for a lot of fitness classes, we have crib tournaments we’ve held in there, we have meetings, Catholic mass is now using this space…”

Dancing, music, swimming excursions and gardening are a few of the other many activities listed on the Views’ activity guide.

Though the Views continues to offer new activities, it has also offered one in particular since the facility’s doors opened — the Pioneer Olympics.

Residents compete in various games against teams from other facilities, like Glacier View Lodge and the Comox Valley Seniors Village. The Views’ team is called St. Joseph’s Eagles, and the games include floor curling, horseshoes and basketball toss.

Phillips has also seen an increase in volunteers from the community, including more youth and retired professionals like nurses or people with extensive computer knowledge.

“It’s not just the coffee and tea service anymore and helping with bingo — we’re trying to incorporate all of those (volunteers’) skills and abilities to the best benefit for us, so we’ve got the best of the volunteer, what they’re bringing to us, which is great,” she says, noting an example of someone with computer knowledge helping residents use the facility computers.

Bunny the dog is a volunteer of sorts. She is a therapy dog who visits residents at the Views five days per week with her caretaker Julie Stamm, who works at the facility as an activity aid.

Residents “go for walks with her, she comes on rides with us, she just hangs out with people,” explains Stamm. “We go from room to room and visit with residents that can’t be out in the common areas. She just is a really nice presence.”

Resident Wilma McKenzie has been in Eagleview Manor since 1997, and was born at St. Joseph’s in 1930. She says there have been many changes in routines, staff and activities over the years, but something that’s been there all along is the Views’ sense of community.

“There’s a great sense of community. We all feel like we’re in one big family,” she says. “It is a great home for me; I love it here. I really enjoy it because I have my own television, my own telephone, an ocean view… I look out on the water, and the ladies in my room are all wonderful, they’re all helpful and kind and they worry about me,” she says with a laugh.



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