Residents at Willow Lodge in Tatamagouche gather in a common room. There are 61 beds at the nursing home, which also operates a volunteer driven “Meals on Wheels” program, Red Cross equipment loan depot, and Lifeline through Northwood Intouch. Submitted photo

By Janine Jaconelli

After many years of working with seniors in leadership roles, as well as caring for my own grandmother who was in long term care and passed away at 105, I was more than convinced that as a society who has been entrusted with the care of our elders, there has to be a better way of delivering quality of care to the most vulnerable in our society.

Culture change and how we view our values of past practice also needs to be addressed.

Back in the 1980s, the Eden Alternative was a philosophy of care that had a large following within the Toronto area where I come from. It takes a lot of commitment to become a registered home and as a result it never really got off the ground.

So when I saw the posting for the position as an executive director at Willow Lodge, an Eden Alternative Home, I knew immediately I would be Nova Scotia bound!

I firmly believe in the “village” approach within a community and I have certainly found that here in Tatamagouche. From the elders at Willow Lodge to the board of directors, care partners, family members and the community at large, I have been welcomed.

Here at the lodge we are governed by a volunteer 11-member board of directors operating a 61 bed nursing home licensed by the Department of Health. In addition, we operate a volunteer driven “Meals on Wheels” program, Red Cross equipment loan depot, and Lifeline through Northwood Intouch, along with a very active auxiliary.

I am passionate about what I do and knowing that I can be instrumental in the lives of those who call Willow Lodge home, affirms everything I believe in; there are many who choose to sleep in without having to be up at seven in the morning, there are those that may want to have their bath at night and we make these and many more simple pleasures happen. We have many community groups along with high, elementary and nursery school children who enjoy visiting and interacting with the elders and this is mutual as our elders count down the days until the “kids” arrive. In the summer, in our park adjacent to our building, Barney the pony along with our goats are enjoyed by us all.

We are one large family that care and nurture each other….we are committed to making a difference in the lives of our elders by eliminating loneliness, helplessness and boredom, and delivering elder-centred care. These principles align with the key vision of the Eden Alternative Philosophy.

I am proud to call Willow Lodge my home and each day know that I am contributing to the quality of life for both our elders and care partners.

My personal community involvement is with the board of managers at Sedgewick Presbyterian Church, a guider with the Colchester Girl Guides, as well as membership in OES, a benevolent organization.


Janine Jaconelli is the executive director of Willow Lodge Association. Their column runs every second month in The Light.