Nestled in the pristine waters of British Columbia’s Discovery Islands, Quadra Island has long attracted those seeking solace and serenity amidst breath-taking beauty, however, the tranquility of the Island can sometimes mask the challenges faced by its aging population. With at least half of the Island’s population identifying as older persons, aging, illness, and isolation are an ever-present concern. In response to these challenges, Quadra Circle Community Connections Society is introducing Nav-CARE (Navigation: Connecting, Advocating, Resourcing, Engaging), a transformative initiative aimed at providing holistic support for those living with compromised or declining health so they may live as well and independently as they can at home for as long as possible.
Identifying a Need
With ten years of volunteer board member experience for Quadra Circle Community Connections Society, the current Board President, Maureen McDowell is well versed in the needs of the community. From humble beginnings, where board members ran community-based programs, Maureen has seen the opening of a small office delivering information and referral services, the hiring of a dedicated older adults activity coordinator, and the development of collaborative partnerships with other older person-serving organizations e.g., ‘Better at Home’. However, Maureen and the Society recognized that there were “still gaps to bridge”, and the need for something that addressed not only the physical and emotional needs of residents nearing their end of life but a program that provided a connected and supportive network early on in the aging and illness journey, was necessary. Following a conversation with a family member who volunteers in palliative care and who mentioned the Nav-CARE program, Maureen knew that it was “exactly what we needed…so we jumped in as quick as we could!”.
An Island-Wide Network
Quadra Island and the surrounding Discovery Islands may be small but their sense of community is vast. Kathleen Monahan, the new Nav-CARE volunteer coordinator for Quadra Circle Community Connections Society, expressed the overwhelming warmth and compassion she has experienced since her arrival, and how impressed she has been by the support and willingness of people to volunteer, “it’s a very tight-knit community and it’s so nice to see. [The community] is very well connected so that has been really wonderful to work with”. Maureen went on to comment that there are many volunteers who want to extend their reach, they want to “get involved with families …earlier in the process, so they aren’t just associated with death and dying, but more, you know, how to live your years with quality” and Nav-CARE really addresses this.
As well as leveraging this strong community spirit, Nav-CARE promotes active conversations. The introduction of monthly meetings between Kathleen and the recently appointed social worker and nurse practitioner for the Island, ensures that Nav-CARE will blend seamlessly with health care provision and older adult programming, and through this collaborative approach, “people on the Island…[will] get the care they need, and we…know where to direct everyone”.
Looking to the Future – Value for All
The value of supporting a community by volunteering extends far beyond what can be quantified. Maureen expressed that knowing somebody is coming to drop off vital supplies or to visit, is so appreciated by the people that are receiving the support and that Nav-CARE will tie together all of the services currently on offer. Further, Kathleen highlighted how visiting can have a reciprocal effect, when talking about one client she conveys how “[visiting her has] just improved her [the client’s] life, and she makes a point of letting me know every time I see her…and it not only changes their life, but you know, it can change your life as well. I mean she has helped my quality of life by being able to offer her – just the simple things, like, you know, companionship and direction”.
Maureen also recognizes the future benefits of the hard-work and innovation within the Society, noting that the board itself, is comprised of a small group of older adults who “are all getting to an age where we, ourselves, are needing some of the services that we are starting to provide”. She expressed that knowing services and activities are in place, and that paid coordinators are now helping to run the organization has been a relief and a “huge lifting of the load”.
The sentiments expressed herein are also prevalent across the Discovery Islands, and Maureen and Kathleen have witnessed a growing interest in Nav-CARE. Following conversations with key stakeholders, the exciting expansion of Nav-CARE to three more islands is set for the new year. This implementation will further enrich the communities, ensuring that more of those in need are supported, and that the resources of the communities are harnessed for the benefit of all.
A Final Word
The implementation of Nav-CARE, in addition to all of the work that the Quadra Circle Community Connections Society does, is a shining example of what can be achieved when a community comes together to support its members. As the Nav-CARE program comes to fruition, and as it grows and evolves, it serves as a reminder that even in the most idyllic of settings, people still need support and connection.