The Grove Nursing Home: A community treasure in the woods

July 5, 2018

Ed Reid was a young boy when his beloved granny Lillian Reid was stricken with dementia—and life for the entire Reid family was forever changed.

The Reids were a close-knit clan, with brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins and granny—a widow—all living within a few blocks of one another. Originally a farming family from Carp, the Reids relocated to Arnprior when Ed’s father and Uncle Carleton bought a car dealership.

Granny went to work at the dealership and bought a big house in the heart of town. She lived in one half of the home and Ed’s Aunt Coral and Uncle Ab lived in the other half with their kids. Ed and his cousins attendedWalter Zadow Public School, and for years they would troop to their grandma’s house for lunch every day. “We’d have sleepovers at Granny’s and just walk across the street in the morning to go to school."

Other than church, says Ed, which was just down the street, Lillian was a homebody. “And with so much family around we all gathered at Granny’s place or she came to ours.”

For many years, it was an idyllicWalton family kind of life, with Granny Reid at the centre.

But in her late 50s, Lillian started to change. “She slept a lot,” recalls Ed. “We’d come over and find her lying on the couch, all cuddled up.” Gradually, she began to forget — canasta, how to play piano and, eventually, her family.

In the early stages of the disease, Lillian was fortunate. Someone was always there to help her and she was able to remain in her home. But as the dementia progressed, the family could no longer care for her safely.With no long-term care home in Arnprior, the heart-wrenching decision was made to admit lovely Lillian to an Extendicare facility in Ottawa.

“It was devastating for us cousins, but especially for our parents,” recalls Ed. Instead of seeing Granny once or twice a day, it might be months before the family could travel to Ottawa, which was a long trip to make 50 years ago.

Several times a year the family brought Lillian home from Ottawa to visit. In the end, however, her dementia made even these visits impossible. “When we took her back to Extendicare, she’d be so confused and upset that it wasn’t worth it. We were trying to spend as much time with her as we could, but it wasn’t good for Granny.”

Years later, when The Grove Nursing Home was built in Arnprior, the Reids had the opportunity to bring Lillian back home for good, but by then she didn’t even recognize the family she had held so dear. “We were the only ones who were going to benefit by moving her. It just wasn’t fair.”

Lillian lived out the rest of her life – 20 long years – away from her loved ones in Ottawa, and passed away there in 1987.

How differently Lillian Reid’s story might have ended had there been a place where Lillian could live in her own community — a place like The Grove — close to her family, her church and everything familiar. The bonds that were broken in that move to Ottawa could have remained strong, in spite of her Alzheimer’s.

Built with community funds in 1981, The Grove currently operates at $250,000 a year above the government funding it receives, funding that will run out in 2025. “If The Grove doesn’t meet the standards, it will be shut down,” says Ed, 66, who is co-chair of the Capital Campaign Committee. “We can’t allow that to happen, especially with our seniors’ population at 62 per cent.”

A bigger, better long-term care home that will meet the needs of a growing, aging population is a community resource that Arnprior can’t afford to lose. “Having a larger, more modern dementia-friendly facility would be amazing,” says Ed. “It would improve life for the residents who are already living there, and it would make families so much more comfortable knowing there is a wonderful place for their loved ones to go if a move becomes necessary.”

Ed organizes The Valley Has Heart charity golf fundraiser every year and, when he switched the beneficiary from the Ottawa Heart Institute to The Grove—a local treasure in the woods—“everyone was ecstatic,”he says.

“Having a long-term care home in Arnprior is important to me,” says Ed, “and it should be important to every member of our community.”