Yellowhead Pioneer Assisted Living: Comfort, care and safety for seniors

information can be obtained about the Yellowhead Pioneer Assisted Living Residence by calling Catharine Lyons at 250-672-0019

Yellowhead Pioneer Assisted Living resident Myrtle Printzhouse

Yellowhead Pioneer Assisted Living resident Myrtle Printzhouse

“The community really doesn’t have any idea of how nice the suites are here, and how much room there is,” said Yellowhead Pioneer Assisted Living Facility  administrator Pam Simpson, “Each one really is a full size one-bedroom apartment of just over 1,000 square feet.”

Simpson was giving a tour to this reporter of the 10 suite assisted living facility that sits in the heart of the Barriere community.  She noted that assisted living is basically for seniors who need some assistance but are aware of their own needs.

Currently the facility has three empty suites and Simpson says they want to let the community know what is available at the residence for folks who are in need of “a little assistance” with their daily lives.

The one bedroom suites are impressively spacious and inviting, with a warm and welcoming design that instantly makes one feel at home.

There are plenty of windows that let in the light, and the whole floor plan is set up to help those who may have mobility limitations, need a cane, walker or wheelchair.

For the ladies, or those who may have a lot of personal items, there is a full size walk through wheel chair friendly closet between the bathroom and bedroom.  The washroom has oodles of space, with strategic grab bars and a gigantic five foot wide walk in shower.

For those who like to soak in a tub, Pam tells that the facility has its own ‘Spa Room’, complete with a special tub that has a removable side door, and the whole tub can be tilted for ease of access.  Once staff have the bather comfortable, the lights can be dimmed, soft music played, and a the gentle gurgle of a little waterfall completes the whole spa experience.

Pam also notes that each suite receives light housekeeping once a week, with the linens and towels washed by staff.  There is an easily accessible laundry room where residents can do their own personal laundry, or they have the option of paying an additional amount to have their personal items washed for them.

The laundry room is also the home of the facilities resident feline, Ginger,  who made her first appearance a few years ago, as a tiny kitten on the Labour Day weekend when she was found abandoned in the parking lot at the annual North Thompson Fall Fair.  Ginger now has full run of the facility, and stops in to visit any of the residents who welcome her company.  An honourary staff member, Ginger distributing purrs, love, greetings and companionship as she makes her daily rounds.

Pam shows off the residence’s scooter garage, complete with a powered scooter garage door that opens automatically onto a blacktop pathway, giving easy access to Barriere’s downtown shopping area.

Within easy scooter distance just down the road, can be found Fadear Park and the Barriere Bandshell, and both are accessible by a blacktopped pathway.

Our next stop was the dining room, where cooks post  a daily menu that offers up two delicious choices for lunch and dinner.

Pam notes they also serve one snack at approximately 10 a.m. each day that includes fresh fruit, and another snack around 3 p.m.

Having attended one or two of the 3 p.m. ‘snacks’ in the past, this reporter can vouch that they greatly resemble an  English afternoon tea with a number of delicacies served, along with good conversation.

Facility cook Cheryl Cochran says the residents are responsible for making their own breakfast in their suites, but that some residents, especially those who might be late risers, make the 10 a.m. snack their breakfast time.

“Just about everything is made from scratch in the kitchen,” says Pam, “And it all follows a dietician approved menu.  Our cooks get very creative with the presentation of the food, and utilize garnishes to make each meal appealing to our residents.  One of our cooks said, “You eat first with your eyes”.  We very much believe that how the food is presented is a just as important as how good it tastes.”

The tables in the dining room are always set for a “fine dining experience”, and  table cloths are added at supper time.   Residents can also have a friend or family member join them at meal times, for a nominal cost.

Pam knocks on the door on one of the occupied suites, and resident Myrtle Printzhouse, welcomes us into her home.

Myrtle says she has been a Barriere resident since she was 13 years of age, and she has now been a resident at the Yellowhead Pioneer Residence Assisted Living Facility for well-over a year.

This reporter appreciated her graciousness in opening her home, and in sharing her experiences at the residence.

Asked what her impressions of the facility as a whole are, Myrtle answered, “I think its all good.  It’s more than anyone can understand, and it is so well managed.  This is just like your own home.  Your suite and things are your own, and there is excellent care.  It’s just like a family here.  I enjoy it so much.”

Asked, how’s the food?   Myrtle replied, “They think we’re loggers or something!  Everything is home cooked, and is very good.”

Myrtle noted that she uses the full kitchen area within her suite to bake and make treats for the other folks who also reside at the facility.  “Once a month many of us get together to bake and make goodies, taking turns on who’s home we do it in.  Then we share them and put some aside to bring out for when we play bingo,” said Myrtle.

Myrtle also said she really enjoys where the residence is situated in the heart of the Barriere downtown area, “It’s close for family so they can visit me, and easy for visitors to stop by when they are shopping or doing business in town.  I am not isolated at all!”

Pam says the facility offers a number of activities for residents who wish to participate, but she is quick to point out that “No one has to participate.  Some of our residents may not want to take part in the activities we offer, and that’s just fine.  Everyone can make their own choices here.”

However, for those who do wish to participate there is a good choice of ongoing activities they can take part in. Crafts, bingo, or theme weeks – such as High Tea with the Queen, keep everybody entertained and interacting.

At the time of this writing the upcoming theme week “Hawaiian Cruise” was being awaited with much anticipation by residents as staff planned theme meals, costumes, and a number of fun surprises for the residents.

Many of the residents also enjoy decorating the facility for special days such as Halloween or Christmas.  They make a number of the decorations during craft sessions, and in fact they are so good at what they do the Yellowhead Pioneer Residence has been a consistent winner in the North Thompson Fall Fair’s Best Decorated Business competition over the years.

Raised garden beds are available outside for tenants that may wish to exercise their green thumbs, and there are a number of walking areas for those who like to get out and about close to home.  The closest being directly outside each suite;  where an all season well-maintained blacktopped pathway circles the entire facility, and the staff do their best to keep it snow and ice-free throughout the winter.

The facility is next door to the Barriere Medical Centre,  and within an easy walk is the Library, and the IDA Shopping Mall with a grocery store, pharmacy, art gallery, real estate agent, stationary supply and bookkeeper.  There is also a Credit Union, Post Office, and hardware store within close proximity.

We bid Myrtle a cheery goodbye and continue our tour; next stopping in at the office of Catharine Lyons to ask about the people who require assisted living?

“Tenant needs to direct their own care.  They need to be aware of why they are taking their medication.  It’s about being competent in their own care.  Things such as if they notice their legs are swelling, they know they need to wear stockings, but it is their choice whether or not they do,” said the assisted living manager, “We do remind residents to take their pills, and we can give assistance with blister packs and ointments.  We can also do clinical skills that are transferred to staff by a registered nurse.  Or a Home Support nurse can come in and do temporary care.”

She notes that staff are present 24 hours per day, and each resident has their own call button with them in case they need assistance.   There are three full time staff members, and 11 part-time.

To make an application for an assisted living suite, a person must first make application to Interior Health.  During the selection process, local Interior Health Home and Community Care case managers meet with each applicant to determine if assisted living is the best option to meet his or her needs.  Once short-listed  the applicant will have an interview with the Assisted Living Manager at Yellowhead to discuss assisted living philosophies, the person’s wants and needs, and answer any questions about the residence.  Applicants are not “first-come, first-served”;  they are selected on their need for housing, hospitality, personal care, and individual and assisted living suitability.

Catharine says the assisted living facility opened in January of 2007, starting off with a waiting list, and during the past six years vacancies have been minimal.

“These are really nice, stress-free years for seniors here at the residence,” said Catharine,   “This is a really nice place to live where they don’t have to worry about managing their meals, their pills, or being safe at night.”

She also notes that the move to Yellowhead can improve the quality of life for a senior.

“Even if a resident never leaves the building, they often become more involved in activities here and in the community, but only if they wish to.   Some may wish not to participate in activities.  Many make new friendships and new connections.   Everyone needs to have connections, even if it’s your Home Support worker.  We find that for residents who previously found it lonely at home due to difficulty in getting out, or lack of visitors stopping by, that here, in most instances, they receive many more social calls from family and friends.  People pop in when they are shopping or doing business in Barriere, They don’t have to make a special trip to see a parent or friend.”

Catharine tells of one instance where a resident who was blind, and a poor sleeper, spent a lot of time awake at night. Staff would read a chapter or two from a book to him during the night to help him pass the time.

“Our residents can come out of their suites at night and make tea in the kitchen, or watch TV in the dining room, or even cuddle the cat,” said the manager.

The facility is governed by a nine member board, the Yellowhead Pioneer Residence Society, that has been in existence since 1976, and is accountable to the community.  The Board conducts annual food service, housekeeping, hospitality, and recreation audits, as well as a Tenants Satisfaction Survey, and there are also Tenant Council meetings.

Pam explains that assisted living residents pay 70 per cent of their net income (usually calculated using line 236 on the income tax return, divided by 12 months).  For an individual with an net income of $19,000 per year, the monthly rate would be just over $1,100.  This includes the suite, two meals and two snacks each day, personal care and assistance, weekly housekeeping and flat laundry (sheets/towels) and social and recreational activities.  The services are subsidized by Interior Health and BC Housing, so the rate for that annual income would be about  $37 per day.

“We are always working to improve,” said Pam, “We pay attention to how our staff actions actively impact our tenants.”

Asked how she likes her job as administrator for the residence, Pam answered, “It’s like working with a family, because staff are so consistent, dedicated and reliable.  It is so nice to see how assisted living makes a difference in peoples lives.  I love it.!”


More information can be obtained about the Yellowhead Pioneer Assisted Living Residence by calling Catharine Lyons or Pam Simpson at 250-672-0019.