Jennifer Clow has worked in retirement homes and long-term care facilities as a PSW and in other capacities for most of her working career and she knew that what she really wanted was to run a home that was more like a family home than an institutional facility. The ideas behind the Gentle care philosophy that the Fairmount Home in Glenburnie has adopted in the last few years were well known to her 15 years ago.
So, when her neighbours across Road 38 from the farm where she lives with her husband and family decided to sell their home, she quickly made a deal to buy it in order to open a retirement home.
At the time it was a challenge for the building and planning department of the Township of Central Frontenac to determine what was required in a private home for seniors and infirm people, operating outside of the healthcare system. That led to a fair bit of confusion and some interesting back and forth dialogue between Clow and the township.
Commercial banks did not have as much trouble. They just weren’t particularly interested in financing the venture.
The Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation, which was then only a couple of years old, saw Jennifer Clow as someone who was going to start a viable business and provide an important local service.
“They told me that the loan I took out at that time, which was for $100,000, was the largest they had ever underwritten. It doesn’t seem like a lot of money today, but at the time it was a lot for me, and for them,” she recalls.
One of the smart things that she did back in 2006, was to invest in a sprinkler system for the addition that she was building onto the original house in order to bring the capacity of Countryview Care to 15 residents.
“The system was different then. We weren’t even licensed by the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, but even if we had been, sprinklers were not mandatory at that time, but we put them in anyway.”
Clow has recently taken out a new loan from the CFDC in order to put a sprinkler system into the original part of the building, which does not have a system in place.
Countryview Care is now a licensed retirement home under ministry guidelines, but although this requires a lot of paperwork and other expenses for the business, people who live in the home receive no subsidy to cover their living costs.
Even though Countryview is a ‘retirement home’ and not a ‘long term care facility,’ Clow offers end of life care for her residents.
“The last thing people and families need when they are facing death, is to have to move to long term care. And the worst place to die is in the hospital. This is home for the people who live here. We might not have a lot of room, but we can accommodate family members when their loved ones need palliative care. We make it work. It might sound funny, but we have had many people die at Countryview Care and for me it is a privilege to be with them and their families at that time,” she said.
And her family at Countryview Care, which includes her employees and the homes’ residents, provided a haven for her about a year ago, when her own farmhouse burned down.
“Everyone was so upset that day, including me, obviously. All my staff came in to work as soon as they heard, even volunteers came in to support the residents and me. We all got though it.”
A few people, even some from the FCFDC, have encouraged Jennifer Clow to build on to the Countryview Care and make it a 40-bed home, and the demand is there for such a facility, but that is not the kind of home she wants to run.
“As it is now, I have a personal relationship with everyone who lives here. I take their well being, their happiness to heart, and that works for me,” she said. “It is a business, but it is more than that for me. I think people deserve to live in a place where they are treated well when they can no longer live at home and Countryview Care provides that.”