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'My safe haven': VON day program offers activities, fellowship to participants

Participants and instructors in the VON Adult Day Program, in a song-along on Aug. 29.
Participants and instructors in the VON Adult Day Program, in a song-along on Aug. 29. - Sam Macdonald

ANTIGONISH, NS - It's not just a program - it's almost a family.

The Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) Adult Day Program (ADP) serves as a great way for people to spend some time together and pursue a variety of activities in a communal setting with others. The program brings people together from across Antigonish in a sense of fellowship.

“The activities we do are all carried out around the individual needs of the clients that come,” said Donalda MacLaughlin, community support coordinator with the VON Antigonish district.

“The main activity, I would say, is getting everyone together and being out – just being part of an extracurricular activity that is separate from the home life of individuals where they live.”

Music, art, discussions focusing on current events, activities that develop personal and social skills and lessons in self-care, are all part and parcel of the ADP, and among the many activities participants engage in.

In addition to giving people in care something to do, MacLaughlin noted the ADP helps caregivers stop to catch their breath and take a break.

Olivia Rossong, an activity aide, said a typical day program runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and consists of “a lot of laughter and carrying on.” That much could be attested to in the background, as a group was led in a collaborative jam session, replete with tambourines and a guitar.

Rossong said that what she loves most about the program “is seeing all the individual skills everyone has, all the different challenge everyone has,” adding that all participants all have something unique and valuable to bring to the gatherings.

“Everyone has a skill, and they’re also different, so together they have a role in helping each other and supporting one another. It’s all really based on using those skills and working together – it’s almost like a family."

Rossong emphasized that activities are focused on making sure everyone participates to the best of their ability.

“It’s about enhancing and emphasizing their abilities, and not focusing on their disabilities,” MacLaughlin said.

Participants in the ADP are equally enthusiastic as those who administer the activities, with one participant describing it as “my safe haven.”
“Since my dad passed away, they’ve been able to turn my bad days into good ones, and I feel loved and cared for here,” Diane Mackenzie said.
“People treat me very well, and everyone is kind – and sure that our individual needs are met,” Dan MacKay, who strongly recommends others join the ADP, said. “I am a new participant and really look forward to it, and enjoy coming.”

The program runs on Wednesdays and Fridays, and is $20 per day, per participant, and features an assortment of activities throughout the day – that includes breakfast and lunch.
“We do outings, and over time as we change, we’re thinking of growing more components to the program, including speakers down the road,” Rossong said.

Above all, the day program promotes healthy living, MacLaughlin said, adding that she meant “healthy living on a nutritional level, activity-oriented level, and intellectual level.”

Both MacLaughlin and Rossong stressed the need of health care providers to realize that healthcare has a dimension that needs to be respected – one that entails making sure people are doing art and activities, in general, and are engaged in meaningful social interaction on a regular basis.

The APD is gradually growing, with three new clients joining in the last few weeks. Rossong noted this growth could eventually lead to expansion of the program, if the demand is there.

Rossong said, “One new participant was going to sign up just for one day a week, but he liked it so much he checked with his daughter and got set up for both days right away.”


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