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Full-time care vital for Nigel House resident with rare condition

Staff members do their best to meet the residents’ differing needs, but there are constant issues with space and the limitations of the 1970s-vintage Nigel House building.
Nancy McFarland, who has Tay-Sachs disease, is one of the younger residents of Nigel House. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The 26 residents of the Nigel House complex-care facility require the availability of 24-hour care because of physical or mental challenges stemming from everything from accidents to neurological conditions.

Staff members do their best to meet the residents’ differing needs, but there are constant issues with space and the limitations of the 1970s-vintage Nigel House building.

Just over two years ago, ground was broken on a new Nigel House on an adjacent site, and both staff and residents have been able to see work progressing before their eyes.

One of them is 37-year-old Nancy McFarland, whose husband, Robert, said in an interview just after the ground-breaking that she would benefit greatly from a new facility — especially because of added common space where she could spend more time with the other residents.

Now two years later, Nancy is watching the new complex take shape, and said she is grateful for the public support that is helping to make that happen.

“I’m looking forward to having a new building,” said Nancy, who is one of the younger residents. Others range in age from their 20s to their 70s.

A campaign has raised $3 million for the building project since Nancy arrived at Nigel House. Now the goal is to raise $1.4 million to ensure the new place has all of the equipment and furnishings it needs.

Fundraising is being led by the Broadmead Care Society, which owns and operates Nigel House.

Nancy was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare genetic disorder, soon after the birth of her daughter, Stephanie, who is now seven.

There are fewer than 1,000 cases a year in Canada of Tay-Sachs, a progressive disease marked by a decline in mental and physical abilities linked to nerve damage.

Nancy moved to Nigel House when it became apparent that home care wasn’t an option, and she couldn’t care for herself.

“She needs that sort of full-time care,” said husband Robert, who notes she goes home to see her daughter every week, which keeps her connected to family life.

Robert said he’s looking forward to increased gathering spaces in the new building, including an activity room, where the Telus Future Friendly Fund will ensure residents can enjoy the latest in technology — something that fits right for Nancy and her interest in iPads.

And since Nancy uses a wheelchair, she will have better manoeuvrability in the new place with its wider hallways and roomier elevators.

The new Nigel House will also have better access to the outdoors with improved exterior pathways to allow residents to get to both open and covered patios, and take in nearby attractions such as the Lochside Regional Trail and the Uptown shopping centre.

The society is also looking to fund a new Nigel House bus to replace the existing one, which is 20-plus years old. The society said bus outings bring residents a lot of enjoyment, whether they’re venturing out to community events like Rifflandia and Ribfest, or heading to Elk Lake.

The $45-million new Nigel House is expected to accommodate 41 residents — an increase from the current 26 — as well as 37 assisted-living spaces and 10 affordable-housing units.

The project is expected to be completed in April 2025.

For more information or to donate, go to

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