THE BETHANIA GROUP believes in building communities that matter. The Winnipeg, Manitoba based older adult care organization provides residents with the health care and support they need while still creating a space that truly can be called a home. Each of the seven facilities the Bethania Group operates offers an array of personal assistance and leisure activities to ensure all residents or tenants maintain a high, comfortable quality of life.
What is the Bethania Group?
The organization began in 1945 as a small elderly care home located five miles north of Middlechurch, Manitoba. It was founded by the Mennonite Benevolent Society and was originally named ‘Bethania – A Home for the Aged and Infirm’. In 1970, the care home moved to its present location and was renamed Bethania Mennonite Personal Care Home.
The Mennonite Benevolent Society established Bethania with a mission to operate as, “a Mennonite organization that demonstrates Christian love by compassionately offering a continuum of wellness, housing and personal care services to older adults.”
Throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, the Bethania Group grew tremendously. The not-for profit took over its second personal care home, Pembina Place Mennonite Personal Care Home, in 1998 as a way of expanding its services to a greater range of residents. In 2000, Bethania also took over from Manitoba Housing as sponsor-manager of the Deaf Centre Manitoba building (renamed 285 Pembina Inc.) in which Pembina Place is located. 285 Pembina Inc. and Pembina Place operate both for older adults and residents who are deaf.
In the 1980s and 90s, the Bethania Group entered into the property management field. They formed contracts with five other facilities to oversee the administrative and care needs of their residents. These facilities, all located in Winnipeg (Manitoba), offer older adults places to live independent lifestyles and remain in the community, while still receiving the medical and personal support they need. During this time of significant expansion, Bethania rebranded itself as the Bethania Group to reflect the larger number of facilities and services. Residencies currently managed by the Bethania Group include:
• 285 Pembina Inc.
• Autumn House
Each location carries the Bethania Group tradition of offering caring, Christian support to all residents. Henry Neudorf, Chair of the Bethania Group Board of Directors, explains: “We have a long tradition of taking care of the elders in the community; it’s why we exist. We try to exemplify the scriptures in Galatians 6, to bear one another’s burdens.”
Today, the Bethania Group works in conjunction with the Manitoba Provincial Government, the Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation, and the Mennonite Benevolent Society. Depending on the type of care required, residents pay either a set affordable rent or are placed on a rent-geared-to-income program. Due to the more complex and extensive personal wellness and spiritual services offered at the Bethania Group homes, the organization operates on both governmental and donation-based funding.
What it Offers?
The Bethania Group’s facilities are more than just Senior care complexes, they’re communities. Residents are actively encouraged to join in the numerous entertainment, wellness, and spiritual activities regularly hosted by the organization.
“When most people talk about senior care homes, they focus exclusively on health,” says Acting Director of Resident Services Doris Furtado, “The Bethania Group offers so much more than that. We offer health care and personal assistance, yet we also add a spiritual dimension that isn’t necessarily available in other similar government-run organizations.”
“We create homes, not institutions,” adds CEO Gary Ledoux, “We look after residents’ physical needs as well as their emotional and spiritual needs.”
The Bethania Group aims to always be a Centre of Excellence in health promotion for the aging community of Manitoba. In order to do so, the organization offers a variety of specialized services and programs to create the most pleasant place to live possible.
“We’re always looking to make things better,” explains Furtado, “We continually look to improve the quality of care we can offer our residents.”
The Bethania Group recently began a rehabilitation aid program to help residents remain physically active despite difficulties associated health of every resident while ensuring safe levels and type of physical exertion.
The organization’s ability to provide such high quality programming and services lies in the dedication of its staff and volunteers. The Bethania Group employs approximately 400 staff members throughout it’sits seven facilities.
“Our staff and volunteers really are the back bone of our organization,” Ledoux says, “We want to make sure they’re here for more than just a salary. These are people that care about our residents. We try to do everything possible to make them feel appreciated and proud of the contributions they make.”
Through offering exemplary physical, emotional, and spiritual care to its residents, the Bethania Group builds positive and supportive homes. Here, people can truly experience a sense of community.
The greatest challenge the Bethania Group faces as it continues to grow is maintaining balance, both in funding and services offered. As a social service provider, the Bethania Group must consistently ensure it is doing everything possible to benefit its community; however, this task is much easier said than done.
“Some aspects of our services, such as spiritual guidance, are completely funded by donations,” explains Furtado, “We need to continue to engage our community in order to receive this funding.”
“It’s really about helping your fellow man,” adds Neudorf, “You know you’re making a difference without necessarily having to take ownership.”
Another challenge is adjusting service to match a changing population.
“Our residency type has changed over time. People are being kept at home for longer periods of time before going into assisted care facilities. This often means that by the time they come to a Personal Care Home, their needs are much more complex,” says Furtado.
The average age of residency has shifted over the past 40 years, from approximately 70 years of age to about 85.
The Bethania Group’s volunteer base has also shifted over the years. As the economy shifts, less people have the time to dedicate to volunteering.
“We have a great, dedicated volunteer base. Yet our volunteers are also getting older, and young people today need to be very involved in their careers. They don’t have the time to be as active in the community,” says Neudorf.
Despite these challenges, the Bethania Group continues to grow and thrive. According to Ledoux, the organization is focused on achieving, “planned, stable growth.” Through adapting to changing resident needs and expectations and fostering compassionate Christian support, the Bethania Group will be able to improve the lives of the elderly community well into the future