My Turn: Remembering ‘Farren Cares’

  • Sarah Hathaway and Jen Moser spoke at a candlelight vigil June 16 for Rhonda Thompson at the former Farren Care facility in Montague. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ


  • Friends circle around a heart formed from candles at a candlelight vigil June 16 for Rhonda Thompson at the former Farren Care facility in Montague where she had worked. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Published: 7/21/2021 3:21:10 PM

My intention in writing this My Turn had been to reflect on Farren Care Center, where I had the pleasure of working for over 20 years.

First, I want to pay honor to the memory of Rhonda Thompson who was recently killed by a hit-and-run driver in Shelburne Falls where she lived while on her morning walk. Rhonda epitomizes why Farren lived by its motto “Farren Cares.” I worked with Rhonda throughout my time at FCC and watched her develop her skills as she went from a medication nurse through many job responsibilities; when she closed Farren just several weeks ago, she was the Director of Nurses. She really showed her strengths in that position as she was a major force in Farren, being one of about 1% of nursing homes that never had COVID —quite a feat.

Her death is a tragedy as she left so many that cared about her, especially her husband Mark, her daughter Ella, as well as many family members, colleagues and friends who came out to honor her two weeks ago at a candlelight vigil in the lovely backyard at Farren. She shared with so many her skills that were reflected in her 25 years of service, including how to care for staff and residents to continue the tradition of “Farren Cares.”

Over these last many painful months since I learned that Trinity had made the decision to abandon Farren Care Center and the staff and people it served for almost 30 years, I have reflected a great deal about what made Farren so different and made such a difference in the lives of many who came to Farren. The seeds were present from the Sisters of Providence and the hospital they first created many years before.

The Farren Care Center was the caring culture that was created and that was based on the commitment to the Sisters’ mission — compassionate care. The facility was fortunate to have started as a specialized nursing home with some of the staff from the hospital including many caring maintenance staff, food service staff and some nursing staff. There were very few Sisters who joined the staff but they left a foundation that was built upon.

My understanding, I wasn’t there when it opened, was that there were some initial struggles as the staff learned to care for the very complicated residents who came to FCC. Nevertheless, the culture was there and it grew over the years — that culture was a slogan that many people believed in as stated above — Farren Cares. There were staff that came and went but while there, most employees understood that Farren was the residents’ home. The residents were people who had some behavioral issues but they were/are human beings who deserved respect and the best care possible.

Staff created that environment in part also because of their advocacy — they never hesitated to tell medical providers including the psychiatric providers what their residents needed and how their residents were really doing. Farren really believed in teams at all levels and were very collaborative in providing care with an ongoing multi-disciplinary approach.

Rhonda was exemplary of that care — the very best possible care within the constraints of a limited budget.

It is very sad that it has now closed and was not adequately re-created to meet the needs of this very special group of people.

Judi Fonsh, MSW LICSW, was formerly Director of Social Work and Admissions at Farren Care Center.

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