Since 1944 Westmeath has operated as a residence for the elderly. With Bermuda’s median age rising, the home is looking at new ways to serve the island’s increasing number of seniors.

Westmeath History
In 1917, Miss Ellisif Agassiz Trimingham, a blind elderly woman, bequeathed a substantial amount of money and property for two specific charitable donations. The first was “to invest the money and interest earned to be distributed among the totally blind,” while the second was to “precure a house suitable for a home for ladies.” Two years later her sister Emily Eliza Trimingham also left her estate to the latter cause and both estates were placed into a trust to protect and grow the assets.

The land on which Westmeath stands now was originally quite substantial and in 1890, merchant Charles Treadwell Conyers bought two and a half acres of it on which he built a large house. The house was named after the cable ship Westmeath, which was in port at the time laying cable between Bermuda and Halifax. He never appeared to have lived at the property and sold it on to his brother William Hezekiah Conyers. William’s son, Herbert Stanley Conyers, later ran it as a guest house until selling it to the Trimingham Trust in 1944, at which point it finally became a home for ladies.

In 1959 legislation was enacted to make Westmeath available to all Bermudian residents and a later act in 1992 also allowed for the inclusion of men. In 1998 the Westmeath Trustees Act was passed by the House of Assembly creating a new corporate body to govern the home. Over the years the home and its spacious gardens adapted to the needs of the elderly, mostly for independent living with support available. Thanks to the herculean fundraising efforts of Mr Roderick Ferguson in 1985, a new wing was added and named after him. In 1997 another campaign resulted in two more wings being added creating the extended care nursing wings. These were built with the purpose of catering to residents requiring a higher level of nursing care and assistance.

Westmeath Today
The present Board of Trustees at Westmeath is constantly seeking to improve the quality of life for its residents and is undoubtedly facing the most challenging times ever. Bermuda’s growing elderly population, rising cost of living and the high maintenance costs associated with an aging facility are serious headwinds, as are the escalating prices of care and medications.

The COVID pandemic significantly impacted Westmeath. Lockdown isolated residents from friends and family; all activities and entertainment had to be curtailed; there was limited occupancy, delayed necessary structural repairs, and depleted funds required to cover ongoing operational needs and capital investments.

Happily, and with much help from the community and families of residents, Westmeath is reemerging as a robust home for seniors and those in need of care. Activities have now resumed, and entertainment includes performances by local musicians, art and music therapy, gardening, new pets, and performances by the Bermuda Regiment, Warwick Academy choir, Purvis Gombey’s, line dancers, In Motion, One Body in Christ, and many more!

Presently, Westmeath consists of three nursing units with a total of 62 beds. The Residential Unit has 24 single rooms and four larger apartments which are reserved for seniors who need assisted-living services with minimal nursing oversight. The Memory Care Unit has eight double occupancy rooms, caring for up to 16 residents. This is a secured unit that specialises in providing preventative and disease-delaying dementia activities. Finally, the Life Care Unit houses 18 residents in nine double occupancy rooms. This unit focuses on improving the quality of life for residents who require advanced care in a safe and protected environment.

Westmeath’s biggest asset remains the large array of employees necessary to run such an establishment with an impressive team of 19 nurses and 52 aides and assistants. As the population of Bermuda ages, there has been a significant increase in demand for Westmeath’s dementia care services with the necessity for compassionate nurses and secured units.

Westmeath Moving Forward
With help from a grant given by the Bermuda Health Council, Westmeath is opening a Therapeutic Adult Day Care programme and continues to seek new clients. There is a daily rate, and focus is on therapeutic activities, including exercise, music therapy, art therapy, which are all proven to prevent or delay the progression of dementia.

Corporate sponsorships have been generous and have allowed Westmeath to improve the facility, including restoration of the one-hundred-year-old porch, landscaping, painting and new windows.

Westmeath has an active fundraising committee which is working hard to start an annual gift-giving campaign and a capital campaign for additional improvements to their facilities.

To find out more about Westmeath and how you can lend your support, call executive director Lunette Castillo at 295-2451 or visit www.westmeath.bm.