Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas In Long-Term Care

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

Members of Pic'N'Grin entertain residents of East Cumberland Lodge recently.

Snowflakes, spiral trees, wreaths and strings of coloured lights sparkle in the night around East Cumberland Lodge in Pugwash. 
I must say I’m partial to the Santa Pig with the rein-pigs pulling a sleigh in the centre of the roundabout by the front doors.
ECL held its 13th annual “Sparkle of Lights” fund raiser last week, an important event for residents and staff, families, friends and volunteers. 
“We are owned by the County but we are a registered Canadian charity,” ECL’s administrator, Joe Gauthier, explained to me over the phone. “We  have a set budget determined by the Department of Health and there are certain items we are funded well for but there are other items for which we have to make up the difference.”
Joe said while some things are not essential, they certainly benefit people.  The Sparkle of Lights event helps raise funds for “extras” like a palliative apartment for families spending final days with a loved one, an Internet cafe, a new electric piano, and furnishings. 
“This year, we’re replacing the furniture in the front part of the Lodge,” Joe said. “There used to be half a dozen comfy upholstered chairs; they’ve been very well-used over the past five or six years, to the point they are worn. Plus we have the house cat! That furniture needs to be replaced.”
Some of this year’s funds will also be used to install an entertainment unit in the Donkin rec room. Joe explained that this will allow movie afternoons for the residents to be held in a larger area that’s more private and will keep the sound of the television from disturbing someone in a nearby room.
Joe laughed when I said we needed to mention those responsible for the work of putting up all the outdoor displays. 
“That would be the boys in maintenance, Roger, Jim and Bill,” he explained. “They do the outside and the team in Housekeeping does the inside. The recreation staff work with the residents on decorating the trees.”
In the past 13 years, the Sparkle of Lights campaign has raised $130,000 for non-budgeted renovations, replacements and activities at ECL.
 The annual event also marks the beginning of the Christmas season for the Lodge.  
“For a long-term care centre, it’s one of the key ways of remembering people who were here, both for the staff and for the family members,” Joe told me. 
It’s most gratifying to see on the list of donors those who do it “just because”.
In the busy-ness of getting ready for Christmas, the general public may forget about people living in long-term care but for the staff at ECL, it’s an extension of their own homes, and hearts. 
“Many of our residents become like family to us,” said Joe who calls his staff “phenomenal”. 
A longtime tradition at East Cumberland Lodge sees each staff member draw a name of a resident for whom they buy a gift. This is particularly meaningful for those who don’t have family nearly or those with a limited income.
“We have wonderful CCAs and they know the little things that are special to someone and what would bring the greatest joy to them,” Joe said. “It doesn’t take much.”
I asked Joe if he thinks Christmas is difficult for nursing home residents.
“Christmas in a lot of ways is becoming generational,” he said. “The people that are here are of a generation when it meant so much more. They remember when there wasn’t enough money, there wasn’t much advertising. You got your hard rock candy or your orange and that was it but it was when all the family came home. Now they’re at an age when they’ve lost much of their family so the co-residents and the visitors and staff have become family. That gives them the warmth and joy over the holidays of having people close. We believe Christmas is here whether a person is faith-oriented or not,” Joe added. “Christmas is truly about being humanitarian and helping others.”

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