You meet someone like Ida Demings, casually, say at a musical evening in the village of Pugwash, and she’s friendly and chatty and upbeat. You think, ‘What a nice lady,’ and you assume she doesn’t have a care in the world.
Then you sit down over lunch with Ida Demings and you ask her about working at East Cumberland Lodge in Pugwash for 35 years and you realize Ida Demings is like an iceberg: The tip you see in the water belies all the life experience lying deep below the surface.
Life experience that created a person perfectly suited for the Lodge.
“It all started when I volunteered with Gloria Merlin, who ran Recreation then,” Ida told me. “We had a sing-song on Mondays and she needed a volunteer.”
Her kind and attentive manner with the residents quickly earned her a full-time position with the Recreation department and that’s been her work since she was 28 years old.
Ida’s constant presence at ECL for more than three decades (she also goes in on weekends as a volunteer when there is a musical guest) has earned her the moniker, “the faithful one”.
“When I started here, my mother told me I was going to get attached to these people, and I do,” said Ida. “Doing my best to fulfill their lives, that’s the goal. I do what I can for them while they’re here. Everything I do is for the residents. You have to accept them the way they are and love them the way they are.”
This is where the life of Iceberg Ida goes deep: she gained her deep and abiding empathy from taking care of her parents. An only child (she only learned much later that she had two sisters who didn’t survive infancy), Ida became a caregiver when she was just a teenager. Her father had Alzheimer’s, known as ‘hardening of the arteries’ when she was a girl, and many years later, her mother had a series of stroke.
“I was looking after my father when I was 14,” said Ida, who is 63, “and it wasn’t out of any textbook. I took him as he was.”
Ida obviously had a natural intuitiveness when it came to caregiving.
“I didn’t fight with Dad,” she said. “I couldn’t; he was my dad. If he put his pants on backwards, I just let him. When they’re happy, you leave it alone.”
After her father died when Ida was 17, it was she and her mother at the family home in Pugwash “until she wanted to be [at ECL]. Mom was a resident here for three years. She was happy. She saw me every day. I didn’t have to worry about her being home alone.”
Now Ida lives with a cat named Blackie and a poodle named Nicky. While she calls the staff and residents of ECL her family, she says her pets are her family as well.
“The cat and dog get along fine. When Nicky was sick, Blackie would wake me up every four hours. I have no idea how that cat knew.”
Intuition, of course. It runs in the family.