A night at the SPH Spa
What would you miss most if your partner had to move into Residential Care? The companionship? The company? The contact? There’s an inevitable loss of privacy and intimacy for a couple once one of them has to move into a care facility, and that can be especially hard for the partner who is left at home.
Ten and half years ago, Cheryl Driscoll’s husband Terry had his first stroke, at 59, just shy of retirement. It was two years before he could live a fairly normal life again, walking with a cane. Subsequent strokes since then reduced his mobility to the point where Terry moved into Extended Care at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital last year.
As Terry approached his 70th birthday, Cheryl was chatting with Jennifer Wear, RN at the hospital, and Jennifer asked an honest question – “would you like some time alone?” The thought of it brought Cheryl to tears. Cheryl and Terry have been married for 47 years, sharing a wonderful adventure-filled life. Now Cheryl visits Terry almost every day and is able to converse with him and share some of the hospital’s entertainment or outings, but they never have time alone together or spend the night together.
Jennifer had the idea to make use of the newly renovated Palliative Care room as it wasn’t in use at the time. She says that she was really thinking with her heart, imagining herself in the same position and knowing how much it would mean for the couple to have a little time and space. Her philosophy “love is the answer to everything” is a beautiful sentiment in an environment that by necessity has to be determined by policy. She wanted to give them all the good things they deserved.
So how did Jennifer and the nursing staff turn a hospital room at SPH into a romantic boutique hotel getaway? Thanks go to Physiotherapist Val Watanabe who found twinkly lights and fake candles and even quickly learned to make a towel ‘swan’ for the bed. There was a tray of goodies, chocolates and rose petals creating a beautiful, special atmosphere.
The evening didn’t end up quite as imagined, however. When grandson Noah heard about the chance for a sleepover with Poppa it was impossible to turn down his request to join in, too! Cheryl smiled as she explained how she and Noah ended up sleeping on the pull-out couch. When she woke in the night she could see Terry looking across at her from his bed, a moment that captured the intimacy Jennifer had hoped for the couple.
It’s a tiny thing, one night, for one resident of a busy hospital, but there’s an important message in the tiny details. Jennifer more than anything wants people to know that they shouldn’t be afraid if a nursing home is in their future. There’s a lot of good that happens at the hospital with patients and residents treated as individuals. Cheryl can’t say enough positive things about the funny, loving and caring staff at SPH, they have helped make a very difficult situation more tolerable, bringing many positive moments to the couples’ challenging new living arrangements.