A fall prompted Ray Chan’s mother to move from her home to residential care
Ray Chan, a retired teacher, had been visiting his elderly mother at her home. He had been in the kitchen, preparing lunch for her, when he heard a loud “bang” upstairs. His mother had been in the bathroom, washing her hands, when she slipped and fell.
“In that instant,” says Ray, “our lives changed.”
Up until that day in January 2017, Ray’s mother, Yuk Sim, had been a healthy and independent 89 year-old, living on her own.
“She would not move,” says Ray, speaking of the house in which Yuk Sim lived, the same house in which she and her husband, who had passed away in 1997, had raised Ray and his brother, Robert.
Really, there had been no urgent need to move. Ray and Robert were very much a part of their mother’s life, handling tasks like grocery shopping and maintenance issues, while a home support worker came to the house twice a week to help with Yuk Sim’s personal care needs.
The brothers went with their mother to Emergency after her fall to learn that it had resulted in a fractured clavicle. Recuperation would be slow for Yuk Sim. She would ultimately spend six weeks at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital.
What had not been immediately evident was that the force of Yuk Sim’s fall would cause her cervical vertebrae to shift toward her spinal column. Symptoms appeared slowly and subtly over months, mostly in the form of tingling and numbness. By May, five months after her fall, Yuk Sim had complete paralysis below the neck.
The shift to residential care at Mount Saint Joseph
In the wake of such misfortune, Ray Chan’s innate optimism shines through as he speaks of the care his mother has been receiving since becoming one of the newer residents at Mount Saint Joseph, picking up on, as so many family members do, the seemingly “little things.”
“The nurses and attendants know everyone’s names and habits,” says Ray, “right down to the smallest detail. It is not just the residents who appreciate such a personal style of care, family members do, too. It means everything to me to know that my mother is in such a caring environment.”
Ray also mentions that his mother suffered a heart attack this summer. She recovered but her need for care intensified. Yuk Sim needed to be outfitted with a catheter as a result of the heart attack but it was causing her considerable pain and discomfort from an infection.
Ray says that when his mother was in pain, he could see pain in the eyes of the nurses and attendants who were helping her.
“They tried so hard, they tried everything, to help her,” he says. “I could see it was very stressful for them. They would meet about different things they might try, always informing me of the ideas they would have. Mum no longer needs a catheter but during that time it was like her nurses and attendants were suffering with her. That situation was hard on my mother, but you could see it was hard on the staff, too. This is how involved they become in the lives of the residents here. They care so much.”
Two programs funded by St. Paul’s Foundation make a difference
Ray Chan is typical of the family members of MSJ residents in that there are two things he speaks to mostly: the excellence of the care teams on staff; and the excellence of the many special programs that are offered to residents.
A big favourite of Yuk Sim is the music therapy program and Ray was delighted when the staff at MSJ made such a difference in his mother’s enjoyment of this program.
“Problems developed just in moving my mother from her bed to a chair,” says Ray. “This was a considerable production that involved a sling and her oxygen levels would drop. So she would need to remain in her bed. This meant she would not be able to get out to the common area where the music was played. But then Carrie (MSJ Resident Care Manager Carrie Willekes) said, ‘Let’s move the bed out there.’ And that’s what they did. And still do. And mum gets to enjoy the music. This is what they are like, the team here. Instead of rigid, they are the opposite—they are flexible. And it is always residents first.”
Another program Ray appreciates is MSJ’s Soup for the Soul program, which sees residents being served traditional Chinese soup every Tuesday and Friday. Ray knows from experience what is involved in such a program.
“Soup for the Soul is so very much appreciated by both residents and family, which I know from experience,” he says. “My grandmother was a resident here at MSJ in the early 2000s, my mother’s mother. My mother and her sister used to make Chinese soup for my grandmother. My mother’s job was to make the broth, which she did twice a week, and my job had two steps—pour the soup into bottles, and bring it to Grandma!”
Ray laughs at this fond memory.
“It was a lot of work!” he says, laughing some more. “But now, thanks to Soup for the Soul, I don’t have to make soup for mum!”
Residents and their families benefit from the highly personal and “residents first” style of care at Mount Saint Joseph and all Providence Health Care residential care sites. Special programs like music therapy and Soup for the Soul, however, often rely on the generosity of donations. You will support such programs with your gift to St. Paul’s Foundation today.