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Image of John Lee and his mother
While he considers the care his mother receives at Mount Saint Joseph to be excellent, John Lee says it’s often the simple things, like listening to music and spending time with friends, that lift his mother’s spirits and make her smile.
Seniors + Healthy Aging

The role of humour, music and human touch in long-term care


For John Lee, the simple human moments are the perfect complement to the medical care his mom receives at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital

When he retired in 2015, John Lee, 60, looked forward to being able to spend more time with his mother, who is 91 and has been living in long-term care at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital (MSJ) since 2014.

A sure-fire candidate for Son of the Year, John visits his mom, Wai Hing Lee, not just every day, but twice a day, once in the morning and then again around supper time.

John’s main competition for Son of the Year honours? His brother, Dick, who also manages a trip to MSJ most days to see their mother. (To be fair, John says his brother still works, so does not have as much time as he does.)

In addition to having two loyal sons, Wai Hing also has a dear friend who recently became a resident at MSJ. The two have been friends more than 50 years. John says that even at such an advanced age, his mother is lucid, enjoys conversation, and appreciates friendship now as much as she ever has.

And while Wai Hing is content at Mount Saint Joseph, she did not always feel this way. John shares insights that will be of value to anyone who may be helping a parent transition to long-term care.

“At first, she wanted to come home,” says John. “This was difficult, of course. Yet as she became used to her new environment, as she got to know the staff at MSJ and the various routines, she became much more comfortable. Now, she is very content. So you need to give it some time. That time may vary, but for my mother, it took a few months. And why wouldn’t it? It’s a big change.”

And it was a big change. Since her husband’s passing in 1985 and until her move to MSJ in 2014, Wai Hing had lived in a house with her son, Dick, with each of them occupying a floor. So Wai Hing had lived very happily in this home for nearly 30 years.

But around 2010, now in her early eighties and having been outfitted with a pacemaker, Wai Hing had begun to experience balance problems. It was following a serious fall that resulted in a blood clot forming in her brain, which in turn had caused a series of seizures, that the brothers decided long-term care would be best for her.

And while John is quick to acknowledge the excellence of the doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers at MSJ who take such great care of his mother, he says the simple, human side of things provides a perfect balance to that care.

His mother loves to laugh, for example, and John mentions a particular care attendant, named Eric, who always makes his mother smile.

“Eric is great,” says John. “My mother’s eyesight is poor but she always knows Eric is coming because she hears him. He always makes these funny little sounds because he knows they always make her smile. He’s a great person. He makes me laugh, too!”

And while Wai Hing’s eyesight may be failing, her hearing is fine and she is a music fan, especially enjoying karaoke night at MSJ.

“No, she doesn’t sing,” says John, with a laugh, “but she loves to listen.”

There is no doubt in John’s mind that these simple pleasures—friendship, music, laughter—lift his mother’s spirits and enhance her quality of life.

“The nurses and doctors keep my mother’s health stable, they help her to be physically well,” says John, “while these other more simple things that the staff at MSJ do keep her engaged and keep her spirits high. It’s a nice balance.”

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