Once work life slowed in their later years, Don and Claudette Fligg would spend months at a time at their cottage on the shores of Lake Simcoe. Even after Don suffered a severe stroke in early 2018, the family would do all they could to get him there to be in his place of comfort. On a bright and clear morning in early September, Claudette is at the cottage with her daughter Patricia, reflecting on how life has changed in recent months and remembering the life of her husband, who passed away in mid-2020.
Don died at his home in the Village of Humber Heights and both Patricia and Claudette were with him throughout those final days.
Don moved to The Village in mid-2018 after the initial rehab treatments following his stroke. Patricia, who had retired five years prior, was his main caregiver and she continued that role when he moved to the retirement home. Eventually, it made sense for Claudette to move there as well; she would take an Uber ride there every day to be with him so, within a year of his arrival, she landed in the suite directly across the hall. Claudette doesn’t require the level of care most residents in the Egerton neighbourhood need, but she was happy to be so close to her husband.
Don needed a lot of care, Patricia recalls, and she was a key part of that team, doing regular shifts as any paid care partner might, but COVID-19 took things to a new level. The restrictions meant that many people could no longer be with their loved ones, yet Don was critically ill and Patricia was deemed essential. The family had the support of a few key outside caregivers as well, Joy in particular, who shared much of the delicate care with Patricia. As a devoted daughter and essential caregiver, Patricia was with her father through most nights during isolation and in the mornings, she would often hear team members singing throughout the neighbourhood from her father’s suite. She would pray for them alongside her father, and she learned they prayed for her family as well.
The spiritual needs of her father and so many residents throughout the Village during the challenging days of isolation were met with the grace and compassion of Chaplain Kirk Grant, Patricia points out, and his dedication is a reflection of the entire team. Through it all, even as she considers the loss of her father (which was not related to COVID), she recalls the new appreciation she gained for the team members working tirelessly in the face of great challenge.
“I have a new respect for the staff,” Patricia says. “Everybody was doing everything; every time I opened the door for something, I could tell that they were smiling behind their mask and I could hear them singing. I knew they were tired and they were weak. Some were not living at home; they were in a hotel. They did whatever they had do to and they did it with love and they were happy and good-natured.”
Claudette sees the team members in much the same light and she offers her deepest gratitude
“I just love them and they were so thoughtful with me, especially when Don passed,” Claudette says. “I just think so much of them – I can’t say how much I think of them. They’re so thoughtful and I know they have a real challenge . . . and they do such a good job of trying to handle everything, especially during COVID.”
The team, families and residents at Humber Heights have faced much during these past months under the pandemic – as so many across the country have – but they have weathered it together and shown that no matter what comes their way, they are strong. It’s worth shining a spotlight on that strength, and we’re thankful to Claudette, Patricia and family for taking the time to do so; it means so much to everyone.