From Calgary to University Gates, Mother and Daughter’s Connection Remains Strong

Technology and team support is a blessing for Elaine and Lori

By Kristian Partington

When Lori Matheson lived in London, Ont., she was able to visit her mother Elaine practically every day in the long-term care home that supported her there. Last year, however, when Lori accepted a position with the University of Calgary as the director of strategic initiatives in the faculty of nursing, things changed.   

University Gates resident Elaine with her two daughters

First, they had to find a new home for Elaine in Waterloo so she could be close to her other daughter, Kim, and the Village at University Gates was the perfect fit. It was a new home, and though the sisters expected the possible growing pains associated with getting a new home into full swing, they were excited by the potential they saw for their mother to live a full and meaningful life there.

But the transition was comfortably smooth, Lori says, thanks in large part to the unique role the neighbourhood coordinator plays in building relationships among team members, residents and families. The hardest part, for Lori, is the fact that she was used to seeing her mother daily and now, separated by thousands of kilometers, she was feeling quite disconnected.

My sister is the person on the ground and while she keeps me up to date, not seeing my Mom in person makes it quite difficult to assess things for myself. I learn a lot interacting with her directly,” Lori says. Vascular dementia and the effects of Parkinson’s disease make it overly difficult to carry on a phone conversation, she adds, “and I really just missed seeing her on a regular basis.”

The team members sensed this feeling of disconnection and suggested that regular Skype calls between mother and daughter would be a benefit for everyone. Lori jumped at the suggestion and now, they speak face-to-face at least once a week.

“Even if mom is not wanting to have a chat, sometimes we just kind of smile at each other over Skype and it gives me a sense of how she’s looking and she gets to see my face,” Lori says. She was able to give her mother a tour of her condo in Calgary, as well, helping to create a sense of understanding in her mother about the reason why she’s unable to visit, as she would so love to do.

“It’s really important for us to have that connection,” Lori says. Team members are always nearby during the calls, helping Elaine recall some of the activities that have kept her occupied throughout the week and offering a truer picture of Elaine’s role in the village community.

Lori is well aware that her mother is living with progressive illness making these regular Skype calls all the more important. “I actually get quite emotional once I hang up,” Lori admits, “because I feel so fortunate that we’re able to do that right now and that we can still talk back and forth.”

She’s sees the “wicked sense of humour” her mother carried all through life shine through in the calls, and there’s a sense of comfort in the weekly Skype ritual they’ve developed. “Just to hear her voice – it’s huge,” Lori says.

Her gratitude for the team that supports her mother and makes sure the regular calls happen can’t be overstated.

“They really get mom,” Lori says. “I really get a sense from the team of their caring and the level of interaction that they have with her. It gives me a sense of comfort.”