Comfort in Care in The Village at St. Clair: A Loved One’s View of her Husband’s New Home in Windsor

When Victor Domagala’s health began to turn and the support staff with the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network suggested his wife Gail consider the possibility of long-term care, she consulted a friend who works in the sector in the Woodstock area. 

Noel and Victor ride the duet bike at The Village at St. Clair in Windsor
Noel and Victor at The Village at St. Clair.

“When I asked her about Schlegel, she said ‘Oh my God; if you can get Victor into a Schlegel Village, you’ve got to do it,’ ” Gail recalls. Victor lives with dementia and Gail’s friend said she had nothing but praise for the organization and its approach to supporting those who live it, so the Village at St. Clair and The Village of Aspen Lake were high on the list of choices.

“Our first choice really was Schlegel Villages,” Gail said, “and I’ve not been disappointed.”

Victor’s health and mobility had begun to decline in December and a bad fall at home in March forced a hospital stay. Through all this time, the Windsor-Essex region had been through the crushing second wave of COVID-19 spread, affecting nearly every healthcare setting in the region, including outbreaks at both Aspen Lake and St. Clair. The worst had passed by the time of Victor’s fall, when they both realized home was no longer safe or accessible and Gail could not safely meet his needs.

She was beyond grateful when she was told there was a place for Victor in the Village at St. Clair, despite the severity of the outbreak the Village had been through. A friend even questioned her choice, asking if she understood what had happened in the Village with the outbreak that began in December, affecting so many team members and residents.

“I said they weren’t the only place affected,” Gail told her friend. “They were hard hit, but they all were.”

She had seen the way the media portrayed The Village and knows how hard it was for the team that worked through such a difficult time to support the residents. She has spoken with many of them since; she knows how deeply they were affected, and she supports them wholeheartedly.

In the short time Victor has lived in The Village, she sees how much they care and she feels it in how they greet her and how they speak with Victor.

She remembers early on a team member named Christine recognizing Victor’s last name before greeting him in Polish. He was surprised, but spoke back in Polish in return. It turns out, they had many connections within Windsor’s tight-knit Polish community, in which Victor was very involved. His long-term memory is still very much in tact, when sparked, and there were many people they had in common through the Polish Club.

This the type of personal interaction Gail values. His neighbourhood in the Village is lovely, but it is the people that make the home special. Another example of the team’s personal approach came not long after Victor moved in and the opportunity for his second dose of the Pfizer vaccination arose at a clinic held at St. Clair College, right next door to the Village. Gail had no idea how they could get him there but Noel Erum, the Gosfield neighbourhood coordinator, didn’t hesitate.

‘No problem,’ Noel told Gail. ‘I’ll take him.’

She questioned how and he told her about the bike they have, capable of carrying a wheelchair. She met them there, Victor had his shot and Noel safely wheeled him back home. She laughs as she recounts the story and says she finds comfort in the ease with which her beloved husband has transitioned.

And as much as the team is concerned for Victor’s care, she says, they take the time to focus on her well-being, knowing that she is going through a major transition in life, as well. They’re finding their rhythm and looking forward to things opening up, hopefully sooner rather than later. In the meantime, there’s comfort in knowing Victor is so well cared for, and that means the world to Gail.