When The Village of Humber Heights opened its Long-Term Care home in 2005, Jean Marie Kendall was among the first residents to move into the Lambton neighbourhood. Sharon Brown remembers those days well, as she was among the first team members in The Village and she has also doubled as private support for Jean throughout the years.
After 17 years, Jean’s memory may have a few gaps in it, but the roots of their friendship are deep and as Sharon helps navigate a virtual conversation about their time together at Humber Heights, one can see the power of such a long-standing relationship.
When they discuss how Jean and her husband Larry loved to dance to everything from the Samba and the Tango to the Cha Cha together, they laugh. There was plenty of travel throughout the life Jean and Larry shared together and they loved to take long walks, ice skate and roller skate whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Sharon asks Jean if she was a good roller-skater and Jean laughs again. “As good as anybody else, I suppose,” she says.
Sharon also recalls Jean’s older sister, Josephine, who lived in the Wadsworth neighbourhood. She and Jean had been close through all of life since Josephine practically raised her little sister after their mother passed away when Jean was only seven. It was hard on Jean when her sister passed in 2016, but she always maintains a positive perspective.
Today, Sharon and Jean spend much of their time together walking through The Village. Jean was always active, though her eyesight is growing weaker these days, so Sharon is her “eyes and ears.”
“Back in the day, all of the residents on the retirement side used to call Jean ‘Roadrunner,’ ” Sharon says with a smile. “They could never keep up with her, and we would laugh and laugh. We would walk all around the building, but now we only walk along Main Street and in the neighbourhood.”
Though they may not be as active together, Sharon says she loves being with Jean and her fellow residents, helping bring a little joy to their lives as a recreation team member.
“I look out for them and I love being with them, listening to their stories,” Sharon says. “The ones who are not able to express themselves, I spend more time reading their facial expressions and trying to be there for them in the moment, especially when their loved ones are not able to be there.”
In long-term care and retirement settings, the relationships between team members and residents can define quality of life for everyone; in the connection Jean and Sharon enjoy together, we see one of the finest examples of them all.