Sylvia, (left) resident at The Gardens, enjoying time with her son, Jeremy (right).
Mother’s Day at The Gardens is a special holiday. Usually, the building is filled with families and friends visiting their loved ones with large bouquets of flowers, gifts, sweets and more. In previous years, visitors and residents would gather for a Mother’s Day brunch, and would be entertained by performers singing.
Now, in more than a year with restrictions caused by COVID-19, Kensington is celebrating its second Mother’s Day with COVID-19 safety protocols in place.
The last Mother’s Day was during a difficult time filled with many questions. COVID-19 was still very new, and Ontario was in its first wave of lockdown. Due to Ministry guidelines, no visitors were allowed in the building. Residents, staff and family members were nervous of the uncertainty of COVID-19 as it was spreading throughout the province.
In that moment, in an effort to celebrate Mother’s Day, the Kensington team got creative and organized and gathered gifts for all 350 residents: chocolates and roses with special messages from friends and family members.
The succulents brought many smiles to our residents' faces.
This year, The Gardens team will be delivering succulents to all residents to add a special touch to an already special day. But even with the succulents, there is much more to celebrate this time around. Researchers have learned more about the virus and Kensington has adjusted throughout that time, adapting and enhancing its infection prevention protocols to keep residents and staff safe. Majority of residents and their essential caregivers have received their COVID-19 vaccine and are more protected. And in an important change to help provide direct care to residents, up-to two family members, friends or loved ones may sign-up as essential caregivers, and visit their loved one at The Gardens to help with their needs.
While general visitors are still not allowed in the building due to Ministry guidelines, essential caregivers being able to visit will make this Mother’s Day extra special. Jeremy is one of many essential caregivers who is looking forward to spending the day with his mother, Sylvia, resident at The Gardens.
Enjoying a Mother’s Day tradition
As a child in the late 1960s, Jeremy and his family moved to Canada from England. Enjoying an afternoon tea is a cherished tradition that he and his family have maintained throughout that time. In their family, this sacred afternoon tea time is taken very seriously.
After Jeremy’s father died in 2006, Jeremy and his partner, Eric, would continue this tradition with Sylvia. Every Mother’s Day, he and Eric would spend the day with Sylvia and one of her friends, and enjoy a traditional afternoon tea at a tea shop complete with scones and finger sandwiches. As time when on, they would explore more and more of Southern Ontario, finding new tea shops where they could celebrate Mother’s Day.
“By the time we got to 2015, we had visited almost every tea shop in Southern Ontario,” laughed Jeremy.
While COVID-19 has changed what Mother’s Day gatherings look like for many, Jeremy is happy to be able to enjoy a tea again with his mother.
“Since my mother moved into Kensington, every Mother’s Day, we continued this tradition by bringing the afternoon tea and scones to her. Usually we’d book out a room and set up a tea party with friends and loved ones, but of course the pandemic stopped that,” said Jeremy. “This Mother’s Day, we will continue our tradition in a toned-down way and enjoy an afternoon tea with her at The Gardens within the current safety protocols.”
Essential visits in a time of need
While general visitors are not allowed in long-term care homes across the province due to safety and ministry guidelines, up-to two friends or loved ones may sign-up as essential caregivers and visit residents to help with their needs.
Jeremy and his partner are the essential caregivers to Sylvia and visit her several times a week. At the beginning of the pandemic, no visitors were allowed to visit at all. This was difficult for Jeremy.
“I retired at the beginning of 2020, and with my retirement I always planned to spend more time with my mother. It was challenging for me in the beginning of the pandemic because it became impossible to see her,” said Jeremy. “It’s difficult when you have a loved one whose aging. You want to be as supportive as you can because there’s concern about infection. The need to know that your loved one is in a safe environment is so important, and I believe Sylvia had this at Kensington.”
Not only was this difficult for Jeremy, but it was also very hard for Sylvia as well.
“As a social person with a long history of volunteering in many community causes including seniors support organizations, Sylvia was involved in every group activity available at Kensington. It allowed her to feel less isolated,” said Jeremy. “This changed with the pandemic, and at some point, her floor had a COVID-19 outbreak. Residents went into isolation for their safety and it was heartbreaking to see.”
1964: Sylvia on a Mediterranean cruise with her husband David, and sons Jonathan and Jeremy.
The directive for visitation eventually changed as the wave of COVID-19 infections in the community slowed down. Essential caregivers were now able to visit, which allowed Jeremy and Eric to spend time with Sylvia, often watching movies and some of Sylvia’s favourite TV shows. They reminisce about the vacations they enjoyed together, eat their favourite foods and when weather permits, enjoy some fresh air in the garden at Kensington.
Jeremy has also had to step-in and help with one of Sylvia’s lifelong passions. Sylvia who will turn 96 this year, always likes to keep up her appearance regardless of whether the day is going well or not.
“You would think at this age my mother might be less interested in first impressions,” laughed Jeremy. “But for my mother, being well put together is part of her DNA and an inherent part of her dignity. I can still put a twinkle in her eye with a new blouse to wear.”
Sylvia loves styling her hair and has always been particular about her fashion. This picture was taken in 2018, during a visit at the salon located in The Gardens.
From her clothes to her hair, Sylvia is particular about her appearance and is a Kensington fashion icon. That said, she remains a very private person at heart.
“My mother enjoys her enjoys life at Kensington and wants to be the best version of herself she can be. The staff at Kensington have been a huge support in helping her continue that mission.”
A welcoming environment
Sylvia was on the waiting list for five years before moving into Kensington. At her previous home, Sylvia had a series of falls and would eventually need the supportive care environment of Kensington to help with her needs, especially after she required the use of a wheelchair. After a tour in the building and loving the community, restaurants and parks in the area, she wanted to be at Kensington.
One day while at work, Jeremy received a call with exciting news: Sylvia was able to move in to Kensington.
Jeremy hurried to his mother to share the exciting news. He spent the next day helping Sylvia pack her belongings, while Sylvia said bye to all of her friends in her previous building. That same day, Sylvia tragically fell, and that was the last day she was able to walk.
“Kensington really did come at the right moment for my mother,” said Jeremy. “One thing we noticed immediately was that the staff were incredibly supportive and welcoming of the residents. We were very impressed at the level of commitment and compassion that the staff showed. It gave me a sense of happiness and relief that she was moving into Kensington.”
Not only was Jeremy happy for the support available for his mother, but he noticed that as a family member and essential caregiver, Kensington was supporting him as well.
“Joining Kensington, we’ve become part of a community where there’s amazing staff doing the caring,” said Jeremy. “As an essential caregiver, I feel like I’m supplementary to that care. And it gives me a strong sense of relief.”