A picture is worth a thousand words for one resident at Wellington Park Care Centre

When Susan first got to the point of requiring 24-hour care and support, she found herself unable to get into long-term care due to her need for extremely specialized responsive behavioural supports. 

It wasn’t until months later that Wellington Park Care Centre was contacted to see if they could meet Susan’s care needs. 

“When we heard about Susan’s responsive behaviours the first thing I suggested was a site visit to ensure that she could be cared for safely in our home,” said Wellington Park’s Administrator Charlotte Nevills. “We shared photos and information about Wellington Park and at the end of the meeting Susan seemed very interested to have her application submitted.” 

But Susan’s struggle didn’t end there. Although she was accepted into Wellington Park Care Centre, it wasn’t an easy transition. 

“At first, Susan seemed dissatisfied with just about everything, from her room, to her roommates, to the food,” recalled Charlotte. “We felt like we were failing her. We are proud of our environment and the care here, so we knew we had to do something to change her perspective.”

Home staff worked tirelessly to better understand where Susan’s dissatisfaction was coming from and after several conversations with her, the team discovered that she had experienced significant losses in her life; her parents died tragically and her husband, the love of her life, passed away unexpectedly, leaving her with an enormous sense of loss and loneliness. 

It was then that Dale Bamforth, the Director of Nursing at Wellington Park, began sitting with Susan on several occasions and spoke with her about her life, her feelings, and how she was adapting to life in her new home. Once a sense of trust began to build, Susan opened up to Dale about her loneliness. Worse, she didn’t have any photos or letters from her past to remind her of her family. 

Dale asked Susan many questions about her deceased husband and found out he had been a volunteer Firefighter in the Flamborough area, though Susan’s cognitive issues made it hard for her to remember anything more specific. 

Two woman - Susan and Dale - hold up a picture frame with photos from Susan's wedding day“I didn’t have much hope, but I began to contact all the volunteer fire departments within a 50-kilometer radius to see what I could find out,” recalled Dale. “I found a record of Susan’s late husband and made a connection with a man who said he would ask around for me.”

It was a good try, but no one held out much hope. 

To their surprise, it wasn’t long before a man who had known Susan and her husband came forward. He had been quite close with them at one point and had even attended their wedding! This man had pictures of the couple from their wedding day and other social events, and was happy to provide Dale with copies. 

Once Dale received the pictures, she decided to surprise Susan. She purchased a frame and created a collage of the photos, going back more than 30 years. At her next visit with Susan, Dale presented her with the beautiful gift of memories. 

“I just wanted to do something special to show Susan that she wasn’t alone,” said Dale. “I wanted to be able to show her that she is cared about, but also for her to have a keepsake of some of her own very special memories.”

Although Susan still struggles with loneliness, she has found a great friend in Dale, who continues to sit and talk with her regularly. The Behavioural Supports Ontario team also continues to work with Susan, and together they have been successful in helping to reduce her responsive behavious.

In photo: Suan (left) and Dale (right) hold up the picture frame filled with memories.