This blog post is about two "treasures" of Nova Scotia that have made up an important part of my holiday season: our aging population, and Gertrude Miller, Director of Recreation at The Mira Long Term Care Facility in Truro.
According to Stats Canada, Nova Scotia had the highest percentage of seniors in Canada in 2011.
Our senior residents helped shaped Nova Scotia into what it is today. Among many other things, they have built buildings and bridges, contributed to our fishing, agriculture and forestry industry, served various positions that contributed to the freedom we enjoy today, sang and danced, and created traditions that keep our unique culture alive... they have invited their neighbors in for tea and kept our communities strong. I think they have so very much to offer still... stories, wisdom, life lessons, and a look back at a more simple time. I have always had a special place in my heart for our seniors and a special understanding and respect for them.
I also have a very high level of respect for individuals who work in helping professions; nurses, doctors, paramedics, non-profit workers, etc., but especially those who work with people who have disabilities or who need long term care. And when I witness an individual who pours their heart and soul into that type of work, I can't help but be inspired.
On December 21 I was inspired by Gertrude Miller. I watched her show the residents of The Mira Long Term Care Facility more love, respect and care on that day than I have perhaps ever witnessed in-person in my life to-date. She not only dressed as Santa to hand out gifts to the 90 residents of the facility, but she did it with enthusiasm and energy like anyone reading this will rarely see in their lifetime. Each resident received a gift carefully matched to their needs and personality, each received a hug, and I witnessed how Gertrude made each resident feel like the most special person in the room. After the Santa suit came off, she danced with the residents. Frankly, I was tired just watching her and know for a fact that I would have been whining about the heat of the Santa suit before she could have said her first Ho, Ho,.....
She is a true Nova Scotia treasure. As are the 90 residents of the Mira.
I will briefly tell you how I came to be at the Mira watching Gertrude play Santa....
Last year on December 23 my father was admitted into the Mira. He was 86 at the time and his dementia symptoms became too severe to ignore any longer. Needless to say, last Christmas was a terrible time for my family. Dad passed away only a couple months later on February 9. During his short time at the Mira he received exceptional care and I wanted to initiate a project that would serve several purposes; thank the Mira staff, create a better memory for Christmas 2012 for myself and my family, but most importantly, do something that would help the residents at the Mira feel special and important. So, with a little fundraising over the summer and fall, my sisters and I purchased a gift for each resident. I'd like to note that the residents at the Mira would have received the same visit from Santa with or without our contribution because Gertrude would have still purchased the gifts and played Santa, but this year I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to contribute and to be a part of Santa's visit.
I didn't want to remember The Mira as the place where my Dad died... I want to remember it as the place where caring staff do their best to ensure the last years of their residents' lives are rich with care and comfort. I feel like my mission has been accomplished. I certainly created what may be my best Christmas memory to-date by watching Gertrude play Santa and by watching the faces of the residents as they received their gifts.
I hope that each of you reading this blog have either enjoyed your usual Christmas traditions this year, or have created new ones, and that you will all enjoy a wonderfully blessed 2013.
*Note: The photo in this blog post was taken by my sister Anne Murphy as I was helping to hand Gertrude gifts. And may I add, thank goodness for that!- Anne has a special talent for photographing people that I do not possess :)