MORRISBURG — Two weeks after moving into Chartwell Hartford Retirement Residence, Steve Gorman’s dad told him it was the best decision he’d ever made.
The discussion leading up to that decision was long and hard. Alfred (Al) and Winnifred (Winnie) Gorman had been married for 60 years. They moved to Morrisburg from Montreal, where they had lived most of their lives with their two sons, Steve and Dave. They chose the South Dundas village because Winnie was originally from the area and her sister was living at Chartwell Hartford. Although Steve and his family were living in Toronto and Dave and his family in Montreal, the Gormans enjoyed frequent visits from their children and grandchildren, making lots of lasting happy memories in their home; leaving their home felt a lot like leaving those memories, Steve said.
Al and Winnie were each facing mobility issues and it was becoming increasingly difficult for them to do the basic homecare and self-care activities needed to maintain a safe and happy life at home. It was at this point that the Gorman sons broached the subject with their parents. Steve suggested that he would feel better if his parents agreed to live at the local retirement residence for at least the winter months. With both sons living many hours away from their parents, Steve said he was worried about them losing power during a seasonal storm. He told his parents they could re-evaluate the situation in the spring and they could move back into their home if that was their preference. Steve said the Gorman home’s close proximity to the local retirement residence — a seven-minute walk — helped his parents feel better about the choice.
The last remaining obstacle was financial. While Al and Winnie could afford to move to Chartwell Hartford, Steve said his dad had grown up in a time when frugality was a necessity. To convince his father the move made financial sense, Steve did a financial pro and con list. He also told his dad, “You deserve it. You’ve worked hard all your life. We don’t need your money so there’s no need to save it for us.”
When the decision was made, emotions were high, but the transition, Steve said, was made smooth by the help of Chartwell Hartford’s employees. Winnie and Al were 83 and 89 years of age, respectively, when they moved to the retirement home.
That first month was a happy one for both Al and Winnie. While Al died at the end of that month, Winnie told Steve it was a month of memories she would cherish because Al was “so happy to be at the Hartford.” She told Steve it was a beautiful time when Al and Winnie could focus on caring for each other rather than worrying about basic chores, such as cooking.
After Al died, Steve said the employees “were so good to my mom.” He said it was more than the level of care she received, it was the level of caring and respect she was shown that made the difference. Winnie received many visits from employees after they clocked out, and sometimes they would just pop by on their day off for a quick chat.
“They’ve been amazing,” Steve said, noting the chef would make special dinners for his mom when she was sick and couldn’t manage the meal on the main menu.
In addition to praising the employees for addressing residents by their first names and for making eye contact when speaking with them, Steve said they had amazing relationships with partner agencies, such as the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), J.W. MacIntosh Community Support Centre, and more.
“They worked so well together,” he said. “If any of those outside services needed help, they were right there. It’s the beauty of a small town – it’s more of a community.”
Sadly, Winnie died September 13, less than a year after moving to her new home. Her memorial is set for September 28 in Williamsburg. In her working life, Winnie was a registered nurse and for the last few years before retirement, she was the Hartford’s on-site nurse.
When asked why he agreed to do this interview so soon after the death of his mother, Steve said, “the Hartford deserves credit.” He said the employees go above and beyond what they’re paid to do, showing a clear passion for working with the elderly.
If he could change any one thing, he said he would broach the subject of retirement living with his parents a couple of years earlier than he did, noting the move took a lot of pressure off his father, allowing him to focus his care on his wife, which as Winnie said herself, made that final month together a really great one.
To learn more about the services available for those living in Dundas County, visit the 50+ Wellness Day event set for Thursday, October 3 at Matilda Hall in Dixon’s Corners. In addition to booths filled with relevant agency representatives, there will be several presentations, as well as a free lunch. For more information about this event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.