Rhonda Stevens, military veteran now Co-Executive Director of the Foundation, had a unique opportunity to chat with a long-term care resident at Cumberland Lodge this week.
Meet Joyce. She is one of seven veterans who currently live at the Lodge. Joyce served as a military nurse shortly after World War II and was a long-time local citizen of Comox. With Remembrance Day on Saturday, the visit held an extra special significance for everyone involved. We are happy we can share some of the conversation with our community today.
Joyce was originally from southeast England. Her family separated, and Joyce was adopted by another family at a young age, a poignant life experience that has stayed with Joyce her whole life. She lived in the Sussex area of England during World War II and joined Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps upon coming of age. She was stationed in Germany upon the end of the war.
“Thank goodness we were given Canadian rations rather than the British ones,” Joyce reflects upon describing a typical meal of oxo broth and bread as the slim daily ration for British military. “That is why I choose to eat simple foods to this day and hesitate to try new things, I can’t bear to waste food.”
Joyce served as a military nurse for 12 years and then, like many others, decided to immigrate to Canada by boat—brave to do all on her own especially since she feared water. She met a member of the Canadian Air Force on the boat who was making the same journey across the Atlantic. They both ended up settling in Prince Edward Island and eventually married. Joyce’s two sons were born on the east coast. Her husband’s first posting was to Comox and Joyce never left, nor did her sons who both still live nearby with families of their own. Many people will recognize Joyce from her years working as a cleaner for the Legion. She looks back on the friends she made through the Legion fondly and expressed gratitude that Cumberland Lodge helps her attend special Legion functions honouring veterans.
“Joyce is always looking out for other residents around here, telling us when someone needs something,” says Lori, Activity Aid at Cumberland Lodge, with warm regard for Joyce in her voice. “Her nursing experience and her strong values shine on a daily basis.”
Cumberland Lodge is home to 64 people. Within the Village of Cumberland, built in 1990, and operated by Island Health, you feel a welcoming, warm environment as soon as you step inside. Staff are focused on providing the best quality of life for residents with approximately 55 employees coming in each day. Their work includes attending to the residents’ physical needs, like serving up delicious and nutritious meals, and it includes attending to medical needs like seeing a doctor, taking medications and help with daily hygiene and grooming routines.
In addition to caring for residents’ physical needs, great attention is paid to adding colour and joy to the residents’ life. They make friends. They take their meals in the company of others. They spend an afternoon playing a game, drinking tea, and visiting. They watch the evening news together, or if you’re like Joyce, enjoy a game show like the Price Is Right each morning.
“It is our great pleasure to contribute to this non-profit long-term care home. Over the many years of our partnership, donors have ensured special equipment, comfort items, and programs continue to support residents. We love hearing about the benefit that comes from these contributions,” says Rhonda Stevens. “Talking with Joyce as a fellow veteran will remain in my heart forever, hearing about the good life she has at the Lodge and particularly her strong relationships with staff and fellow residents will stay with me for a long time.”
One of the programs the Foundation most recently funded through a grant from Music Heals is Cumberland Lodge’s music therapy program. Not only is music therapy a favourite activity for many residents simply because of the joy it offers, but the program also achieves specific therapeutic goals such as managing stress; reducing anxiety; alleviating pain; enhancing memory; improving communication; expressing feelings and promoting physical rehabilitation.
We will be reflecting on many things and many people on Remembrance Day. Joyce and other veterans who live in long-term care locally will be top of mind and in our hearts.