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Jean Knows the Importance of Caring for Others

Please grant me a moment to tell you about my beloved aunt, Mary Jean, a former nurse and current resident at the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre.

Mary Jean (or as our family simply calls her Jean) is an incredible woman who’s led an extraordinary life of compassion and commitment to those in need. She has been my mentor, a mother figure, and my inspiration to have become the next nurse in the family.

As Jean’s niece – and a retired nurse myself – I must express how important your support is to the care Perley Rideau provides her.

You see, Jean has always put others ahead of herself. She worked as a nurse for 45 years, volunteered in her off-time, and was determined to be the best person she could be in and out of her nursing uniform. From a young age, she was my idol – and that convinced me I wanted to be a medical professional just like her one day.

I still remember opening letters from her and how she always initialled “RN” (Registered Nurse) beside her signature. Those initials meant so much to our family because we are all so proud of the work she did as a nurse and the person she is.

In her off-time, Jean worked as a volunteer nurse at Camp Merrywood, a summer camp established for kids with polio. She was one of the many nurses in the 1950’s distributing polio vaccines. She showed her bravery and dedication by choosing to work in the more remote communities of Ontario and helped establish clinics there.

Jean was also instrumental in her later nursing years volunteering to help secure donations for low-income families in need of medical care. She strongly believed and often said to me: “Everyone, no matter their illness or disability, should have a chance.” Surely, you can see how she set such an incredible example for me – and how important it was to her to be selfless and compassionate. 

Jean now copes with the daily difficulties of both Parkinson’s and dementia – and I must tell you, her saving grace has been the exceptional care she receives everyday.

In her younger years, Jean was very much a woman ahead of her time. She loved to explore, try new things, and led an incredibly independent life (something very uncommon for a young woman to do in the ’50s). 

I have to admit, remembering her hunger for life and compassion makes it difficult at times to see Jean today. Watching her deal with the reality-altering symptoms of dementia after leading such a vibrant life is not easy. 

Jean first came to Perley Rideau four years ago with her husband, Lloyd. She was so dedicated to nursing she didn’t marry until 52 years old, but that didn’t stop her from blossoming with him in her later years. As a Veteran, he was a natural fit for Perley Rideau. However, Lloyd sadly passed away in November 2017, leaving me as Jean’s medical power of attorney.

Honestly, there aren’t enough words in the English language to describe how blessed I feel that Jean has found such an incredible place to call home. But I know full well the resources and programs that provide her such loving care don’t just happen. It takes the support of caring, compassionate individuals like you. 

I cannot express how meaningful your gifts are. So, I ask you to please donate today to support Jean and other seniors and Veterans like her.

Your donations ensure exceptional care, no matter what difficulties appear. As you might imagine, COVID-19 was one of these unforeseen difficulties, where Perley Rideau relied on the donations of supporters. Your gift today means seniors and Veterans are comfortable, with the right equipment to keep them safe and healthy so they can focus on expressing their creativity and enjoy living fully. 

Due to my own health issues, I’ve chosen not to see Jean in person until a later time, which is hard on both of us, but I know is the safest option right now. Normally when I visit, I would help staff feed Jean during meals and chat with her for hours. Incredibly, no matter how much her dementia affects her, she still loves to share and takes a real, genuine interest in you. 

As the years go by, I’ve only gotten closer to her (and by extension, to the staff of Perley Rideau). It’s hard for her not to see me in person, but we’ve been able to keep in touch through facetime calls, thanks to one amazing staff member, Kayleigh. 

In all honesty, Kayleigh’s like my right arm. Through her, I’m constantly updated on Jean’s condition and able to interact with her. And she’s only one of the kind and dedicated staff members I could mention. Even the team in shipping and receiving always take the extra time to let me know they’ve delivered my packages of clothes and gifts to Jean and how excited she was to get them!

It’s incredible just to simply see Jean smile. Her dementia and Parkinson’s put such a strain on her mind and body, so I appreciate every moment of happiness we can give her. Speaking of which, just a few weeks ago, I saw the worst of her dementia appear. 

Jean had a paranoid episode, convinced that the wires in the walls of her room were listening devices spying on her. When I noticed this behaviour during our weekly video call, my nurse instincts kicked in. I suspected this was likely a urinary tract infection (paranoia is a common sign of a UTI for someone living with dementia). And when I mentioned this to a nurse, she informed me they were already on top of it and tracking it.

These are just a few examples of the care and dedication I see in all the nurses and staff. I ask you to consider donating today to provide them with the means to care for residents to the absolute best of their ability.

    You see the care and support residents, like Jean, and their loved ones, like myself, receive is truly a blessing in these trying times – and why I hope you see the importance of supporting senior care. 

To say it plainly; your support improves the quality of life for seniors and Veterans. Through your donation, you give residents all the life-affirming extras that make living at Perley Rideau extraordinary. Jean loves to participate in the Therapeutic Recreation and Creative Arts programs. The walls of her room are filled with multicoloured paint prints of her creation. And every week, she and a few others from her unit gather to sing and share music, which is her favourite activity. 

Having known some of the staff for years now, I know that when they say their motto is “Together, we improve the well-being of the people we serve,” they say it with commitment, bravery, and honesty.

I should also tell you that Jean always loved attending church. It was intrinsically connected to her caring heart and her profession as a nurse. And knowing how vital church is to the mental and spiritual well-being of her and many other residents, Perley Rideau has found ways to ensure residents can connect with their faith while still taking all the necessary safety precautions – which for Jean’s sake, I’m so grateful for. 

However, the difficulties of COVID-19 still reach residents. It’s hard for Jean not to see me as I have a very familiar, calming effect on her. But I know if it weren’t for her dementia, Jean would understand the circumstances of this pandemic. I also know she would do whatever she could to help and would be praying for all the nurses and frontline staff working under stringent safety precautions right now. 

It’s my hope you will be generous and compassionate today by donating to help care for extraordinary seniors and Veterans, like my beloved Aunt Jean.

Now, if you look at my signature below, you might have noticed the “RN” beside my name. I have to tell you how meaningful it is to be able to write that here in a letter about Jean. As I said before, when I was growing up it was a big deal in our household to have a woman in the family that’s a registered nurse. It fills me with joy to know I’m able to add those two powerful letters beside my name today – and I know it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have Jean’s example to follow.

Jean not only led me into nursing, but she led me to have a great outlook on how lives can be changed through care.

So, as you finish reading and put this letter down, I ask you to not just think of Jean or me, but all 600 seniors and Veterans who call Perley Rideau home. Please think of your donation as a gift that will ensure they continue to receive the exceptional care they deserve today and for years to come. 

Many of the residents like Jean and her late husband helped build our community, care for our sick, protect the vulnerable and serve our country. Let’s honour these brave folks by supporting their care now and for the future.

Thank you so much for reading – and I hope you and your loved ones remain healthy and safe during this time where we Canadians must support and care for one another more deeply than ever.

Sincerely,


Paula Moore, RN
Retired Nurse
And beloved niece of Perley Rideau resident, Mary Jean Wright, RN

P.S. In case you didn’t know, May 10-14 is Nurses Week. I’m sure you can imagine why this is a particularly special year to honour nurses for all they’ve endured over the past 15 months. So, what better way to show your appreciation by sending a gift today in honour of past nurses, like Jean and myself, and to current nurses and all health care workers, like those making Perley Rideau such an exceptional home! I sincerely hope you consider a donation – it would mean the world to seniors and Veterans, myself, and my Aunt Jean. Thank you. 
 

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