Ninety-five-year-old Lois and 94-year-old Nelson Bergum have been married for more than 70 years. It is a milestone few couples can boast about, but a few years ago no one was celebrating after the two had to be separated when Nelson’s health started to decline.
“They were living together in Flagstaff Lodge in Sedgewick, but it started to become clear Dad needed to move into a care facility,” says Brenda Watkins, Lois and Nelson’s daughter. “When you have been together that long, it is sad. We would drive her every day to Killam, then every other day to see him. It was hard.“
“It was heartbreaking—there were tears every night,” says Geri Clark, Site Administrator, Killam Health Centre. “Lois would leave crying and she would call me and say, 'I can’t do this anymore,' and Nelson would be on the phone asking her, 'Can you come back? I don’t want to be here anymore.'”
Geri says she couldn’t bear it, so she talked with Sheli Murphy, Covenant Health’s Senior Operating Officer, Rural Services. Sheli gave her the blessing to find a way to reunite the couple even though Lois didn’t qualify for long-term-care in the Killam Health Centre.
Geri called in Lois and Brenda for a meeting. “I said to Lois I wanted to know what she would think about moving in with Nelson. She would not receive care; she would just be his partner and would share a bed. We would move him to a different room. She looked at me and said, 'You just gave me a Christmas present.' I looked at Brenda; she was crying and I was crying,” says Geri.
Now that Lois also requires care, the two have separate rooms at the facility. But Lois can visit Nelson, who uses a wheelchair, whenever she wants.
“She still goes down and gives him a kiss goodnight each night,” says Brenda.
Killam Health Centre is redeveloping its facility, and a key feature of the $13-million dollar upgrade will be four designated couple’s suites for people just like Lois and Nelson. Killam will be among only a few care facilities in the province with the specially designed suites.
Mazie Truss, 95, is also happy to hear about the changes coming to the health centre. She was living independently in Sedgewick until last year when she fell. She is now in a wheelchair and requires oxygen. She admits it wasn’t an easy transition going from her own home to sharing a room at the facility with a bathroom she can’t even access.
“There is a little wee bathroom in my room, but you have to do for yourself. I have to use the lift to get me on and off the bathroom, and that (bathroom) is in the hallway,” says Mazie. “I know within myself I will not live to see all the changes that will take place, but they are important.”
Currently there are 45 semi-private and private rooms. They are all shared baths, and the few wheelchair-accessible bathrooms are in common areas. The redevelopment will result in 50 large, private suites with fully accessible bathrooms.
Construction will start in the fall of 2016.
Lois and Nelson Bergum’s marriage of over 70 years remains strong because they are able to be together in the Killam Health Centre.
Brenda often visits her mother Lois and her father Nelson at Killam Health Centre because it is only a short distance from her Sedgewick home.
Mazie Truss, 95, has been a resident of Killam Health Centre just over a year. Before that she lived in her own home in Sedgewick.
(From right) 95-year-old Mazie Truss plays Scattergories with fellow residents Florence Breum and Hilda Colp at Killam Health Centre.
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