Swami Radhananda (who took back her birth name “Mary-Ann” about a year ago) was the president and spiritual director of the Ashram for 21 years. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, she was cared for at the Ashram for several years before moving into the long term care home in Nelson in January. Her daughter, Clea, updates us.
Whenever I arrive at the door of Mary-Ann’s room, I always call out, ‘hello, hello.’ She doesn’t see me yet, but she always hears me and calls out, ‘hello!’ in response. I deposit my bag, shoes and coat outside her room, wash my hands, then enter. I hold her hands and look into her eyes. I say, ‘I’m so happy to see you!’ And she slowly smiles, her face full with love and relief.
On Monday, March 16th, Mountain Lake Seniors Centre, where Mary-Ann (Swami Radhananda) lives and is cared for, announced it would be restricting all visitors and family from entering the home, a response to the COVID-19 crisis.
They, and the health authority in the province, have made exceptions for those residents who are palliative and those who, on a case-by-case basis, need extra caregiving assistance for feeding and mobility.
It was a great relief that I was granted access to continue to help with Mary-Ann’s care. Up until now, a small group of us had been with her daily, and there were regular visits from friends and Ashram family. She is known as the most popular resident at the home!
Now I am alone and on the front lines of the health care system. Regulations change day-to-day and the protocols for entering, leaving and interacting within the home are very strict. Our temperatures are closely monitored. Anxiety levels are high as every effort is made to keep the Coronavirus out.
But in Mary-Ann’s room, we are in an oasis. It is full of plants and flowers. Spring light is coming in the window. We listen to music all day, and she often sings along. She is starting to be comfortable in her wheelchair, and on sunny days, we sit on the back deck and look out to the forest beyond.
I am patient feeding her meals, something I have learned from her most loved care aides. I clean her hands and face and help her settle into sleep each night. I am so thankful to be with her, and that so far, within these walls, there is no distance between us.
Each day from 1-1:15 pm residents of the Ashram chant for Mary-Ann and her caregivers. You are welcome to join from wherever you are, or find a time that best suits you.