A True Story by Theresa Black, Senior Living Advisor for Visavie
The best word to describe the scenario was stressful, to say the least. It all started when I received a referral to help a family in need. In fact, it was a couple that needed to find retirement home accommodations. Both of these seniors were dealing with serious health issues that would keep them temporarily apart.
Robert (Bob) and June Campbell are a couple who have been married for 63 years. Throughout their life together they have experienced unconditional love, overcome many challenges together and enjoyed the blessings of three children and four grandchildren.
It was in their recent senior years that their lives started to be affected by the ageing process. Bob was experiencing an illness that would bring him in and out of the hospital. June was the main caregiver for Bob and their son who was experiencing some health issues as well.
The undermining cycle of caregiving
Anyone who has been the main caregiver for a spouse, child or for their parents will understand the effects that this role can have on one’s own health. It’s a cycle of caring for everyone else’s needs and putting your own needs on hold.
I believe this sacrifice is made unconsciously. Caregivers selflessly step into the role and do what is necessary to get through the moment, the hour, the day. This was no different for June. June was experiencing sleep deprivation and the ill effects of it.
Before she knew what was happening to her own health, the situation became a crisis and their daughter had to step in to help her parents through the next steps to regain their stability and quality of life. This is when I met the Campbell family.
Once upon a time, the lovers
In his younger days, Bob went to college with the idea of being able to pick out a decent girl. Bob met June through mutual friends. He knew early on that June was “the one” for him.
In fact, they were on their third date going up to the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec with friends when June was told that Bob had something for her. When she found out that it was an engagement ring, she said that she couldn’t accept it. She was not yet ready to settle down. She was still working as an airline stewardess and wanted to continue with her travels. At this time in history, airlines did not hire married women as stewardesses.
Bob recalls when he was purchasing the engagement ring and trying to determine the size, the sales agent asked Bob what if she doesn’t take it? He said, “She’ll take it.” That’s how confident he was that he had found his one and only. He was right.
June had gone back to Nova Scotia to visit her Grandmother and told her the story of how she had met Bob and that he had proposed to her and how she had turned him down. It was only a few months later that June was thinking of this conversation, Bob and about the other men she had dated. She concluded that “Bob seemed pretty good.” So, they were married on July 30, 1955, in Nova Scotia.
Finding the perfect retirement home
After several stays in and out of hospitals and temporary stays at retirement homes, in my role as a Senior Living Advisor with Visavie, I was able to assist this couple with finding the “right fit” in a retirement home.
I met with June and her daughter first and then individually with Bob. After much discussion and gathering the criteria for Bob and June, I was able to work with one of Visavie’s retirement home partners to find suitable accommodation.
We worked together with their daughter and the staff at the retirement home to devise the perfect plan. Bob moved in first and was very weak when he arrived. He was very concerned about June. At the time, June was being treated in the hospital. Concerned that June might step into the caregiver role upon arrival, the plan was to have this couple reside at the same residence but in separate apartments.
Three months later, June joined her husband at the same Retirement Residence. It took time for both Bob and June to recuperate and get stronger. Today, they enjoy sharing meals together, sitting on the front bench on nice sunny days reading and just enjoying being together.
Safe, healthy and happy together
One day, I walked into the retirement home and June was in the lobby. She stopped and said to me, “I remember you. You helped us move here.” When I asked how things were going June could not say enough positive things about the staff, services and support that they receive. She was the perfect picture of health and even took on doing their own laundry.
During this interview, I also learned that the Campbell’s have celebrated many accomplishments. Bob was instrumental in designing the school bus crossing signs that are now recognized in North America.
With the support of June, Bob has published several books on their Scottish heritage. However, I would have to say that the greatest accomplishments that I have been witness to are the love, family, friendship, support and encouragement that this lovely couple has been able to share over the past 63 years.
As a senior living advisor, I thank you for the opportunity to serve you and be part of your life during this transition period. It has been a pleasure getting to know you and to continue the friendship that we have made.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
** Special thanks to the Campbell’s family for accepting to share this story and to our partner, Governor’s Walk in Ottawa to be part of our privilege network for the quality of their facility.