Group home offers solace through pandemic

Rolf Heer says “life is good” at Columbia Garden Village

Rolf Heer misses throwing parties and venturing out into the world. But for now – in this new COVID-19 reality – he’s reasonably content waiting out the pandemic at Columbia Garden Village.

He feels safe inside the walls and is full of praise for the staff who are working hard to protect residents and take good care of them.

(Management did not respond to a request for an interview, but a news release from Golden Life said: “We have been hearing stories of hope, laughter, and joy coming from our Villages each day and it warms our hearts.”)

Heer, 66, has cancer, a weakened immune system and pain – now managed – that had previously been severe enough for him to request Medical Assistance in Dying. He’s well aware that he’s at a heightened risk for the virus that’s moving through the region and around the world.

If COVID-19 was to find a way into his building, Heer, 66, said: “I’d be one of the first to get it.”

But Heer isn’t worried, not with the measures staff are taking to keep those vulnerable to COVID-19 safe and well.

“They’re doing a very good job, I tell you,” he said. “Looks like we’re going to be stuck here for another couple of months … (but) life is good here.”

Instead of shared meals, food is now delivered to Heer’s door. Visitors aren’t allowed inside, he said, but he can meet them outdoors. He can’t go far, though. If he wanders off the property he said he would be required to quarantine in his suite for 14 days upon his return. No matter how close he stays to the residence, Heer expects it’s only a matter of time before he’ll end up in quarantine. Eventually he’ll have to go back to the hospital and will be confined to his suite on his return.

“We don’t have the social living right now like we usually do,” he said. But those he does see spaced out in common areas “are still in really good mood and great spirits.”

Heer, who said he’s a decade or two younger than many of the other residents, doesn’t engage much in the art and exercise classes the care home offers. How he sees it, there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do. But he’s grateful that he can sleep away his days and that his unit comes with a window that ushers the sun into his suite.

When he feels well, Heer wishes he could visit his property in Radium and landscape the ground where his iconic Home Of A Thousand Faces stood before being reduced to ash in November of 2018. On good days he dreams of wielding a chainsaw and carving wooden creations, remembering the joys of “living the hillbilly style in Radium.”

Pandemic woes aside, he figures those his age “got the good generation,” where the worries of the world – such as climate change and overconsumption – were less weighty.

Photo by Marlene Chabot


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