Dorothea: The incredible gift of three more years

Alt=''Raised in Germany, and losing her brother and giving birth to her son during the second World War, Dorothea had known some trying times.  She had been through war, poverty, and the loss of loved ones. When she finally immigrated to Canada in 1952, she has few possessions but she had a smile on her face that was constant up until the day she died.

Dorothea worked at a variety of jobs throughout her life including being employed as the floor manager at Electrohome, which has since become Christie Digital. Born into a family of tailors in Germany, Dorothea loved to sew, so much that she saved for years to buy her own Singer sewing machine that she used to create the latest fashions for herself and her family. Her granddaughter Tina says that she was known as a “sweet, yet tough, stylish German lady.”  A 50‑year member of the Concordia Club in Kitchener and a ballroom dancer, Dorothea was well-known and well-loved in her community.

After her husband passed away, Dorothea continued to live alone in her bungalow in Waterloo. Her family worried about her being alone and kept her company as often as they could. It was this contingency plan that helped save Dorothea’s life when she had a stroke at the age of 89. Fortunately, one of Dorothea’s granddaughters Lisa was there to call 911.

On arrival at Grand River Hospital (GRH), Dorothea’s prognosis was not good.  Tina and her sister called their parents in Florida to come home.

Thankfully, the stroke unit at GRH quickly intervened. After a couple of days, Dorothea’s whisper grew louder and she began to talk again. Dorothea needed a wheelchair because of weakness on the right side of her body and she was also unable to write. Tina describes the care team at GRH as “remarkable” and praises the speed at which they got to work on her grandmother’s rehabilitation. Known as a “fighter,” Dorothea progressed quickly and recovered well.

From Grand River Hospital, Dorothea was seamlessly transitioned to St. Joseph’s Health Centre where she received additional rehabilitation support. Before long, she learned to use her right arm again. Dorothea enjoyed her time at St. Joe’s and always had wonderful things to say about her care providers. As it was Christmas time, Dorothea was able to have her family visit her at St. Joe’s, and she was even able to enjoy a glass of wine.

It was not long before Dorothea was transferred to a long‑term care facility called Barnswallow in Elmira where she was able to form connections with patients that her granddaughter Tina describes “was like having a whole new family.”  The staff members who Dorothea referred to as her “little sweethearts” had wonderful things to say about her. Dorothea was very content to be able to look out the window on a sunny day at the tomato plants and budding flowers in the front yard.  Thanks to her continued rehabilitation at Barnswallow, Dorothea was even able to use both of her hands to open all of her gifts on her 90th birthday.

Having been a wonderful German cook and a very independent woman for most of her life, Dorothea’s family was afraid she would not adjust to long‑term care. However, when asked how it was going, Dorothea always boasted about the great food and how wonderful it was to be “waited on hand and foot.”

After one family visit on August 23, 2017, Dorothea passed away in her sleep at the age of 92 years old. The residents of Barnswallow who had also become her family had an “Angel Walk” for Dorothea.  They sat quietly in wheelchairs and walkers as Dorothea’s body was gently moved from the home. “They all wanted the chance to say goodbye,” says Tina.

“It was because of the care that my Oma received in this region that we had three more quality years with her. And she had three more years to touch the lives of people around her.”