Senior Advocacy

Caring about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people, brings happiness.  Harold Kushner


Although I’m a private person and this makes me feel incredibly vulnerable, I’m compelled to write about the precarious state of our senior care, here in Canada and around the world. Watching and reading about the terrible news stories regarding COVID-19 outbreaks in assisted living and care facilities has been heart-wrenching. Not only because many seniors succumbed to the virus, but also because family members were prevented from being present with a loved one before he or she passed away. It’s all so wrong on so many levels.


I believe it’s beneficial the deficiencies in certain ‘care’ facilities have come to light so we can all do better. However, it’s not good enough for the people who entrusted the care of their seniors only to have them fail so miserably. I sincerely hope people seek justice in the neglect and death of family members. They deserved so much better.

There is also the question of paying home care and care aids properly. The question that comes to my mind is: Why do we place so little value on care careers?

While there are no easy solutions for aging populations, what does it say about our communities when families pay to have elderly placed in a facility and then forget about them. I understand how difficult it is to go to these facilities and come face to face with the effects of old age. It certainly isn’t pretty. But don’t the people who gave us birth and raised us deserve to be cared for right up until their passage?

On a personal level, my Dad has been living in an extended care home in northern BC for almost a decade. I live almost 1000 kms away. He was not allowed any outside visits from family members for 13 weeks. Can you imagine? Almost 100 days of no social contact, including essential care provided from a brother, or contact other than with caregivers inside the facility.

The only reason he finally was permitted to sit outside with both my brothers was because one advocated that my Dad required his essential care. Guess what happens with family who don’t advocate to see their loved ones? They don’t get to see them, and perhaps it’s too late.

The care home where my Dad lives was kind enough to set up weekly FaceTime visits for me with my Dad. These were wonderful and he really enjoyed our chats. However, after 2 months, they stopped phoning at the regular time and even after I’ve phoned repeatedly to re-schedule, they still ‘forget’ to phone me. This leaves me to think they don’t write anything down for other staff members and are just ‘winging’ it. My Dad doesn’t have a phone in his room and can’t operate one on his own. What else are staff not bothering with when no one is there to see?

Does this scare anyone else? Any one of us can end our days in an extended care facility at the twilight of life and face frustrating barriers to communicating with loved ones. I know I’ve felt frustrated enough to give up on trying to get in touch with my Dad. But I don’t because he doesn’t deserve to be abandoned.

The closest thing to being cared for is to care for someone else. – Carson McCullers

My oldest brother provides specific care for my Dad that care workers do not. What’s disturbing is most people don’t realize seniors are not provided with these ‘services’ prior to admittance.

  • He cleans out his razor so my Dad can shave. If his razor becomes clogged, no one else cleans it out for him.
  • If my Dad breaks his razor, he goes without until we can purchase him a new one.
  • The wonderful hair stylist that came to the facility to cut hair retired. No one replaced her for months. My 85-year old Dad, who has serious tremors and is legally blind from a stroke, is shaving his own head with his electric razor.
  • None of the care workers seem motivated to insert my Dad’s hearing aids. Therefore, he cannot join in social events. I can already see the effect this has had on his mental well-being.
  • My brother often cuts Dad’s nails among other personal hygiene that staff simply do not have time for. Which leaves us to wonder–what other care gets overlooked? How do we know?

These may seem like small issues until they begin to pile up over time. Yes, senior care like many other types of social services, is not perfect. But I’m positive that if we can fly to the moon, we can devise several ways for our seniors to stay in contact with family members during a pandemic.

Perhaps if we started protesting outside care facilities our seniors may have their rights back?

On an appalling side note, we uncovered that my Mother’s doctor prescribed pharmaceutical fentanyl for pain management, before she passed away . Yes, you read that right. My mother’s doctor prescribed her an addictive, dangerous opioid for pain management. And none of her 3 children knew about it until a few months after she was on it, she began to fall out of her bed at night and I could no longer have intelligible conversations with her on the phone. Her speech was slurred and she seemed incapable of constructing a sentence.

Upon further investigation, I had a phone conversation with the head care nurse of her home care service, who insisted she was no longer on it. I enlightened her that she was still in fact being prescribed a dangerous opioid for the last 3 months. She was surprised to hear that. WE, her children, quickly put a stop to that. Once off the ‘medication’, Mom was immediately back to her old upbeat self.

So, what would’ve happened to my Mom if we hadn’t dug into her medical files? She’d likely have died from a fatal fall from being incapacitated in her own home because an unethical doctor wanted to medicate her and ‘make her go away’. We were actually speculating she was getting dementia. How many other concerned families have made this faulty assumption about a senior?

This is Canada. This is the province of BC. I wonder how many seniors are being treated this way, with no family members to inquire about their medical treatment?

Can we not come up with better solutions of caring for our elderly? What type of laws are in place to prevent the over-medication of seniors? Are there any communities that have volunteer opportunities to help the understaffed facilities? Wouldn’t it help if there were a few extra hands available to ensure every senior had a cup of water nearby so they don’t get dehydrated, or help wheel those in wheel chairs to their meals at meal time? Or simply smile and say ‘hello’?

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. – Leo Buscaglia

Can we not do better?

My advice to anyone with a senior family member is to keep informed about not only their care, but the medications they are taking. You could save a life.

The simple act of caring is heroic. – Edward Albert

What are your thoughts on senior care?

Read this recent news article–I’m not the only one concerned for our seniors:

Long Term Care Protest in Canada

Tara Panrucker, Copyright 2020
All rights reserved.


2 thoughts on “Senior Advocacy

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