Saturday, 19 December 2009

Meanderings of a Murky Mind in a Mad Mad World

I've always thought that truth was stranger than fiction but I just learned of a situation that makes my head spin ... and gives me an idea for a piece of fiction ...  Imagine this ...

A very old, very Catholic woman raised a large family of children in relative poverty in one of our poorest provinces.  For many years she has been in the care of one of her daughters. Now that she is at the end of her life, demented and bed-ridden,  her situation is deplorable.

The daughter could not stand living in the same house with her because of her mother's dementia so she moved next door and set up a baby monitor between the two houses.  Other family members have tried to persuade the care giver to get some respite care for the mother in an institution that is better equipped to handle  elderly bedridden patients, but she is adamant.  No mother of hers will end up in a home.

The situation has deteriorated to the point where the old woman is in terrible pain from suppurating bedsores and an allergic reaction to the renovation.  Oh yes ... did I mention that the caregiver, in order to find an income for her unemployed son, got a government grant for renovations to the old woman's house?  One of the family members has forced that renovation to stop and that has created a situation in which the caregiver now refuses to speak to her siblings.

Why don't the siblings force the issue of an old age home?  The caregiving sister has legal guardianship.  Probably the only way to effect a change would be for family members to put the matter in the hands of the authorities, and who wants to do that to a sister?

The caregiver is feeling martyred.  The family members are feeling helpless.  The old woman at the centre of all this is enduring the most horrible end of a life. 

If she were a child, no one would feel any compunction about calling Children's Aid.

If she were a dog or cat living in such conditions, the Humane Society would be contacted immediately.

But she is a ninety-three year old woman whose plight is being hidden away in a bedroom by an entire family whom she raised.

I wish I knew how to do something to help.  The family doctor visits by the way ... and has not forced the issue ...

Someone asked me the other day what I feared most.  This is it: being old and sick and alone.


Pat Aubin said...

There are different online resources that address the issue of Elder Abuse. 53 of these are listed on a Government of canada web-site. I thought of this because they ran a series of televsion ads on the subject.

Here is the URL:

Sasha said...

I'm sure your children will treat you in old age as you treated them as children. That's the way of the world!

I hope you'll post the story you write, it's a fascinating subject.
I tried to search this news story, and only found more stories of nursing home abuse. Where did you read it?

Oma said...

Thanks, Pat ... but the only one for that province was for professional caregivers ... I will look carefully at the federal ones ...

Sasha: welcome to my blog. This woman was not treated as she treated her family, unfortunately.

As for my story ... I will post it if and when I write it ...

I didn't read about it; I heard about it from a family member.

Xahnia said...

I am a 10 year veteran as Family Caregiver for my disabled husband, who lives in the In-law suite converted into a hospital room and is also monitored by a baby-monitor. I refuse to put my husband into respite or extended care because hospitals will not admit to the public there are problems of abuse and neglect in our extended care facilities. For this reason we need Elder Care Ombudsman watching for abuse and neglect.

If the family members feel they know better and feel they are better equipped to care for their aging mother then they should be in their mother’s home caring for their mother. Then they can experience what it is like dealing with the dementia craziness, poop, pee, spit, vomit, smelly bed sores, and the many other duties involved, instead of talking bad about a person who is doing all the dirty work in the first place with no pay or little respect.

Family Caregivers suffer from Family Caregiver trauma and Family Caregiver neglect by society and they are the people that need the help. Provide HELP for the Family Caregiver which in turn helps the mother. All the other siblings could take turns caring for their mother to help give the primary Family Caregiver a break every so often.

The remodeling is a big no-no when there is an ill person in the home, but really is not the issue here. The primary Family Caregiver needs help. Being a family Caregiver is emotionally exhausting and not all loved ones are suited for a job that can be very demeaning and thankless, so it can be easier to deal with the problem by sending our elderly to extended care units. Sometimes pointing the finger towards another takes the focus off of others who are just as guilty of neglect and abuse but on another level. If someone has it in their heart to be a Family Caregiver for a loved one, then have the heart to support them any way you can or you could just be adding to the Family Caregiver’s hardship.

Oma said...

Xahnia ... thank you for your comment. I couldn't agree with you more. Of course the caregiver has done her best and care giving is too often a thankless, very difficult job. In this case no one else in the family lives anywhere close and that is why they have suggested respite care in a home.

The others have tried giving some respite care themselves, but what they can offer is too little and too seldom.

My heart goes out to everyone involved ... but especially to the caregiver and the old woman.

How would you suggest they help since they all live thousands of miles away?

Xahnia said...

Hello Oma

If family members cannot be physically present or family members just cannot emotional deal with the care for elderly family members, then we can help out by taking care of the primary Family Caregiver in other ways. To be able to get away, to find sanctuary even just for a few hours a week helps.

Provide gift certificates for a massage, a movie, a dinner, any way to pamper the Family Caregiver so they can get a mental break. This is a great way to give long distance HUGS – Help Us Gain Strength.

Many Family Caregivers feel so lonely and isolated and do not wish to share their sad emotions with others for fear of being ridiculed. By reaching out to Family Caregivers, no matter how irrational they may become, your long distance presence through nice acts towards the Family Caregiver will be a wonderful hug and will give strength.

Thank you for posting these comments and wish i could be there enjoying the snow with you and Kenya.