Saturday, January 20, 2007

Gaunt & Miserable

Dad was sitting gaunt and miserable in his chair. The Valentine decorations were shining in the sun, the light passing through the red candy-like lights in his window. I didn’t think I would last until lunch. I had brought juice boxes for Mirabelle and decided to see if dad wanted some juice. He did. The abscess or indentation at the side of his head looks deeper, but I cannot tell for sure.

The PSW told me that he was not eating breakfast. The last time I visited they told me he ate a good breakfast, but usually only had one good meal a day. She wanted to mash up his food, as staff think he isn’t able to chew it. He refused to take pills from her. She asked if I would give it a try. He refused again. The pills were ground up and put into a spoonful of applesauce or pudding to make it more palatable. He had been chewing his pills for that past month. They are quite creative in figuring out how to encourage him to take these meds: ground up in applesauce, pudding or snuck on a spoon. Bless them every one!

I told the nurse that I thought dad needed to see that he was eating real food, today it was ham, and I didn’t think he wanted it minced. Only old, sick people have that done for them! I was right. Dad refused to eat any of his meal. Dessert was another story. “He’s a great dessert eater!” one staffer told me.

Today I gave dad a Ghiardelli chocolate when I arrived. Brian and I visited San Francisco, where these chocolates are made, back when we could more freely travel and take weekends away. They were on sale after Christmas and I knew that my dad was worth it! It was a terrific visit to a lovely tourist area. The chocolate factory has a large sign, unmistakable to those visitors who are keen on such tours. We took a boat tour of the harbour, strolled around the boardwalk visiting expensive, but entertaining shops.

Brian bought me my football ring there. We spotted a beautiful ring, carved from bone, surrounded by turquoise stones. He asked if he could buy it for me, in exchange he wanted to follow the 6 football games on the next weekend. What could I say? He bought me a wonderful, multi-coloured long wrap that I wear frequently to the nursing home. The senior ladies ooh and aah when I dress up in overstated clothes. I am happy to be the focus of their attention.

The San Fran visit was a fond memory of times when weekends away did not make me crazy. I worry so that dad will need me. It is hard to balance family in this sandwich generation. Once my father passes away we will be able to travel, aside from the cats. When the good weather comes back we will be able to invite friends, too. I miss them a great deal. Our big trips to the small towns around make us happy. We have found favourite restaurants, many closed in January to give staff a much-needed break. I know spring will come.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Long Term Care Act: Bill 140

Another meeting has called me. Today the Family Council for Leisureworld was meeting. These councils must exist, according to Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care legislation. I thought I would attend, since Brian had physiotherapy in town. I came out of the meeting the Chair of the Council. It would keep me focused and give me some real work to do. They are advisory boards to be a voice for those who could not voice their own issues. It was made up of family members of residents. Before the meeting I popped in to see what dad was up to – he was asleep. A worker told me he had refused breakfast.

The meeting went well. They have some concerns about the new LHIN committee and the legislation: Bill 140, the Ontario Long Term Home Care Act. Typical of politicians: they dream up new rules, with no money to support the institutions, which must fulfill the new policies. The bill was created because of a media release of a videotaped physical abuse incident. Again, a knew-jerk reaction to an event - the politicians must not do something worthwhile, they simply must be seen doing something about a problem. They want to rush this legislation through and have given little time for discussion. There would be a provincial election soon. The legislation was put forward by one person, given the task of coming up with a plan, she responded with something to make the politicians look good.

Bill 140 demands more vigilance, more red tape and more rules. If staff was not already following the rules, then what was to prevent them from doing the same or worse, despite more threats of funding cuts? Ontario standards provide for 2.5 hours of care per day per resident but this lags behind Manitoba and Saskatchewan, who both have over 3 hours per day per. Staff are already hard pressed to meet demands.

Issues revolve around the lack of staff.