Wednesday, April 22, 2009

questions about book content

Jennifer Jilks is a local author, retired educator, and writer. We had lunch and talked about her book, and her work in the field of geriatrics.


Jennifer, tell me why you were inspired to write this book?

I gave up a great job and career in Ottawa, having lived and worked there for twenty-five years, to move to Muskoka and provide care for my failing parents. They were both fighting cancer. I felt helpless, as I juggled the responsibilities of motherhood and caring for ailing parents. I know I am not alone in this situation. Many caregivers are adult daughters who sacrifice their careers, and juggle their lives meeting the needs of aging parents. I did a great deal of research and wanted to share the lessons learned.

When did you realize that your father was as ill as your mother?

My father’s brain tumour was diagnosed in 2003 after a grand-mal seizure. He, too, had surgery and was sent home. He had mobility issues, his arthritis compounded the effects of the brain tumour. When I visited my parents in March break, I realized that they were both going downhill. I know Dad exhibited signs of delirium. Mind you, I didn’t know what dementia was, and at the time I did not realize the significance or the difference between dementia and delirium.

What is the most important lesson you learned while caring for your parents?

My mother was adamant about going to appointments alone, and this was a huge mistake on my part. She did not hear well, she was ill fighting cancer, and did not comprehend some of the terminology. Mom was unable to advocate for herself: asking questions about treatment plans, treatment side effects, the impact of treatment on her quality of life, as well as survival rates from the treatments. At the time, I was as unfamiliar with the health care system as she was, and neither of us knew our rights to having this kind of information. While I kept a medical diary of her symptoms and treatments, I should have been adamant about attending appointments with her and assisting her in getting all of the information, and taking notes. She was afraid to ask questions and all she knew was what she had heard from friends, the media and what the oncologists chose to tell her.

The final section of your book contains important conclusions about senior health care. What is your most important idea?

Firstly, that since we regulate those who work with children we really ought to regulate all those who work with seniors, as well. There is much we know about geriatrics, a much more complex stage of life than pediatrics. In profit and non-profit care we allow personal support workers (PSW) to provide intimate care to loved ones. To work in Day Care you need an ECE degree, yet PSWs may or may not have a certificate from a college. This must be changed.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Happy BIrthday Mom

What is your favourite food?

For my mom it was potato salad. When she was dying, she asked for it. I was too stressed to figure out how to make it because the myth was that only my grandma made it right!

The local deli, despite it NOT being tourist season, made some specially for us. I was so grateful. I drove over and picked some up after work. She ate a tablespoon, but it was something I accomplished for her. She did not want to accept help. It was difficult for her - she'd given to others all her life. She identified herself by this.

Today would have been her 84th birthday. I wrote her a poem:

Colours of your love