My Brother Vic
What a smile,
joy emitting from every pore,
friends seeking his face as they entered his store
where he sold more than equipment for sport.
He gave a part of himself with each sale.
He shared their hopes and dreams.
My big brother, Vic, always there for me,
always happy to be a part of my life.
We played golf together but by his own rules,
never a competitive thought,
just an excuse to spend time together,
to breathe the free air and walk on the soft grass,
to share a thought, a laugh, the occasional good shot.
My brother, Vic, his spirit was gone in a matter of weeks.
As the disease worked its way into his brain,
he was forced to quit work, to give up his driver’s license.
He lost control of the movement in his arms and legs.
Into a wheelchair, then the ultimate humiliation:
he needed someone to feed him and change his diaper.
His wife of fifty years could no longer do it.
Into the long term care home.
She came each day and fed him and combed his hair.
Then the smile disappeared and the joy of life turned to anger,
then bitterness, and finally he give up his will to live.
My brother, Vic, my sister, Victoria,
please say hello for me when you meet them.
Please be kind, please be gentle.
Remember there is a beautiful soul hidden in the dying body.
Remember there is a faithful friend hidden in the dying brain.
Remember it is a privilege to be there for them in their final days.
Long Term Care Homes
As I am aging, one of my greatest fears is that I will end up in a long term care home like my brother Vic, away from the people I love. It appears that my fears are not unfounded. The recent pandemic has revealed just how vulnerable these clients are and just how inadequate the homes are in meeting their needs.
CBC Marketplace discovered that a shocking 85% of Ontario nursing homes repeatedly broke the Long-Term Care Homes Act (LTCHA) with practically no consequences. They found over 30,000 violations between 2015 and 2019. Some of the most serious offences included physical abuse, inadequate infection control, unsafe medication storage, inadequate hydration, and poor skin and wound care. In addition to abuse, there was just plain neglect which included failure to provide baths, not changing diapers for hours, and instances where the client is left in bed all day lying on their back on an open bedsore. In one case, a video showed several different employees yanking on the client’s arms, swatting her hands, rubbing spilled food in her face, or yelling at her as she lay in bed. It would appear that non-compliance with the law has become the norm within Ontario care homes.
In the speech from the throne in October, the federal government promised to work with the provinces and territories to set out a national standard for long-term care, and to amend the Criminal Code in order to “explicitly penalize those who neglect seniors under their care.” It is easy to put the blame on care providers, but they are grossly understaffed and underpaid. Yes we need higher standards, but that also means we also have to recognize that care providers need extensive training to bring them up to professional standards, and then we have to reward them with appropriate salaries that are in keeping with their level of training and commitment. In addition an appropriate ratio of client to care-provider needs to be established. For example, during meal times a ratio of two-to-one needs to be maintained for clients who are not able to feed themselves. When it comes to baths and toiletry, a similar ratio needs to be maintained.
In this province, in order to get good care, you need to be able to afford resort-like facilities, often costing upwards of five thousand dollars a month. If you don’t have the money, you do not get the care. Most are placed in care-for-profit homes where services are limited in order to increase the profit margin. This just isn’t right. Perhaps it is time to recognize everyone deserves the health spa treatment. We should consider that these homes are, for the most part, part of the medical system, and doctors and nurses need to be part of the medical services. Let’s remember that it is people like my brother, Vic, who built this country and they should be treated with the love and respect they deserve.