Cruel and unusual

Ed Smith
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We talk about injustices in other parts of the world.

We also like to talk about the elderly as being among the most vulnerable of our population and how important it is to protect them from abuse of every kind.

Today, I heard about abuse perpetuated towards elderly people that makes my heart ache and my mental facilities, such as they are, go jumping about like hysterical atoms. This abuse doesn't come from scam artists or family members or the criminal class.

This abuse comes from our government.

While the specific department here is the Department of Health, that doesn't matter. Every MHA, every minister of the Crown and the premier herself, Ms. Dunderdale, must take responsibility for this. No point in blaming it on bureaucrats. They operate within government policies.

Neither is there anything to be gained by this government blaming governments of other days by claiming their policies were in effect before this crowd took office. That may be true, but to my knowledge, no one is standing up and crying that this particular policy must now be changed.

This morning, I heard of a couple who had been faring fairly well up to now, living in a seniors' cottage. She, in her late 80s, and he, in his early 90s, have been together for a very long time, and seem to have always been devoted to each other.

Not very long ago, she got out of bed and found that her legs weren't working very well. This wasn't a problem that could be medically resolved in the short run, so it was decided that she should go into the seniors' home. That time seems to have come for her, and that was probably the best solution to her problem.

The problem - and that seems to be a very small word to describe what it is - is that her husband is not allowed to enter the home with her.

Let me say at the beginning I do not fault the authorities at the seniors' home for this. They have no choice but to live within the policies set down by the powers that be. So, now I'll continue to castigate those I do hold responsible.

These are two people who have lived together for 60-odd years. Loved each other and grown to depend on each other emotionally, as well as physically. Laughed together, cried together. Shared life's tragedies, large and small, life's triumphs, large and small. Grew to be one in the only way that means anything when all is said and done.

And now, in the final years of their lives, when being together truly means being together, some uncaring, unfeeling and cold-beyond-belief policy, dictated by the government and administered by bureaucrats, has declared they should be apart when they need the comfort of each other most.

The marriage ceremony states that what God has joined together, no man should put asunder. Neither should any government or representatives of government. Again, all are responsible.

We have a pensioner's association in the province. I'll admit to not having been as active in that association as i might have been or perhaps should be.

Prior to the last election, they became quite active and very vocal about the need for the government to do something about pensions that haven't seen any increase in 20 years. There were meetings all over the province, and petitions were circulated and then forwarded to those seeking election.

Nothing wrong with that. To have people living on a fixed income for that length of time is cruel and unusual punishment. Punishment, because the government has refused to even discuss the subject with those most concerned - the pensioners. As far as I know, few of those elected ever brought up the issue in their meetings, and certainly not after winning.

I was pleased to be a small part of that initiative by the pensioner's association. But I would be totally delighted to be involved in efforts to eradicate this other abuse of our seniors. It is wrong and it is cruel, and I wish the organization that represents us more than any other group would go all out to try and bring government to task.

I know. Government representatives have refused to talk about such things with us. And MHAs as a group don't seem to be that concerned.

Even that stoutest defender of human rights generally, the NDP (and I don't mean to be sarcastic at all) has had little to say about it, at least in my hearing, but I'm told I'm getting hard of hearing in my old age.

So, where does Ms. Lorraine Michael and her party stand when it comes to separating husbands and wives in their "golden years"? I hear Ms. Michael speaking loud and eloquently about other issues concerning other segments of our population.

For that matter, where are the Liberals? I can't think of a better plank than this one when they're attempting to rebuild their political platform.

Where are the unions and their spokespersons whose members will eventually face one of the ultimate horrors of growing older? And where are people like me who supposedly have the ear of thousands of people?

Again, I know how the basic argument runs. Seniors' homes and the beds in them are now dedicated to specific levels of care. With the aging population challenge and its implications for health care, we can't afford to cater to all needs.

Not good enough, people! Tell me, what need is greater than the example I've just given? And that's happening over and over almost every day.

The problem is being exacerbated by the increase in our numbers, and soon it will be even more difficult to address this tragic injustice.

So now is the time for every one of us with the potential to be so affected to get up on our hind legs and howl.

I challenge each and every one of us to begin doing that - now!

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is


Organizations: Department of Health, NDP

Geographic location: Springdale

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