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LETTER: Seniors, health care and heartbreak

If you come to spend the day in the charming rustic village of Halls Harbour, N.S., Charles Skerry says you must stay until the sun goes down. The cloud layers and the still water made this evening sunset quite magical.
submitted photo

I write this article in memory of my mother, who recently passed away in long-term care, and I sincerely thank the Presentation Sisters in St. John’s for their kindness and support during the final weeks of Mother’s life. I truly value the blessing they were to me, and to Mom, at such a significant time.

During my mother’s years in a care facility, The Telegram has kindly printed letters I wrote to bring attention to notable issues regarding the quality of care provided for seniors in long-term care and retirement homes. This important matter requires our attention.

Benjamin Franklin once said that those things that hurt, also instruct. My observations of the poor quality of care in seniors’ facilities have bruised me and scarred me, prompting me to use my voice for those who are unable to do so for themselves.

Those of us who have had occasions to spend extended time with loved ones at retirement and long-term care facilities know that change is warranted.

There are valid concerns that need to be carefully assessed and resolved related to properly tending to the physical and emotional needs of the elderly. Issues, especially pertaining to the lack of meaningful interaction/stimulation for residents, require serious discussion and solutions.

I have also observed faulty perception on the part of staff and management — related to not truly appreciating and fulfilling the most crucial aspect of their jobs, in other words to “genuinely” treat those in their care as valued and dignified individuals. To my dismay, I observed staff who provided inadequate care being thanked by their manager for “doing a great job.” I concluded that the manager had to be oblivious to the staff’s indifference and disregard for residents, disregard that onlookers, unfortunately, observed.

Those of us who have had occasions to spend extended time with loved ones at retirement and long-term care facilities know that change is warranted. The elderly are essentially at the mercy of the staff’s degree of perception, sense of know-how, and mood on any given day — factors that can contribute to physical and emotional neglect.

We must acknowledge that not much progress has been made through the years in providing quality care to those confined to a care facility, and the matter continues to be in the spotlight. What is most shocking about this is that people are not shocked, because they have come to accept the lack of genuine care within care facilities as being part of the territory.

When elder care becomes more rooted in concern about profit (especially in privately operated facilities) than actually providing quality care, monetary gain becomes a priority above human(e) care; this is an insidious form of elder abuse that undermines the expected quality of care and human decency.

Caring for the elderly requires a genuine desire to care for elderly people — void of any business tactics and self-interests. Quality training, an excellent work ethic and personal suitability should be crucial requirements for all employees in any type of care facility.

Caring for the elderly requires a genuine desire to care for elderly people — void of any business tactics and self-interests.

In addition, family members need to be involved, keeping a close eye on loved ones. Some residents are neglected by family members, and the support of family members can not be underestimated.

Much work needs to be done to resolve issues pertaining to quality care for the elderly living in care facilities. Complaining, in and of itself, does not accomplish anything. We need to demand that our voices are heard by the appropriate officials and be proactive in creating a vision for something better than that which exists.

Renowned writer and educator Eckhart Tolle once said, “When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out and take a stand, you are into your power,” as has been clearly demonstrated throughout history by many movements, from the civil rights movement up to the #MeToo movement.

Let’s use our voices on behalf of one of our most vulnerable groups; let’s speak out for those who once were, those who are, and those who someday will be confined to a care facility. We, also, may reside in a care facility someday.

Insensitive, negligent treatment of the elderly who are helpless to fight for themselves should no longer be tolerated. It must stop. It definitely needs to stop.

Yvonne Lundrigan

North York, Ont.

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