In my early 40’s as a single woman I had just started a new business when my very healthy, still working, 70 year old father received a life changing blow to the head. This not only changed his life but also mine. I was not thinking about my parents needing my care and attention when suddenly there I was, fighting for my Dad’s right to life; fighting for his rehabilitation. The acute care brain injury unit of the hospital was refusing to give him rehabilitation. They had several impersonal statistical reasons for refusing rehab but I knew he was a fighter with a strong will to live. I visited him daily for 6 months and aided him myself until he learned to walk again. After 9 tireless months of fighting for my father I convinced the hospital staff to remove the feeding tube they had inserted into his stomach. He lived on for another healthy 15 years and passed away suddenly at age 85. Seven years into caring for my dad, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
I was overwhelmed by the responsibility and effort it took to care for Dad so you can imagine how I felt when I had to care for Mom. I had to start the process of finding the right care for Mom and visited over 20 different care homes.
There are many organizations that are willing to help but they can only do so much. I wished I’d had someone who could take over the day-by-day management of Mom and Dad so that I could visit them without feeling overburdened. I was able to get three caregivers to tend to my mom daily from Vancouver Coastal Health. However the reality is that often it wouldn’t be the same caregivers and with mom’s fearful nature and progressive confusion she was often frightened and overwhelmed. Mom would refuse entry into her home which meant she wouldn’t get the medications she needed. Other times she would call the police which would trigger a call to me
Do you plan to grow old with grace and dignity?
Being frail or physically weak does not mean end of life. Although you may think it will never happen to you, our body wears out eventually making us frail and more susceptible to injury. Mentally you may be as sharp as you were at middle age and you may have 15 – 20 plus years left to live but you will have less energy for chores and it may get more difficult to care for yourself. This is when the issues of quality of life are most essential. The key is to plan in advance.
As a seniors’ advocate I am here to a) provide support, planning and guidance. And more importantly to uphold your values and needs and to avoid potential problems in housing, care and hospital discharge and to assist with daily life management b) I will assist in deciphering the roles and responsibilities of professionals as it relates to the individual c) help open lines of communications between clients, healthcare and other professionals.