Today I was reading the reports of what the military is finding in Ontario long term care homes and I am thinking of my mother. Reading about the conditions in long term care homes, I am glad that my mother, who passed away seven years ago, never lived through such terrible circumstances. It is wrong that the lives our seniors live in their last homes is so degrading that I am relieved to know that my mother died before this could happen.

So, to be more accurate, I am thinking of everyone I know who is reading that report from the military, thinking of their mother in a long term care home, worried sick about whether they are living in cockroach-infested rooms, being force fed and frightened to see a caregiver arriving in the morning for fear of being hurt.

When my mother was alive, she would regularly visit my great aunt who lived in long term care on Sundays and Wednesdays. She would also go out on a whim to see her, occasionally changing her plans. Sometimes it wouldn’t seem like good weather for my mother to drive in, or perhaps she was not expected. When we would ask her about this unusual behaviour, she would say, ”I’m going to make sure she’s being fed.” We knew that she had no difficulty telling the Manager about every concern that she had regarding my aunt’s care, and she always insisted that she was not overblowing things. She insisted that it was important for families to be present and available and to watch over their loved ones. My mother was like a Mother Bear when she was looking out for others, a strong advocate, but I remember thinking that she was overanxious about what might happen.

When my mother went into a long term care home herself, she would remind me to not always let the staff know when I was coming. It was a home that suited her well and she loved her little studio. She would insist that she knew people who were living in terrible conditions and that “it could happen anywhere.” When I would say, incredulously,” So you think they might forget to give you a bath?” she would answer, “You never know when I might start to go senile and then I wouldn’t know, would I?” My mother was sharper than most of her caregivers – If you played two hands of euchre with her, you would know this beyond a shadow of a doubt. I always did as she asked, however, and I never saw anything to concern me in my mother’s home.

My mother would have believed that there was never anything to worry about because I was there, unexpectedly at times, and I would have noticed.

This report unfortunately shows that my Mom was right – again!

Here is the other heartache: how much worse have these residences become since there have been no families going in to visit?

(This is my Mom, her mouth set in that determined way. I miss her so much – and I am glad she never lived through the horrors we are learning about.)

4 thoughts on “My COVID-19 Journal – Day 71

  1. Katherine says:

    I too am glad that my mother is gone and won’t have to experience these conditions. I did witness neglect when she was in the hospital and her meal was placed beside her with no help unless one of us came in to feed here. Long term care homes are a scandal and we must fight to see the system transformed.

    1. drgailbeck says:

      You’re right, Katherine! This is the time to change all these things.

  2. Magdalena Kuhn says:

    Thank you Dr. Beck for your regular thoughts. I am 72 year old retired physician with history of being a family physician, emergency doc, and finally microbiologist with work in infectious diseases and infection control. Did many, many house calls and “nursing home visits” when it was still part of my practice. Dreaded the day that it may be a future for me as well in spite of seeing many well run and pleasant places. Here is a suggestion for required reading for medical students and residents. “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” by American surgeon Atul Gawande, 2014. M. Kuhn

    1. drgailbeck says:

      Thank you Dr. Kuhn for reading my blog and for taking the time to comment and give a book suggestion. I loved this book myself! All the best to you.

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