Tonight we talked by Zoom – we sisters who have or had hostages in BC’s Long Term Care system in the Comox Valley.
Only some few of the multitudes, we in Crying Out Loud. We are sisters who met and bonded in the dementia ward at CVSV. There are many more – husbands, brothers, wives, sisters, sons and daughters and all the relations and friends – sorrowing and grieving, all over our valley, our island, our country, the world. No one is untouched. We are legion.
Another elder – an amazing woman who should be honoured, who herself contributed to advancing health care – has died. Her daughter croached between the shrubbery peering in the window to see her mom until they let her in.
Only allowed in to see and feel and touch your loved if they are dying.
That’s the outbbreak rule and the care home says it cheerfully, as if it was reassuring: “Of course if he is palliative we will let one member of your family come in each day.” Or maybe the priest, but then … not you.
Delivered as good news, but in reality breath-takingly gruesome and inhuman. You can only see them if they are dying.
Now more “residents” — that means our family members — are in peril and we all know what it means. Refusal to eat.
It’s the disease, yes, it progresses that way, the doctors say, but also, we know, depression from the isolation. No live music, no group games, seated 6 feet apart in the so-called lounge.
Oh no there’s – they say – no infection here, and the CVSV has been locked down for 48 days now. And they can’t even let dementia patients toss a balloon back and forth in a group? They laugh when they play that game, but No.
We have seen that depression/refusal to eat/ triggered during other outbreaks when we were locked out. Our loved ones do not know why they are locked away or where they are, or where we, who were their trusted guides, although they know not our names any more, have gone.
And we in our sorrow and pain only know there must be humane ways to deal with aging and dementia. These prisons for elders are disgustingly wrong.
There could be ways that allow pods to be small so staff know the people trusted to their care and the people know the staff and each other, and so infection does not sweep through vast wards. Ways that would allow us to be there, instead of clinically, mathematically, locked out during lockdowns. There could be loving ways.
I call them wards but the facility calls them wings. In reality they are cell blocks for those who have committed the crime of being sick and mostly old and mostly demented.
This is evil; this is wrong. And we will change it.
Truth is, long term care is health care. It is not a stay at the spa as the ads for the profit-driven companies pretend. No one goes into long term care for fun, but it does not have to be hell.
And no one lets their loves be put in this broken system, until they themselves are also broken. My sisters in sorrow and i are barely surviving. Only at the very end of our ability did we let our loves go.
Long term care must be brought under the Canada Health Act, funded, designed, and treated as the compassionate health care it should be.
We sisters in sorrow invite you to help us make the changes we need. Sign up for the email newsletter for Crying Out Loud, and all together we will make these changes.