Author Archives: delores663

Lunch

Went to the care home to have lunch with my love today. He had just got up, which means he had missed breakfast but the new Director of Care has put a note on his care plan to stuff him when he is up and around.

So he was calm, a little sleepy still, but happy, smiling at me. Lunch was actually pretty good too and I was happy to help him navigate it.

At one point he looked away from me, not knowing me in the moment, and said contentedly, “yes she is a wonderful woman and a very good wife.”

Made my day!

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Worst Ever

I have sat through dozens and dozens of forest industry corporate exercises in persuading the community folks in the room that a)  they can’t afford to do better or b) they are going to do better tomorrow or c) they are great well-meaning people and it is all someone else’s fault. Meanwhile of course the chainsaws bite and the toxins flow.

We in the environmental field call it “Talk and log.”

Today at the mock Family Council at Comox Valley Seniors Village where my true love is entombed,  we got all of it full press.

We got the lovely delicacies. We got the excuses – not me, it was before I was in charge (but of course the Chinese corporation and Island Health were in charge whoever the faces in the minor management roles at the moment).

It is the government’s fault because they don’t pay us enough (said with sorrowful faces while they know they do not deliver the hours of care they ARE paid for, because how else can they make a profit?)

It is the union’s fault because they aren’t negotiating for pensions for the staff (I kid you not, and about then I got very nauseous.)

It is those lazy care aides, standing round doing nothing. Yep their fault. You bet, let’s blame the workers.

oh yeah it is you families, always phoning the nurses to find out how your beloveds are. You have to stop that because we’ve cut the shifts and they don’t have time to talk to you anymore.

The difference for me from the forest industry is now they hold my dear very ill darling captive, while the lies grind slow.

I went home and cried and cried. I have failed him, leaving him, in my desperation,  in the clutches of a company that will do anything for profit.

Then I took a very long shower  trying to wash off that “Family Council.”

It didn’t work.

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Ma!

He was snoozing in his lunch chair but the care aides were watching carefully and went with me to see him. He promptly stood up although he kept his eyes closed as we went to his room.

Occasionally he would stop and say insistently, Ma… Maah… I was confused but he looked awfully pleased with himself.

Oh! said one of the aides. He had the doll all morning. All was explained, We cracked up, and he grinned.

Never one to let go of a good thing, he happily stretched out in bed to a chorus of Ma, but as that clearly got less and less response, he began to snore.

He snored loudly as the nurse came in to give him his pain med and we fussed around,  until she said, clearly, Don, I have some pudding for you.

Lo and behold the sleeper woke, to another round of laughter.

Well, that had worked so well he lay back down and continued snoring, an eye cracking open and a smile curving his mouth from time to time. Sometimes we got Ma! again and I would pat him in that ancient rhythm we use with babes to soothe them.

Eventually the snoring took over for real and I tiptoed out.

Can’t communicate? I think he did a great job, happily keeping us laughing and keeping our attention. Because he was with people – staff and family – who knew and liked him,  and understood the pantomime.

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How are you?

He is sitting at the lunch table when I get there, having planned to check out the food (which was pretty good).

“Hi, how are you?” I ask.

He slowly turns to look at me, blankly. I repeat, slower, “how are you?”

“Donald Malcolm. I was Donald Malcolm.”

A long pause and a few stammers.

“I … will be Donald Malcolm, after I get through this.”

So we ate lunch.

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Dreams

As long as I remember, I have had a lot of dreams about buildings and cities.

Not too long ago in a dream I reclaimed the slum housing mansion I had been dreaming about for decades (that one downtown with tiny apartments created out of half a floor, where you had to crawl through passages to find your room, in case you share this dream and recognize that building.)

So that house got reno’ed and I moved into an apartment happily, delighted to recognize the old building. Sometimes I spend dream time in happy amazement, chuckling and checking out the floor plans and how it used to be.

However the bigger issues remain, so many nights.

Getting lost in cities, unable to figure out how the trains and buses work, – unable to figure out how to remember – because I have been to these streets and buildings, … universities, hotels,  museums, monuments, churches,  bridges, certain city blocks, and restaurants, hippy streets and government streets, uphill, downhill … so many times I just need to remember how to go.

But I can’t, so there I am, stuck in my dream, walking and walking, trying to find my directions, past places  I am interested in and do like, but  I have already seen them in so many other dreams.

Usually I have a back pack, and as I walk my back hurts and I am getting quite exhausted.

And then finally I find the cab stand, the train, or the subway entrance and the bus that gets me home. (There’s always a bunch of complicated stuff with tickets and transfers and escalators, but I don’t need to bore any of us with that again!)

I have just realised that where I am usually trying to get to is our old family home in downtown Ottawa. When I was about 8 we moved, and things went a bit sideways for me for many many years. No wonder I have trouble finding that place.

But last night, for the first time that I recall, I lost Don in my journey. Actually he isn’t usually with me at all, but lately he has been hovering around the edges of the plot.

As we walked down the same old interesting street together, looking in windows and enjoying some time together,  he wandered off. I wasn’t surprised because we were interested in different things.

But he never showed up, not at the cool cafe with a patio  – ok I admit it was the kind of place I liked and he really didn’t, so I wasn’t surprised. But the kids on the corner hadn’t seen him, and he would surely have stopped to talk and donate to them.

And there i was walking up and down all those familiar dream streets, looking and looking and looking for him.

Eventually after many rooms and strange passages i found him, but he was battered and semi-comitose.

He didn’t want to wake up and talk to me. He had obviously been tucked into a cot by paramedics, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t read their notes to get a prognosis, The words were all tiny and broken and jumbled, just – come to think of it – like his words in real life, now in the care home.

So in fear and frustration, I woke up.

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85

just a note for those who know us, it was Don’s 85th birthday today. I brought chocolate cake and the whole ward got chocolatey. He was uncomprehending but pleased with all the attention. Apparently he had had the traditional cheesecake birthday celebration at lunch too. Another day with a happy guy, talking a mile a minute, making arrangements for mystery projects, but smiling and laughing to warm one’s heart.

 

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Riding too many horses

Once again I find myself emotionally strung out and numb. I figure I have too much going on.

There is my “day job,” my life’s work of nurturing, and editing our magazine as it slowly grows to maturity.

There is the advocacy I want to do on health needs in the Valley and beyond.

There are the tiny raised beds I want to spend the summer in communion with.

And most troubling of all, there is my perpetual work as a caregiver  trying to guard my love in his few last years from the outrageous fortunes of living in a for-profit care home.

Just as we – a group of family from the dementia ward – thought we had got action from Island Health and the corporation on its neglect during a norovirus outbreak, just as a new manager was rolling up his sleeves to deal with a backlog of inaction, just as a new Director of Care was hired to address the multitude of issues which arise when staff are left to cope by themselves for 8 months, just as we all, family and staff, were looking to better days, Head Office blunders in.

They announce with no discussion or consultation with anyone local, that all staff must re-apply for a new schedule, one which supposedly provides more full time jobs. The staff, who have lives and need their personal balance, are focussed on the fewer weekends. Several have just quit.

Worse, corporate headquarters  announces a 5-week rotation from ward to ward, which for dementia care is… well, insane, and a prescription for disaster: falls, fights, resistance and over-medication, because it takes time for care staff to know each person and how to deflect with respect (because the residents may be demented but they are very intuitive), and talent, and rare incredible skill to work well with the demented.

That is why sometimes when confronted with my love in full sundowning flight, I flee! Sometimes I stagger home and go to bed for a few hours.

Tonight another wife who is a friend was there  which was comfort because the ward was all over the place. Noisy, everyone telling tales in their own crippled communication … it really was bedlam.

Fortunately the staff on tonight were seasoned and skilled. They projected calm enjoyment as they paid quick attention to each person, using different attitudes and language with each one. Not bad when you have 8 people each to care for.

These are the frontline workers we should honour.

They make my many horses seem a pleasure.

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