I have great belief in what I call the “back of my head.” Often when I thought i was struggling with a life decision, on looking back I realise steps taken, which prepared the way,  reveal the “back of my head” already knew what I was going to wake one morning and suddenly decide.

In my 30s I started running  a fever every evening from  8 PM to 8.30. I am not one for doctoring – had way too much of that as a helpless kid – so usually I would never run to the doc. But this symptom was so specific I figured there might be a clear cut answer, so off I went.

She looked perplexed and to my disappointment said, no, I know of nothing that would cause that. She ordered some tests and looked up and asked  when did you last have a pap test? Of course, the answer was basically never, and before I knew it I was flipped on my back getting The Procedure.

Well one thing led to another, the cancer shute I call it, each test more grave, and finally,  with some drama, much meditation and self-examination in face of potential death, along with a serious hemorrhage along the way, I wound up cured.

And wiser, with a deep belief that the back of my head was looking after me.

I saw another doctor listen too, when, as she was about to treat me for a dislocated shoulder, she looked into my eyes, stopped, and sent me instead on the 2 hour journey to hospital for an xray. The ache from the now healed break in my upper arm reminds me of that moment, and I am thankful.

And last week i was visiting Don as he lay in bed at 2 PM. “Oh,”he said, looking at my silvered hair, “Your wings are beautiful.”

He eventually got up, driven by hunger. While he gobbled lunch, I picked up a tough bit he had spit out. Usually I don’t worry much about hygiene between us, focusing on sterilizing my hands on the way in and the way out of the ward. But this time something niggled, and I went to wash my hands that extra time.

The next day the facility went into “lock down” as Don and most of the residents, and the long-suffering staff, struggled with a wave of norovirus.

I am so far fine, and more convinced than ever that the whispering intuition at the back of my head knows way more than the babbling I.

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Videos for dementia caregivers

Supported by the Victoria Hospitals Foundation and produced by Island Health, this series of videos for dementia caregivers covers a range of topics to help those caring for a loved one living with dementia. Extensive and useful. Video series

It is of course all so you can keep your loved one at home, which is pretty much necessary since there is little relief in sight on the residential care bed front. Still, I could have used these vids during the long and lonely years….

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New beds old games

So the politicians came today, all shiny and smiley in their new suits, to announce 150 “new” long term care beds for the Comox Valley. Many of us wept at home afterwards, because the big contract went to yet another for profit elder care home chain,  “a good company,” enthused Minister Dix, who is not so great an actor as he thinks.

This in a valley where one care home is already under the control of the Chinese government due to events stemming from the corporate necessity to maximize profits. The board of directors of any company is not legally allowed to do otherwise, no matter how “good.”

Even more depressing, the Minister insisted these were “new beds” blithely and happily ignoring the fact that most of those beds, when built in 2 or 3 years, will be swiftly filled by the overflow waiting in the new acute care hospital, which has been overfilled since it opened.  It is planning disaster but no accountability in sight.

“I was in Abbotsford yesterday,” he gushed, “and their  hospital was at 120% capacity.” Not exactly sure how that does anything except reinforce the need for more long term care everywhere, but he seemed to think that changed the subject.


(Someone should do an audit on the plain old financial cost of all this nonsense, never mind the lost years, the lost lives of all this neglect and health care chaos. It must add up to hundreds of millions which could have given us the care we need.)

Another 30 of the 150 exciting new beds in the Comox Valley are basically  a book keeping move, because they already exist as “temporary” beds and are full.

It is all such a stupid old game, sweep into town like a feudal lord and announce great news – hey you get an extra ration on alternate fridays! smile for the camera you ingrates – which barely stanches the bleeding social wounds, and then denounce realists as those who just always reject good news.

Tonight I am sad and exhausted. And so tired. Tired of dealing with the lack of adequate care management at the foreign-owned care home in the Comox Valley. The licensing officer receives complaints almost every week – not from me – and nothing happens, nothing changes.

Tired of the struggle to save others from this dreadful waste of the last years of their lives on this sweet earth. Tired of looking for a drop of truth or sincerity in this pathetic democracy.

It is just a shell game and our lives as we work, and worse as we age, are the pawns to be conned and then thrown away.

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Since around December 22 or earlier he has been sleeping up to 20 hours a day. Not too long ago.he had a pattern of taking long sleeps about every 10 days or so for a couple of days but lately it has been everyday. Kind of strange, concerning.

Sometimes he is just lieing in bed, snoozing with his eyes part open part rolled up (very creepy looking), talking and hallucinating away amiably.

“Are you hungry?”

“oh yes very hungry”

“Then let’s get up and get lunch.”


Stalemate. No one seems to.understand this situation. The care aides say, ask the nurse

The nurses are asking the doctor.

In the meantime I am.preparing to spend a lot more time with him in his room, if that is where  he wants to be.



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Sleep sleep

Today like a few days ago he slept all night and until at least 2 this afternoon. He fluttered his eyes and muttered at me but said emphatically that he was not hungry. I stayed a few minutes and opened the curtains… but he remained safely ensconced in his sleep.

I left, and as soon as I was able to be alone, spent an hour or two grieving… for he is surely leaving. On his own time, in his own way, as it should be — but oh! it hurts.

Why? I miss him as he used to be when we tore around the back country, eating trout and having great adventures.

I miss his arms around me as he pretended to be brave ( oh yes I knew but it didn”t change the comfort). I miss his endless confidence in me, even as he tore up and down the cabin swearing because I had disappointed him in some incomprehensible-to-me way.

I grieve the man I have only truly come to know as he has been stripped of mindful abilities. This man is the one I wish I had always known, both of us with no more bluster, no pretences, artifice exhausted, just us alone with bare and raw souls.

Oh over the years and multitude of angst-filled fights, we got a lot of the way there, which is surely the object of every human interaction. I remember how when we met I began to believe the reason for sex was that we in our god-like existence had to learn to love the Other. And sex ( just the icing on the cake he said once when I was ill) was the learning tool…to help us.

And now he is happily and peacefully sleeping away. The timing, weeks, month, years, is up to him.

My gift now must be to let him go. And I think he will know if I am not ready. But he is so tired now he sleeps and sleeps.

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“Oh that is boodiful,” he says stammering but fervently, on hearing certain music or touching colours and fabrics, or, once in awhile, touching my face.

Sometimes he stops in the middle of our time together, when he has been trusting me and responding, and asks, ” But who are you?”

And we have another moment of joy or grace.

I know his judgment when more able-minded, on seeing himself now would be that he should not be living this. “Take me out behind the barn and shoot me,”  he said when confronted with evidence of the devastation that this disease would bring.

But now, he is mostly happy, especially since now they let him lie in bed as long as he wants. When he does get up, mostly driven by hunger, sometimes coaxed by a caregiver (one does this trick of waving a banana under his nose!), he needs a good wash and a change of clothes, and then he is ready to eat and dance and explore a new world.

And appreciate the boodiful.





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The Penny Drops

A couple of days later, he was safely tucked on the couch with a blanket, snoozing after lunch, almost as I had left him, so that is good.

But there is a back story behind this Saga of the Falls in the Dining Room which I have written about repeatedly lately  , along with the issue of whether being strapped in a wheelchair was a good solution. I woke up at 5 this am, thinking, Oh! That’s bizarre.

But where to start?

Perhaps where I left off yesterday. The truth sometimes requires a look at details.

Don had been at lunch, which is served from 12 to 12.30 at the latest. Usually 12.20. When I got there at 1.45, he was sitting sadly alone in the dining area, scraping away at his empty meal plate.

What I realised this morning was, that to help him up, I had a bit of a tough time to push and pull the table and his chair apart so he could stand.  Then he was afraid to go into the lounge area, saying “I’m not allowed in there.” And when he got to the couch, promptly fell asleep, even snoring.

This is a for-profit care home contracted by Island Health to look after our elderly and ailing. The chain, Retirement Concepts, was bought by Anbang, a Chinese investment company, in a sale approved by the federal govt.

The assets of Anbang are now administered by the Chinese government while its chairman lingers in prison for fraud. Billions in assets are for sale.

This particular care home, Comox Valley Seniors Village, has been running without a Director of Care for 2 months and without a General Manager for many more. There is no visible management on the site to hear concerns.

I have talked repeatedly to the LPNs and the occasional RN who are supervising the care aides. Apparently residents in this Special Care ward are not supposed to be left alone when eating, for obvious reasons. And I have asked again and again that he be offered the option of a nap after lunch if he was up early in the morning. My concerns were documented and sent to management (or somewhere?) according to the nursing staff.

The care aides on that day were 2 casuals and one regular.

The rest of the penny dropped this morning, when I remembered one of the care aides mentioning that Don had been up and wandering away during lunch. (Mealtimes in this ward can be hilarious: just as staff get one resident seated, another wanders off.)

Probably not so funny for care aides who deal with this constantly.

So someone pushed the chair and table so tightly together that wandering off was impossible. And then he was left there in the empty room for well over an hour after the meal was over.

Unauthorized use of restraint? Sure seems like it to me.

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