I just got home from Williams Lake, my mother was admitted to a long term care facility this weekend and my sister and I went up to be there for this very difficult time. In Canada there is a shortage of long term care beds and so there is a waiting list,
so approx one year ago her name was put on a list for long term care. We thought it would be approx a 2 year wait for her to get in, and while we did not think the time was right when we applied, we felt that the time might well be right when 2 years came around.
I should also point out here that the waiting list are for the totally government sponsored beds. Someone with the funds can go into facility right away.
My father has been the primary caregiver for 4 years now, my mother had a stroke in Feb 2007, while having an angiogram. The angiogram was part of the work up for open heart surgery to replace her aortic valve. She went through 6 months of rehab and went home with a walker. We purchased a modular home that was set up for a person with handicaps, so that she could sit to work in the kitchen and we felt that she could be much more independent. In August of that year, the time came for her aortic valve surgery, and since she was getting very short of breath (due to Aortic stenosis) she decided that she still wanted to have the surgery. BUT.... a week before she was to have surgery she fell and broke her hip. She was flown to Victoria and both the hip surgery and the open heart surgery were performed within a few days of each other.
She did well after the heart surgery, but that she had had open heart surgery, she could not do the normal rehab that a hip fracture patient would undergo. (when the chest is split open with open heart surgery, the sternum takes a good 6 weeks to heal and you cannot put weight on your arms)
So she in essence ended up in wheelchair.
Last September my father admitted he was burning out from this, and we had a family meeting to find out how we could help and from this, she was started on a once a month week of respite care as well as twice weekly caregivers in the home to help with bathing. Then a few weeks her name came up, and we were in the position of either taking the bed, OR going back to the bottom of the list. (another possible 2 year wait)
So the decision was made to take the bed now.
My mother has some memory problems, but does seem to know what is going on right now and is seeming devastated and extremely sad. As one might expect, this has been an extremely difficult weekend for my family. We are all extremely sad to see her so sad.
In the two weeks or so of planning for this trip I have been trying to figure out a way to somehow make this all better. I have a certain amount of guilt for having been gone from Canada for so long, and only having seen my parents once a year or so. Now in coming back I wanted to try to make it up somehow and had hoped to be able to take her for periods of time to add to the respite and to make it easier for Dad to be able to care for her at home. BUT the bed came up before I was physically able to do any of that. So the decision now is not whether I can care for her for a week a month, but can I care for her full time?
We ARE hoping to break ground in building our home here in the next few weeks, and the plans we purchased we chose with the plan in mind that Mom would be coming for weeks at a time, so with mainfloor bedroom and wheelchair bathroom.
Ken and I spoke before I went up and have agreed that we CAN take her on full time with hiring care aids to look after her when I am working etc.
Although it is a very big step to take, I presented this plan to my family this weekend, and the consensus was to see how she does for the first few months. This will allow us time to get the house set up and ready for her. It is just breaking my heart though to know she is there and she does not want to be there, and when she asks, will I have to stay here forever?? I really do not know what to say.
I have told her about our house and that she is going to be coming for a visit and I guess we will start there.
This is clearly not something that every family has to deal with, as many people live out their lives without ever needing long term care. Several years ago my parents were visiting us in Bandon, and I took my father to the Wellness center to show him a bench I wanted him to copy for my yard. We had to go right through the Alzheimer's unit and my usual confident father was visibly terrified. He said on leaving to "shoot me if I ever get like this", implying he would never want to go into a place like this. I guess its just something most people hope to somehow bypass. I would say having worked on the other side of this issue for years that it is never easy and never straightforward.
I have to include another interesting tidbit I found out this weekend. I stayed the weekend at my parents house, I stayed in the van.
Looking for a book to read, I noticed a very plain book on the bookshelf titled “1906 fruit growers report”, which caught my interest.
Somewhere in reading about my mothers family a few years ago I read that my great grandfather, (my mothers paternal grandfather) has been commissioned by the BC government at the turn of the century to go into the Okanagan to determine the feasibility of growing fruit there.
(any Canadians reading this will know that the Okanagan has been one of the main areas that fruit has been grown in western Canada, but in more recent years, grapes.....)
I guess I was unsure of the validity of the statement until I started reading this book tonite. The book was essentially a meeting of the fruit growers of the "dominion of Canada", in Ottawa. He was a delegate from BC. There were several Canadian government officials who attended including the minister of agriculture, “the minister of Militia” and the governor general of Canada.
What is even more fascinating about this book is that a one of the primary objectives of this meeting was to address the “adulteration of foods”
There is a good deal of discussion of the impurities that were being added to the foods, such as preservatives, colour dyes and glucose. The minister of agriculture was essentially saying that we have preserved food without these substances for many years, safely why allow these substances now. (in 1906)
I have really only skimmed the book, but was extremely proud to read my great grandfathers comments. I guess I always knew that my love for gardening was so strong it MUST be genetic. I certainly will write more about it.
On my last CD the song I wrote, “with this seed” was actually about this, knowing my grandfather was a farmer, and my grandfather was a horticulturist.
jankenb @ gmail.com