The last days of my mom’s life should not be spent in jail


On April 14, 2020, I wrote a letter to the Health Ministers in each province and the federal Health Minister and Mr. Trudeau. I am now reaching out again.

At the time families could not get in contact with their senior family members. Steps were taken to address this with video calls and other electronic applications. It did open the communication for some families but for other families, mine being one, it was not even close to satisfactory. My mother cannot hear us. I can look at her on a video-call, but she cannot hear us because of her hearing impairment. We are still unable to have any sort of interactive conversation.

The news is now that society is starting to open again. One of the big changes has been the opening of the hospitals to family. Families have learned how to safe guard and the Health officials and governments have acknowledged that family members are capable of taking all the precautions necessary to keep a family member safe.

Seniors have been lumped into an all encompassing group of ailing, sickly elders, not even being considered in the phases of reopening. Seniors, and I am one too, feel as though Health officials and governments think we have a disease. There is no consideration for healthy seniors. There is no consideration for the limited and valuable time seniors have to live. No one can tell me that there is no risk that my mother will die of old age while being held in confinement.

She is 96 years old. Covid-19 has been hard on my mother, as I know it is for many other seniors with the forced jail atmosphere. She needs minimal help and is fully capable of being in open society. There are no or few activities, no visiting, no library access, no exercise, scant minutes on the outside “prison” compound. Her care is wonderful, but her time is precious. The caregivers are not her family. This lock down is not going to go away, and our senior health officials need to mandate that seniors be allowed visitors, just as they have opened visits to hospital patients. Protocols can be in place for our compromised seniors, but all seniors are not compromised, they have no disease, they are old. There must be a protocol set for the majority who are all healthy. The only death most healthy seniors are facing is dying in a jail like atmosphere without their family.

I had mentioned in my first letter, that a room could be made available with protocols in place to protect the person and facility. In some facilities rules have started to be relaxed, but there is no consistency. An area outside at some residences are being made available for daily visits with a family member. Some can visit in the lobbies, some can go to the rooms. Family members are asked to wear masks and have no physical contact. This is working already in some lodges, and now it is believed that this can work for compromised people in a hospital setting, so it can certainly work at every senior’s center.

The chain of facilities that my mother is in, has created a policy of a ½ hour visit outside, with a staff person in attendance, once at week at a pre-set day and time that cannot be changed. My first visit was to be yesterday, after not having a visit for nearly 5 months. I made an appointment and we were finally going to visit in person. A phone call came 10 minutes before the appointment, cancelling it, as a short rain had gone over. At the time of my appointment, the rain had stopped. It was so quick and short that at the Dairy Queen where I was getting a sundae to take to the lodge, it wasn’t raining. The short rain started and stopped in the five minutes in getting to the lodge. I was told at 3:18 that my 3:30pm appointment had to be cancelled. The visit before me was cut short too. I had driven 56km one way to see her. Its absurd that we could not move inside the building or under an awning. We cannot change our visiting time so we are completely dependent on the weather. We must be there to visit on Mondays at 3:30 or we don’t visit. We drive to the lodge in hopes of a visit but as happened yesterday, the visit can be cancelled.

Common sense should guide the rules for the lodges. It is totally possible to have an inside area, especially since society is being opened again. Seniors should be able to interact inside and outside the lodge with each other and in special areas with their families. It is just so unreasonable and irrational that family members can go to a compromised person in a hospital but not be trusted to keep their senior safe in a lodge. It is absurd that a visit cannot happen under a roof. We don’t need a jail keeper with us. There is a receptionist in all facilities who is certainly capable of making sure distancing is observed. There is no need to take a staff member off the floor. The cost to having a guard for each visit is a ridiculous use of staffing.

The parameters of the virus are changing as researchers learn what, when and how the virus is being spread. It is now possible to be tested for Covid19, so family members can be tested. It is time for society to view a senior the same they do any other member of society. These restrictions are oppressive and unfair. Time will tell how many seniors lost the last of the days they had, in a prison of ill-advised, unrealistic rules. As I said in my first letter, there has to be a decision made based on life expectancy and compassion to help them live, which is more important than just keeping them alive. The last unknown amount of days of one’s life should not be spent in jail.

Cheryl M.