December 1, 2016, was the day my Dad passed away. This may seem like an odd commentary topic. However, it is one of the reasons why I decided to get involved in politics again. My Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the same time my Mother’s health began to deteriorate and the experience with the health system and the official opposition made a mockery of their plight in my opinion.
Mom was long diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and Dad was diagnosed with his cancer probably five years ago. Mom stayed at home until Dad was no longer capable. We managed to get Mom a respite stay at a long-term care (LTC) home in Saskatoon. I was working a term project in Saskatoon at the same time for a company I was working with at the time. About two weeks into the respite, while at work, I received a call from the LTC facility indicating my Mom was being sent by ambulance to a Saskatoon hospital. They wouldn't give me any more details. I rushed from work to the emergency department not really sure what to expect. The ambulance pulled up and when the door opened I saw my mother sitting there swearing at the ambulance personnel. I asked them what was wrong with her and the reply to that question horrified me. They couldn't handle her at the home. Yes, my mom was evicted.
Mom stayed at this hospital for about one month in December 2013. Dad would come to visit her every couple of days at first. As his pain became worse these visits became more infrequent. I began spending the night at the hospital to care for my mother. She was not getting fed nor changed. It was a terrible time for our family. My father technically needed my help more because he was still at home in Colonsay but here I was staying at the hospital caring for my mother where she was to get the appropriate supports but was not. In January of 2014 Mom was moved to the geriatric unit at Saskatoon City Hospital. There she received better care. Paradoxically it was also the place that caused more pain.
Mom spent another three months at City Hospital waiting for permanent placement. Her disease had manifested to verbal and physical outbursts against staff and family. It was here where I saw my Dad break down and cry for the first time in my life. There were staff members who refused to care for Mom because of the punches she threw during care. In the meantime, the disease or possibly the medication was making Mom drowsy much of the day and within a week she was essentially confined to a wheelchair. Our family had discussions with staff about her care but our concerns seemed to be falling on deaf ears. One staff member said to us if we ask for any medication changes to make Mom more alert, staff would refuse to care for her. I thought I'd raise these issues with the Health Authority, and the NDP opposition. Neither was of any assistance to us. It must be noted that when I brought all this to the attention of the
official opposition we were given sympathies but no assistance. A few short months later the NDP touted the great bologna caper. That was the issue surrounding the home in Regina that dared serve a resident bologna sandwich. Call me biased but what deserves greater attention between sandwich meats or poor care in LTC?! We were elated when Mom finally got a permanent placement at a Saskatoon LTC home in March of that year.
In writing this I am not seeking vengeance or retribution. I am seeking to better a system that has been neglected for too long by both NDP and liberal SaskParty governments. The thing that scares me the most is my parents' ordeal in this system may happen to others. I fear many of them may go unreported. This is simply no way to treat our seniors! These sort of stories aren't too NDP or too left; they are stories of human suffering going on in our communities. Many may not know that many seniors, just to afford LTC, must legally separate from their spouse to afford the services they require. LTC is income based. There must be a better way.
Have a Great Week!
Ken Grey Leader
Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan