Anglican Samizdat

December 13, 2009

John Frederick R. I. P.

Filed under: Care for the elderly — David Jenkins @ 9:23 pm

I have written before about the travails of my father-in-law in the nursing home where he was living. Since then, the care has improved dramatically and the staff has been kind and supportive.

John died last Friday at about 3:45 p.m. The week before, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered in his room to say goodbye, sing Christmas carols to him and pray. It has been difficult to see a once strong, vigorous man who helped bring up three children, was an artist, built houses and owned businesses, reduced to a helpless shell – a victim of dementia and crippling arthritis.

Of the people I have seen die, I have been struck in every case by a sense of wrongness in it; it was not what our Creator originally intended and, although he has redeemed us and removed death’s sting through Christ’s atoning sacrifice and resurrection, the feeling of wrongness remains.

John had been sinking slowly for a long time and during his last 24 hours would take 3 deep breaths and then not breathe for about a minute; at 3:45 p.m. on December 11th he took his last 3 breaths. Although it is a sad time, it is also a happy time since he was a Christian and is now free of the worn out body that was causing him so much pain; in the resurrection he will have a new body that will not wear out.

Many of us wondered why he lingered on so long; did God have a purpose that we could not see? I fancy John might not have been willing to give in to the wrongness of death – as Dylan Thomas put it, he was raging against the dying of the light:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


October 26, 2009

Northridge long-term care home and its lack of care

Filed under: Care for the elderly — David Jenkins @ 3:37 pm

I have chronicled the tribulations experienced by my father-in-law in an Oakville nursing home in an earlier post.

After the episodes I described there and numerous complaints, things seemed to improve – until last week when he was diagnosed with pneumonia.

The nursing supervisor – I’ll call her “Angela”, mainly because that’s her real name – informed us that John had not been taking his Tylenol to reduce his fever or his antibiotics to heal the pneumonia. The question and answer session then went something like this:

Us: Can you find some other way to give John his medicine – how about a suppository?

Angela: No we don’t do that – you would have to hire a private nurse. (when I asked if that was really the answer, Angela said “no” she was just “messing with our heads”).

Us: He has mouth sores – that is why he won’t drink. Can you wash his mouth with a salt solution?

Angela: we don’t do that.

Us: He looks dehydrated; can you put him on a drip to re-hydrate him?

Angela: we don’t have the staff to do that.

Us: This is a nursing home, isn’t it? What do you advise, should we call an ambulance and have him taken to hospital?

Angela: He’s a level 3: you have to decide.

Us: well can you phone the doctor on call so we can ask him?

Angela: No, I can only call the doctor if John is injured or if he falls out of bed [!]. He is quite comfortable; you can leave him until Monday if you like and the doctor can look at him then.

After a lot more arguing the doctor was called and he advised us to call an ambulance at once. The immediate reaction of the paramedics was disbelief that the nursing home hadn’t found some way to administer the medicine that John needed.

John has been in the hospital for a day and a night now and the doctor told us that he was severely dehydrated; I have a suspicion that, had we left him in the nursing home overnight, he would have been neglected and could have died from dehydration – which makes me wonder how many others have suffered this fate.

This is a photo of John taken before the ambulance arrived; he used to be fairly rotund  – here he looks more like a concentration camp survivor:

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Northridge is a Revera company which has as its banner headline, ‘Enhancing Lives’. Whose other than the shareholders, I wonder?

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