Vernon Morning Star Boomer Talk columnist says while we must use caution while dealing with COVID-19, we must also take care of the mental health of those who must live either permanently or temporarily in our care. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal/AP file photo)

Vernon Morning Star Boomer Talk columnist says while we must use caution while dealing with COVID-19, we must also take care of the mental health of those who must live either permanently or temporarily in our care. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal/AP file photo)

BOOMER TALK: Long term care is around the corner

Columnist recounts mother’s stay in local medical facility amid pandemic

Now is the time for us to speak out, Boomers. Keep in mind as you read this, that all of this is exacerbated by COVID-19. Please also keep in mind I am not criticizing all those who work in this industry.

My 96-year-old mom was hospitalized and initially was put on the sixth floor of the new tower at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

After a few days, she was moved to the second floor (the old hospital area) and spent several days there, with the curtains pulled around her bed.

A four-bed ward with all the curtains pulled with no light getting in is depressing. She said solitary confinement in jail must feel like that.

I suspect this is due to the policy of placing men and women in the same room, where dignity and privacy is stripped away from patients at a most vulnerable time. This needs to be changed. (Sometimes going back is a forward move.)

As a result, patients keep the curtains pulled, locking them into an 8-by-8 space where there is no sunlight for days. The impact of this on patient’s mental health could be (and likely is) detrimental to their cognitive and physical well-being.

Then she was offered the opportunity to go into a short-term rehab situation.

Due to COVID, she was quarantined for five days in the facility. She was placed into a room with no TV, no radio, no newspaper allowed (COVID-19 rule). She jokingly referred to it as jail number two, only bigger, with windows.

Lack of social and mental stimulation for even the short period of time of two to three weeks can detrimentally impact a senior’s well-being.

Whether that stimulation comes by watching television, listening to the radio, or with a one-on-one conversation, being mentally stimulated can encourage the ability to navigate complex interpersonal situations, such as listening, processing information and adjusting to changing conditions. It perplexes me that those who work with seniors don’t seem to know this most basic information.

While we must use caution while we are living in the time of COVID, we must also take care of the mental health of those who must live either permanently or temporarily in our care.

I am somewhat loathed to share this information, as I do not want to be perceived as being negative or whiny.

But the reality is we all need to know about this so that we can work on changing it now.

There is a need for more staff.

When my mom pushed the bell for the washroom, the message was that she would have to wait, as they were extremely busy. So, my independent mom took herself to the loo and was told she was not allowed to do this due to the potential to fall.

Unfortunately, 96-year-old sphincter muscles are not as strong as they once were. Both staff and patients suffer in this situation. Staff, because most of them care about their patients, and patients, because it is embarrassing when the inevitable happens.

One grumpy person told her that if she did it again, she would have her walker and her wheelchair removed.

It was a cruel way to speak to a senior and one that should not be tolerated.

So please, if you have observed or experienced any situation that seems to be disrespectful toward anyone who is unable to advocate for themselves, please speak up. Write, email or phone the facility, Interior Health or B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix.

We all require respectful treatment. We must teach people how to treat us, letting them know that being spoken to with abruptness and rudeness is not acceptable.

Being kind to another human being when they are at their most vulnerable is very powerful and can change the energy of their day. When people feel better, they heal better.

“Kindness and respect is a gift everyone can afford to give.” – Anonymous

Carole Fawcett is a retired counsellor, freelance writer, humourist.

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