Dear Abby or Dear Ann.
Do you remember these two women who were asked and answered so many questions over the years? They received many queries and they can still be found today online. I have not looked but am sure they can be found. I refer to them today because I wonder daily whether I should begin anew with a column that is called ‘Dear Cynthia, what do I do with my mother?’
I arrived recently to one of my many locations where I am in touch and work with the aging, only to find one of the fine folks was leaving the next day. The family had received notice there was a “bed” for her in long-term care and they had 24 hours to react. Yes, 24 hours. They had to accept or be dropped down the list. Is this common, you ask? Yes. So common. My opinion: This woman is not ready for long-term care and the guilt and regret of this move will haunt them all.
I cried for this person who was being uprooted and moved so quickly. I cried for the family as they must react through the shock and stress. I cried for me, because I would not be able to see her anymore. I cried.
So often, this is the scenario. Our system is so broken, with the older adults the pawns in a game that is so entrenched and mammoth, no one knows what to do. So, most bury their heads in the sand until the day comes to face it down, and may I tell you, it will come. Like death, these decisions must be made for you and your loved ones either by you or someone else.
This is not a hopeful column where I will end by saying, “Be positive! All will work out!” Because the only way it manifests is in tears. Tears for all concerned. Tears for children, grandchildren, spouses, nieces and nephews. Tears for anyone who is dealing with an aging adult in a system that is so overwhelmed and taxed, no one knows where to turn.
What I can say is there are ways to prepare. Like Lord Baden Powell taught the Boy Scouts of America in the founding days of 1908, when he published this motto in the handout, Scouting for Boys, I encourage you to be prepared with information, understanding and knowledge. It is a good practice regardless of what life hands you. The latest slogan is “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” Another good thought. However, it leans into waiting until you are handed the lemons to do something.
I cry for this woman, and the many like her whose families are forced to move her, react to a phone call. I cry for all those who are misunderstanding a system that has many pitfalls and challenges along the way. My journey has made it so I know much about navigating. However, there are no jobs with the title ‘managing the long-term care/retirement system in Ontario.’ I would happily apply.
With this said, I want to invite you to call out to me should you have questions or need some assistance, or if you want information or to better understand the Fixing Long-Term Care Act or the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority, which are two completely different sets of rules. I encourage you to look into the future of your parents or your aunts and uncles. More than that, look into your own future. “Freedom 55” was a slogan when I was growing up as people headed into the golden years. These dreams are just that — dreams. The only freedom you will witness in your later years, which will make them golden, is by knowing your options and taking back the right to choose.
Contact me if you have any questions.
Cynthia Breadner is a teacher, author, grief specialist and bereavement counsellor, a soul care worker, and offers specialized care in spiritually integrated therapies. She lives and works in the Bradford West Gwillimbury area as a long-term care chaplain assisting with end-of-life care for client and family. She is the mother part of the #DanCynAdventures duo and practises fitness, health and wellness. Her book, In Stillness: Short Stories from a Life Well Lived, is a compilation of her work and is available from Nancy’s Nifty Nook and Health Food Store downtown Bradford. She is available remotely by safe and secure video connections. If you have any questions, contact her today. [email protected] breakingstibah.com