Today’s letters: We must better understand health needs of older people


Friday, March 1: It is evident that the implications of seemingly minor traumas on the elderly are inadequately understood, a reader notes. Join us today for an online conversation at: https://ottawacitizen.com/news/the-fall-live-chat

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Let’s learn more about seniors’ health

Re: How senior care failed my mother, Feb. 23.

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I echo the sentiments of Diane Éthier in her recent letter thanking reporter Elizabeth Payne for her outstanding story, “The Fall.” I wholeheartedly concur that it is a “must-read” for anyone with aging loved ones.

My own father passed away in similar circumstances in Arnprior, just three days after its publication. As I read “The Fall” on that Friday, my siblings, spouses and I were maintaining a 24-hour vigil at my father’s bedside. Though largely unresponsive, save for sporadic and often incomprehensible outbursts, he occasionally managed a few words to articulate his awareness of his dire condition, mirroring the poignant narratives shared by Payne and Éthier.

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In mid-December, my father, aged 89, was admitted to the hospital after a seemingly innocuous fall. What ensued was an alarming day-by-day decline in his mental faculties, rendering his discharge impossible. Despite a battery of tests, no viable treatment plan emerged. While not confined to bed at first, his dementia had progressed to a point where returning to the limited-care facility he once called home was no longer feasible. Consequently, he was put on a waiting list for a long-term care home.

One soon became available, but a diagnosis of a urinary tract infection necessitated a course of intravenous antibiotics. IV treatment care is not available at the long-term care home, so his transfer was delayed. The IV treatment was ineffective and his health worsened. He lapsed into unconsciousness. Just over a week later he died peacefully, two months after his initial hospitalization.

The care my father received was exemplary: professional, expert and caring. The staff were attentive and very sympathetic. I don’t know what more they could have done. Yet, it is evident that the implications of seemingly minor traumas on the elderly are inadequately understood.

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I suspect that these reported cases are merely the tip of the iceberg and the number will grow, with deadly effect on our elderly and aging loved ones. I sincerely hope that resources are being directed to understanding and treating these debilitating effects.

Phillip Perfitt, Arnprior

Better plans needed for senior care

My mother was in the Ottawa-run Peter D. Clark long-term care home after breaking one hip and then breaking her other hip at the facility. When it came time for her daily walk, she would often say no and the physiotherapists wouldn’t push it, so she very quickly lost her ability to walk at all, and of course the lack of movement caused other issues.

Often in these places, I began to realize, it is more about the convenience of employees than the well-being of the patient, especially once that person is in their 90s. I understand there are often staff shortages and most of these PSWs etc. work very hard. But as the writer pointed out, lack of movement for seniors leads to severe cascading of other problems. And as my generation of baby boomers ages, the system is going to be inundated tenfold — so let’s hope someone, somewhere is preparing for this.

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The sad reality is that most of these seniors are someone’s mom or dad or grandparent, and it’s very hard and frustrating and, most of all, a heartbreaking decline to watch. Elizabeth Payne wrote what many people in this city and province are going through. Get ready Ontario, the tsunami of elder care is coming.

Nancy Attfield, Ottawa

JOIN US LIVE

How can we improve health care for older adults? Join us for an online conversation today at noon with reporter Elizabeth Payne; Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health System; and Dr. Paul Hébert, palliative care physician at Bruyère Continuing Care, and professor of medicine at uOttawa. Go to: www.ottawcitizen.com

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