RE: You love your parents, but will you care for them? Toronto Star Article
by Murray Waldman, Feb 12, 2008
Good question. I wonder: How far would we go to assist a parent? Is it dependent upon race and culture? I went all the way; moved 450 km, gave up a great job, left adult children behind, sold a beautiful home, and took a difficult job to live nearer to my parents. They, however, had to take a certain amount of responsibility to look after themselves.
Doctors, too, must be accountable to their patients for identifying a treatment plan that needs to become a palliative care plan. Information was with held regarding etiologies, morbidity factors, survival rates and consequences of medical treatment. They did not ensure that a very deaf woman, in the aftermath and shock of a cancer diagnosis, understood the information presented to her and the treatments she faced. My parents were exploited by a system that did not take the extended family into consideration and failed to determine appropriate treatment for ailing seniors.
My mother was in denial about her health issues. She had had cancerous lumps since 2002. She maintained a positive attitude with an unrealistic mindset. At age 75 she did not understand the system, the biopsychosocial or medical implications of her diagnosis. This impacted on the entire family.
My father’s brain tumour, which returned in 2006 after his 2003 surgery, eventually rendered him incompetent, incontinent and incapable of basic locomotion. He needed more health care than I could provide. I took early retirement to manage his health care and advocate for a man for whom the system fell down. Without a Patient Navigator, we were helpless to manage on our own. He required mechanical lifts, needed adult diapers, and he was unable to do Activities of Daily Living. I am appalled that this article suggests that white, Canadian citizen adult children fail their parents. I could not lift him. My husband tried one day, put his back out and has suffered from two slipped discs since, which has required physiotherapy ever since.
With neighbours enabling my parents transition from independent, self-directed individuals they facilitated their transition to total dependence. They became needy people. Each time they were discharged from the hospital, medical professionals asked if they had help at home or neighbours who could ease their transition back to health. No one understand that this was a slippery slope. Without the enabling behaviours they might have found a better place to live, realized their condition, sought professional help and a more supportive environment. They became totally dependent upon friends, family and neighbours to meet their needs. The health care system failed us as my parents managed, in denial, to continue to live in a small town wherein they could not get their mail, do their lawn, shovel snow, do groceries, or meet other needs. When my mother was dying at home no one gave me suggestions and support in finding respite care, hospice care, or any other supports that would help me help my mother. I ended up ‘retiring’ early, with a huge cut in pay, due to these needs. I am not the only daughter or daughter-in-law who has had to change her life for this reason. I would like to see the statistics that support this premise. It is a faulty one.
My parents did not want help from me, my mother prevented me from attending doctor’s appointment, including those with the oncologist and the surgeons. She did not hear well, misunderstand what she was hearing, and avoided allowing me to help her and share the burden of seeing health care in Ontario. Most of those who have a cancer diagnosis must be in shock. One cannot process all of the information.