Covid-19 weekly update as of July 6th, 2020

At Memory Lane Home Living we believe that the word for "crisis" is composed of two characters that can be translated to "danger" and respectively "opportunity." Perhaps this is because one recognizes that one has to walk through the challenging times to get to the other side.

Goodness yes, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone. At Memory Lane, looking back on these past 4 months since March 15th when the Canadian government set the standard of dealing with this pandemic, we see the experiences of these past months as an opportunity to ignite change for our vulnerable sectors. It seems that the world is not unable to ignore residents, staff, and families/friends who rely on care facilities. A focus on mental health challenges that are associated with social isolation in retirement homes and long-term care settings has also put a spotlight on inequalities in our social and health care systems.

On the positive side, opportunities have been created and we see that people are more willing to look at new concepts and ideas to make changes. The Saturday Toronto Star’s (July 4th, 2020) front page heading reads, “Shelter from the Storm: The Great Revision”. The article is about introducing the idea of new models of living space; this includes co-living spaces with aspects of living similar to the model that Memory Lane Home Living has been promoting for a few years. Research on this type of supportive living arrangement illustrates the benefits of connection, community, and purpose; this research also suggests the value of co-living far outweighs living alone or living in a large, institutional setting. As we move forward in this post-Covid world, opportunities for transforming care and housing for older adults in the community are more than ever on the agenda and we at Memory Lane are looking to help lead the way. 

Mona

Covid-19 weekly update as of June 29th, 2020

During the past fourteen weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have read many viewpoints and listened to incredibly painful CBC interviews on problems in our long-term care (LTC) sector. André Picard, award-winning health columnist for the Globe and Mail, published some sobering statistics on June 16th, 2020 in his article called, “In the stay-at-home era, why have we so sorely neglected home care?” The “dollars and cents” of health care are as follows: $64 billion is Ontario’s annual health care budget; $3 billion is dedicated to home care; and $4.3 billion to long-term care. Picard goes on to share that there are fewer than 100,000 residents in LTC, while more than 700,000 who benefit from home care services. There is something wrong with this picture. Perhaps the pandemic has shined a spotlight on how little value we get out of LTC per person based on the amount of government and family funding it costs to operate LTC. 

Memory Lane offers home care in a home that is cost effective. An even greater consideration than cost, however, is that our model of care, based on the hugely successful German model, Friends of the Elderly, inspires families and their loved ones living with dementia by its resident-focused and cooperative nature. In the words of the poet, Joseph Addison (1600), “The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, someone to love and something to hope for.

Mona

Covid-19 weekly update as of June 22nd, 2020

A learning experience

In the weeks leading up to the 'opening' of Ontario, we at Memory Lane Home Living continue to look at this Covid-19 experience as a lesson of gratitude, as it may finally bring changes in our long-term care and perhaps our health care system in general. We all need an adjustment from time to time!

On a lighter note, I read something the other day. It said that during the pandemic you either “get fit, get fat, get pregnant or get a dog.” In my experience most of us, including our caregivers and loved ones have gotten fit! 

We usually meet once a week virtually on Zoom for a check-in and to participate in a game’s night. I hear and see that our people have used this time to get out, go walking and have taken the time to eat well.

It is inspiring to see the changes and determination of those on the dementia journey, even when other challenges are placed on them. Maybe we, in turn, can learn something from those walking on the journey of dementia.

Mona

Covid-19 weekly update as of June 15th, 2020

This week MLHL chooses to focus on the politics of COVID-19, which can be a dangerous topic to challenge and express our opinion. In the Globe and Mail Editorial on Friday June 12, 2020 entitled “Canada is still flying blind on COVID-19”, the editor explores Canada’s limited approach on testing and contact tracing. The government is currently interested in investing the majority of COVID-19 relief funds on supporting Canadians who have been laid off; however of the $8 billion, the government is not willing to spend $8 million to research COVID-19 antibodies. Some are criticizing the government for this decision because this data, based upon a sample of 100,000 people, could give Canadians a more accurate picture of how many people have been infected and get a more accurate rate of infection. The government is only willing to sample 10,000 Canadians which researchers say is not big enough to paint an accurate picture. A question the general public might ask “what is $8 million in the grand scheme of spending $8 billion?” Ontario and Quebec account for 90% of Canada’s infection and deaths resulting from COVID-19. We would encourage these premiers to pursue this research with the federal government even if it means contributing some of the funding from these two provinces to support this cause. Could this approach be an indicator that the Ontario Government is short term and politically focused on reopening Ontario rather than considering a long term, proactive measure that might help in preventing future closures? We believe that if Doug Ford pursues this item for the benefit of Ontario, it might send a strong message to the people of Ontario  that our premier truly does want to fix our broken system, including long term care. 

Mona

Covid-19 weekly update as of June 8th, 2020

Cohorting the elderly in large, institutional settings may appear practical but is unnatural and, as we’ve learned from the new virus, dangerous. After all, the greatest number of Covid-19 deaths in Ontario have taken place in long-term care homes.

We at Memory Lane Home Living Inc. believe that smaller is better for a variety of reasons.

  • Social - Spirit—five residents can get to know each other and form bonds of friendship. This is impossible in a long-term care setting.
  • Economically—shared costs means lowered cost and a quality of life that is incomparable to retirement homes and long-term care homes.
  • Naturally—our home is located steps away from nature, a boon for body, mind, and spirit.
  • Mind - Body—with in-house programs such as Music, Motion and Memories, residents are sure to be both mentally and physically engaged and stimulated.
  • Family—an integral part of the experience, family members are “hands on” in making decisions that affect the wellbeing of their loved ones.

Perhaps Covid-19 is the catalyst that will cause us to, as a society, reconsider our approach to caregiving. Perhaps this is the moment to “birth” a co-residing model of care that has already been hugely successful in Germany—Friends of the Elderly—right here at home in Ontario.

Luba Rascheff, MDiv

Covid-19 weekly update as of June 1st, 2020

Give thanks to our Military

The Covid-19 pandemic has cast a “healing spotlight” on Long-Term Care (LTC), a broken system that needs to be fixed.

My mother—whose experience inspired me to found Memory Lane Home Living—passed away in May of 2016. She resided in Long-Term Care, after suffering a stroke and being diagnosed with dementia. I filed a complaint with the Long-Term Care home where she lived one month before she died. I was shocked and appalled at the deceit and misinformation that continued with staff and management each day in this Long-Term Care home. Unfortunately, people living with dementia are at the mercy of the staff, both good and bad.

I had worked in long-term care in the late 70’s while attending university and felt that it was a very caring government institution, at that time. I became frustrated and angry at what I experienced in long-term care almost 40 years later.

The LTC home responded to my complaint  in July 2017, almost 14 months later. By then, my mom had died. I asked them What took you so long to respond to my complaint? I was advised that they received so many complaints that they could not keep up. They had just hired 50 new employees to handle the sheer volume of complaints. I was taken aback by this rationale. It seemed like there was no thought  put into this answer. At the time I thought, Why not fix the system instead?

This past week, the  military exposed the shocking conditions they witnessed while providing support to Long-Term Care homes in Ontario and Quebec. This news has struck our country like a thunderbolt. I am grateful for the story being exposed. There is healing in knowing that the military has helped to shed light on what many family members, staff, researchers, and others have experienced, helping to provide a moral compass to honor our seniors which, for whatever reason, no one else was able to do until now.

God bless our military!

Mona

Covid-19 weekly update as of May 25th, 2020

 

Sometimes I wonder how accidental Covid-19 was. The expression “walk a mile in my shoes” comes to mind. Since we have been limited in our interactions with people (physical distancing), going places (essential travel only), and accessing goods and services because of the pandemic, I wonder if anyone else has seen the parallel journey that we are making to those living in seniors’ homes.

Not going to work, getting out to visit, doing some shopping, and feeling bored with being at home all the time can be challenging for many. Have we given thought to this experience as being similar to seniors who live day in and day out in a Long Term Care Home or in Alternative Living in a Retirement Home—and who have been living this way well before the pandemic? Is it  possible that they, too, feel stifled by not getting out to visit others, shop a bit, or have some purpose where they live? Most of our parents were products of the Great Depression and appreciate the simple things in life like family, friends, and a purpose in managing their homes, and maybe even gardening.

This weekend, Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star published some statistics from a survey taken by  Earnscliffe Insights. Of the 2,000 individuals surveyed, 75% support stricter health measures in the workplace. I assume that they  are referring to Long Term Care and Retirement Homes where 73% of all Covid-19 deaths have occurred. I challenge people to question stricter health measures. Instead, I would like to see all seniors’ homes have Family Members be part of their Boards of Directors to help guide these homes, and our provincial health care. Had families been as vocal as they are now in the homes their parents are living in before the coronavirus pandemic, we might have avoided the high death rate. I wonder if it is time for families to have representation in the running of these homes.

Memory Lane Home Living Inc. honors this initiative as we manage a cooperative housing model that puts the voice of the family first. Who better to provide input than family members who know their loved ones best?

Mona

Covid-19 weekly update as of May 18th, 2020

 
The Gift of Covid-19 to our Family

My husband and I are from a small town in Manitoba. My husband’s 93-year-old mother-in-law and siblings are still there. Prior to March 15 when the lock-down in Manitoba started, my mother-in-law underwent a procedure that left her feeling unwell. The family felt that she could not go back to her Retirement Home where she resided in Independent Living. My brother-in-law and his wife agreed to have her stay with them while she was recovering for the next few days. What happened after that was short of a miracle. As she continued to recover, they began to notice that she was not herself. The family soon realized that she might be taking too much medication and it was causing her confusion. They began to adjust her medication under a doctor’s supervision and over the next two weeks her confusion diminished. She became more involved with helping prepare meals and perform general household duties like sweeping a floor and folding laundry. It is now seven weeks and she is still at their house. My mother-in-law is much more engaged in life, energetic and happy. 

André Picard, writer for the Globe and Mail, wrote an article  on April 2, 2020 called “If you can get your relatives out of seniors’ homes, try to do so as fast as you can.” The article encourages families to consider taking their loved ones out of LTC and Retirement Homes during the pandemic. Our initial goal was to help my mother-in-law recover and keep her safe from Covid-19. The real miracle however was the opportunity to see that she is much happier and living a fuller life when supported by family members nearby. We are blessed to have witnessed this miracle!

Mona

Covid-19 weekly update as of May 11th, 2020

The medical reasons for social/physical distancing are understandable in the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, for those of us who have familiarity with daily life in long-term care, the social-psychological implications to residents, families/friends, and staff of enforced isolation are a related, significant cause for concern. What is already a challenging environment in relation to keeping an older adult socially connected and participating in the broader community has been made harder in ways that as a society we have not imagined. Evidence of gestures to reach out and connect with parents, grandparents, aunts, cousins and friends are seen across this country, aided by digital technologies and inventive face-to-face visits, through protective windows and sliding doors. In daily news updates on COVID-19, the brutality of current restrictions has become glaring; it is increasingly hard to witness images of older adults being separated from loved ones, even as we appreciate the medical necessity. While we understand the gravity of public health and the need to protect the most vulnerable members of society and those who provide care, we also need to strive to create safe and welcoming spaces that balance safety, risk, and the right for social connection.

Going forward, co-housing might well be a leader in the quest to design and support housing and care approaches for older adults who would like the option to age in place. This objective is driven by the desire to remain socially connected, a desire we recognize to be shared by a growing proportion of the older Canadian population. Although the definitions of co-housing vary in gerontological literature and practice, models tend to share a commitment to scale and philosophy that will allow for flexibility, continued community involvement, and social innovations that will be vital to changing the nature of care environments post-COVID-19. Because we can’t turn back the clock, and don’t want to return to the status quo, we all need to take responsibility for meeting and responding to the challenges ahead. These challenges are multifaceted, involving ethical, legal, economic, political, medical, social, and other related concerns. In the immediate future, Canadian society will watch and learn from small, innovative approaches similar to the one Memory Lane is developing.

Elizabeth Kelson, PhD

Covid-19 weekly update as of May 4th, 2020

 

My Pandemic Life

By Laura Ewing

What is this life of mine being apart?

No warm embraces to enlighten the heart.

No birthday kisses or celebrations

with family and friends on special occasions.

 

No June weddings for blushing brides

with handsome grooms by their sides.

No children playing in nearby parks

where frisky dogs would belt out barks.

 

No stores open with sales galore

and all the finery that shoppers adore

displayed behind windows with locks on the doors.

No sales clerks dusting or sweeping the floors.

 

No beauticians to style my hair.

No evening out at an elegant affair.

No concerts. No movies. No dinner shows.

No people seated in rows upon rows.

 

No leisurely strolls down city streets.

No stopping for late evening sweets.

No casual visits with a long-time friend.

I wonder when this pandemic will end.

 

I mostly stay home to avoid the bug.

The coronavirus is one deadly thug.

With mask and gloves, I venture for food

keeping my distance for my own good.

 

I persevere without a frown

from early dawn until the sun goes down.

My prayers I say before I go to bed

include wishing that Covid-19 was dead.

 

April 19-25th was National Volunteer Week. Laura Ewing is a published poet who provided us with a poem to describe “light heartedly” her frustration with the pandemic.

Covid-19 weekly update as of April 27th, 2020

Another week into Covid-19 and the Long-Term Care sector continues to make the front page in newspapers. Yesterday, I listened to a CBC interview with Pat Armstrong, a professor at York University, discussing a study of Long-Term Care that she was part of called “Reimagining Long-term Residential Care.” She and her team studied Long-Term Care (LTC) in seven countries.

Armstrong’s study shows that Private, for-profit Organizations do not belong in Health Care. The studies she conducted demonstrate that for-profit corporations result in more hospital transfers, more bed ulcers and less staffing than Municipal or not-for-profit homes. Armstrong mentions that the best LTC home models are from Norway, Sweden and Germany. Germany has a moto: put life into years, not years into a life.

We at Memory Lane Home Living have replicated a cohousing model of living for seniors with dementia from Germany. These not-for-profit homes are part of an organization called Friends of the Elderly. Friends of the Elderly have successfully operated their small, cooperative houses for over twenty-five years. Their original six houses have inspired replication of over 5,000 of these homes throughout Germany! The gentleman who oversees the original six homes—Mr. Klaus Pawlteko, advisor to our Board of Directors—said that he has never had a lawsuit or a fire in his cooperative homes. This is something noteworthy.

I had  a conversation with our German cohort last Thursday. Klaus mentioned that the LTC system in Germany is struggling with Covid-19 outbreaks and that this virus has taken the lives of many of their seniors in Germany’s LTC facilities. I asked if Friends of the Elderly’s original six homes were struggling with a Covid-19 outbreak. They are not! Klaus is humbled by this, but at the same time cautious.

Friends of the Elderly  are not motivated by greed or economies of scale. The purpose of Friends of the Elderly homes is to support quality of life for their seniors by offering them freedom, respect and purpose  in a home environment.  They house no more than 6-8 seniors with a full-time shift of support workers 24 hours/day. Families and volunteers help the support workers. Klaus mentioned that the families and volunteers are respecting physical distancing during this time and, to date, no Covid-19 outbreaks have occurred in these homes.

This shows that families of loved ones in LTC are willing to point out a broken system. This is something we have known about for years. Are we willing to try something new here in Canada?  

Mona            

Covid-19 weekly update as of April 20th, 2020

Last week, Long-Term Care (LTC) made headlines. The news is reporting that approximately 50% of all Covid-19 deaths occur in LTC. Our provincial government announced that they would begin testing staff and residents in LTC. (April 15, 2020, COVID-19 action plan: long-term care homes).

This is reasonable. However, I wonder if the government is acting on this? It would appear that  unless an outbreak occurs, tests are not being administered. Bradford Valley Care Community Nursing Home has had over 7 deaths, and 33 cases testing positive for Covid-19. They tested all employees and residents. Southlake Hospital helped administer 500 tests. Unfortunately, this is a reactive approach. Perhaps if we were proactive in the testing it would be less costly in terms of deaths that are occurring, as well as lowering the cost to our health care system. 

I spoke to a PSW working at a LTC home this morning. The facility she works at is only doing the screening. She says they have no Covid-19 cases in their home. How does one know conclusively without testing? I find this unacceptable on many levels. The death statistics in long-term care defend the need for proactive testing. Undertesting is not attracting employment opportunities to replace staff shortages due to “fear of the unknown.” It has been well documented that many of our LTC seniors are dying of neglect because of staff shortages due to health care workers not willing to risk their lives for “the unknown.” At the end of the day, it is our beloved seniors who suffer at the hands of our government. It will take a country to come together and be a voice for our seniors.

I was informed of a grass-roots organization called change.org which created a petition to support health workers. It was created by families in LTC who are crying out for change as they witness their loved ones dying. I went online and signed the petition and passed it on through our Memory Lane Home Living Inc. Facebook page. I would encourage all of you to stand behind the petition. Just like all of us, the government needs some guidance and direction from the people it serves. Here is our chance!

Mona

Covid-19 Weekly Update, for the week of April 13th, 2020

We are closely monitoring government Covid-19 updates, as well as information from other news sources.

This past weekend was an opportunity to reflect on the “big picture.” We are certainly living in unprecedented times!

Did you know, however, that a little over 100 years ago when the influenza pandemic of 1918—the Spanish flu—broke out, people were unable to conceive of the sheer amount of losses that would ensue. An estimated one third of the world’s population became infected, and more victims succumbed to this pandemic than those killed in World War l. This is because the health sector and medical services that we enjoy today did not exist in the previous century. Nations were still recovering from losses incurred during World War I when the Spanish flu hit. The world moved forward after the pandemic in spite of the tremendous loss it presented.

Easter weekend may have left you wondering, Where is God in all of this? CNN interviewed Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, What on Earth Am I Here For? and founder of the Saddleback Church, on Thursday, April 10 th. Rick believes that we can see God in the hearts of people helping on the front lines. God is also in the same place he was when his son died on the cross; in the thick of humanity, in the midst of our pain, grief and perplexity.

You may also wonder, Why does God allow this pandemic to happen? Rick Warren explained on national television that this is not heaven, but earth. Earth is not supposed to be perfect.

I think that the current pandemic offers an opportunity to explore, and better understand, the “big picture.” In that broader context, we will get through this difficult time just as out forefathers before us got through war, influenzas, polio, tuberculosis, depressions and recessions. If we look back in history, we are inspired by those who moved forward in spite of setbacks.

Let’s do the best we can in this challenging time and leave the outcome to God.

Mona

Covid-19 Weekly Update, for the week of April 6th 2020

In light of the current Covid-19 situation we are following the guidelines set out by our provincial and federal government. We have suspended our programs, until we hear differently from our government. We would encourage you stay home in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. This is our message to support the hospitals and their health care workers. We would also like to express our gratitude to all the health care professionals and more; thank you also to the store clerks keeping the grocery stores open, the truck drivers transporting supplies, the drive-through restaurants that service the public and bring food to seniors, the food banks, the companies that are transforming their businesses to help produce medical supplies necessary for this pandemic and  those who are staying at home and working from home. Thank you for doing your part in these times. #staysafe #covid19