By Terry Inigo-Jones, Member of Public Interest Alberta's Seniors Task Force
"There is a group of Albertans being treated as second-class citizens. They have a second-class illness and get second-class treatment in our so-called universal health-care system. How else can you describe a health-care system that either refuses to treat or knowingly aggravates a patient’s condition. Whatever happened to: “First, do no harm?” My mom is 85 and has dementia. Watching someone you know fade away into a life of fear and confusion is hard. What makes it harder is seeing her condition either ignored or made worse.
On New Year’s Eve 2015, Mom fell and fractured her pelvis. She spent about 10 weeks at Calgary’s Rockyview Hospital. But while she was being treated for her fractured pelvis, all therapy for her dementia stopped. Therapy — including book reading, music appreciation, social engagement, outings — is vital for people with dementia, many of whom are frightened because they don’t understand what’s going on. It alleviates their anxiety.Why was this therapy dropped? “Because we’re not funded for that,” was the explanation.
Instead, agitated dementia patients were strapped into chairs and put in hallways, so that overworked staff could keep an eye on them, but with few opportunities to actually help them. Staff levels were so low that one night, only three weeks after fracturing her pelvis, Mom was able to get off her bed and walk off the unit, past the nursing station and out through the heavy doors without being seen."