Dear editor: It is easy to find fault within our medical system. Complaints are varied, frequent and often valid, even widely expressed in the media. When we feel dissatisfied or wronged we want others to know our plight and seek support by expressing our concerns publicly.
Unfortunately, the opposite tends to be more prevalent when we receive the service or treatment which we feel is our due. We walk away happy things worked out for us, not giving a backward glance to those who fulfilled our needs.
Our intent in this backward glance is to express our gratitude and draw attention to the staff of the Long Term Care facility in Corner Brook, a segment of our health-care system which has provided our family with efficient, compassionate care for years.
Our mother had Alzheimer’s disease. We watched in agony for nearly eight years as this dreaded affliction took everything from our mom in painful stages.
It did not take her until she finally had nothing left to give. Throughout this ordeal there was one constant in her life and in ours which helped us all to cope — the staff of Long Term Care.
Watching our mom struggle through Alzheimer’s was painful. It left us feeling confused, sad, sick and lost right along with her. There is one certainty with this disease: each stage is more brutal than the last.
It was the staff of Community Care Bungalow 4 and LTC 4N who attended to Mom’s physical needs throughout these stages. That’s their jobs, sure, but the manner in which they worked with Mom made it apparent that for many of these extraordinary people this is so much more than a job — it's a calling. Care was provided with a warmth and compassion which helped Mom adjust to her grim reality. Even in her final stages, while bedridden for a year, the attention to her care was such that she did not experience the bedsores we had so dreaded.
Hard work appeared to be the norm throughout the facility with a single goal being evident: to provide the best possible care for our Mom and so many others in her position. This was exemplified by, but not limited to, nursing staff. It was not unusual to find a member of housekeeping fixing her pillow or watering her flowers while keeping her room spotless. Dietary and kitchen staff were receptive to trying new things which may have benefit Mom’s health. It was easy for us to maintain her kempt appearance as, even when she became too ill to go to the beauty salon, caring staff came to her. There was a general attitude of giving and compassion. We were consulted regarding any changes to Mom’s care and our ideas were sought out. Our suggestions were always welcomed.
The nature of the illness suffered by some residents of Long Term Care meant staff did not always receive gratitude or even civility. Throughout our years of almost-daily visits we observed staff having to deal with verbal abuse and physical aggression directed at them or at other residents by people too ill to always appropriately manage their own behaviour. Intervention must be part of their training; they always seemed to know how to diffuse hostility. It can be touching to the spirit to see an aggressor calmed by being told, “It’s OK, sweetie.”
We do not wish to imply that life was perfect or that we were without concerns about our Mom’s care.
We had numerous concerns but these were always addressed in a timely fashion and in an atmosphere which clearly assured us that no concern was too small.
While caring for our Mom, staff often provided emotional support to us as a family, which enabled us to better understand this disease and prepare for the next inevitable stage.
Our Mom’s final days were hard and painful for all our family. While we watched and waited many staff dropped into her room to offer hugs and words of support, to place a hand on her head a final time or even to slip in a tray of homemade cookies. These were unnecessary acts but they were gestures which told us our Mom was loved by those wonderful people who cared for her.
We will be forever grateful.
Caroline (Carrie) Hackett Power, Lillian Hackett Dawe, Bernadette Hackett Porter (on behalf of the family of the late Margaret B. Hackett)