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We called my grandmother, my fathers mom, Nona.

Chiara Meomartini was a strong


central figure in my life. At the age of 21, at the end of World War II, she immigrated to England
from Italy in search of employment. She came from a well-to-do family and couldnt speak
English, but demonstrated her resilience through her perseverance in making a new life for
herself. A few years later Nona met my grandfather at a party that she went to with a friend. They
married and in a while my aunt was born. When my aunt was 5 years old, my grandparents were
sponsored by a wealthy couple to come to Canada and manage their home. My father was born 3
years later, at which time my Nona began working as a nurses assistant. Chiara never forgot her
Italian roots and ruled the family as the matriarch. She could be extremely critical and always
gave her honest opinion without regard for the receivers wishes. She was a fabulous cook and I
have fond memories of spending time in her kitchen learning how to make chicken tetrazzini.
Family dinners were large, lots of conversation, (sometimes uncomfortable if she focused on
you). However, we always left full, with plenty of leftovers to get us through the week.
When Nona was 80, she fell off a chair while looking for a sweater to give to me. After
that Nona complained of arthritic problems and gradually seemed to deteriorate in her health. As
she had always been an independent person, my family tried to get her support by hiring a
personal support worker to help with the cooking, cleaning and daily care of my Nona. This
remained the situation for approximately two years. My dad realized that my Nona wasnt taking
her medication properly and after discussions with her physician, the family decided to place her
in a retirement home. We visited her often, enjoying special lunches and entertainment at the
retirement facility. After several months, my dad received a phone call that my Nona had
wandered out of the facility in her nightgown. She was returned to the home by the police and it
became evident that my Nona was experiencing the onset of dementia. The retirement home

explained that they were no longer able to provide the proper care for her and asked us to
immediately locate new living quarters for Nona. This had a significantly negative impact on our
family as we visited various senior residences within a close radius to both my immediate family
and my aunts. We soon became aware of a societal problem. When requiring extended care for
the elderly, there is limited availability of appealing facilities accessible to middle income
families.
Since the mid-1990s, for-profit developers in Canada have produced shelter and care
facilities. As is true in the United States, the industry is becoming dominated by a small group
of larger developers and experienced management firms. They are less likely to employ
dedicated on-site staff to assist residents with their personal care and nursing needs, but rather
hire or subcontract an "outside" home support or home care agency that responds to resident
requests as-needed. Canadian facilities are less likely to be occupied by very frail seniors. They
have lower staff-resident ratios and are less likely to provide unscheduled personal care
assistance or nursing services. (Golant) These facilities are designed to appear as if living in a
hotel, offering restaurants, social events and provide transportation to shopping malls and for
organized trips.

Fig.2. Sunrise
accommodations. Google.
Sunrise assisted living. N.d.
Web. 10 May. 2015.

In comparison, nursing homes which provide government assistance, advertise that they
offer healthy dining experiences, planned social events and respectful care to their elderly
residents. On most visits to my Nona, I observed the residents that required greater care to be
abandoned in groups in the lobby, left to simply stare at one another. The room was sparsely
furnished and offered little privacy. There were even reported cases of sexual assault among
some of the tenants. However, the cost remained in the thousands per month. The breakfast
dishes have long disappeared, but about 20 men and women still line the hallway next to the
dining room. Some are slumped in their wheelchairs, chins to their chests, mouths open. Many
stare vacantly ahead. Two staff members survey the residents, one sipping from a cup. This is the
scene that often greets Gary MacLeod as he steps off the elevator and into the dementia unit at
Arborstone Enhanced Care, a nursing home in Halifax. (Care in Crisis)

Fig.3. Gibson accommodations.


Google. Gibson nursing home. N.d.
Web. 11 May. 2015.

The root of this problem lies in the underfunding of these governments subsidized
facilities. They are understaffed and often the staff hired is unqualified. I was a PCW at
********* for many, many years, and it is just a horrible place to work. Most staff are just there
to collect a pay check. They are always short staffed. They have no backing from management at
all, The staff are told not to change the diapers if they are not "maxed" due to cost. (each

resident is allowed 3 diapers a day ) On the Alzheimer ward, they are lined up like cattle,
most missing shoes, teeth, hair not combed, unshaven in days. On night shifts, staff are reduced
to three, to look after 60 residents with dementia. There are violent residents living among the
elderly, and most incidents dealing with aggressive acts are not reported. Understaffed and
underappreciated. (Care in CrisisSally Ann) Another argument for change lies in the
shortage of available and affordable facilities within Canada. Provinces, such as
Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, have long waiting lists for nursing homes, and seniors
often cannot be admitted into their first choices. Current occupants of these facilities, moreover,
are at serious risk of losing their dignity and individuality and many professionals interviewed
for this study agree that a significant percentage of nursing homes are of poor quality. (Golant)
To ensure respect and proper care of the elderly, the nurse/patient ratio needs to be re-examined
with the emphasis of increasing the nursing staff available to aid in the supervision and
appropriate guardianship of our elderly. There is a current push for legislation that requires
more qualified staff in nursing homes. However, nursing homes still face a challenge in finding
registered nurses. Facility operators are worried about finding enough nurses, especially in rural
areas, since nurses often prefer higher-paying jobs in hospitals. (BOS Medical)

A new poll suggests that Canadians are living longer in fact, by 2061, there will be
more than 78,000 centenarians living in Canada. And according to a BMO report called Living
to 100: The Four Keys to Longevity, one of the biggest concerns among this countrys elderly
population is access to affordable healthcare. (Cohen) As suggested by this poll, taking care of
our elderly needs to become a priority for government agencies and the public sector. New
government policies outlining nurse/patient ratios and guidelines to ensure the appropriate and

respectful supervision of seniors is required. One of these policies should reflect the necessary
qualifications of the nurses. Increased public education regarding elder care would safeguard
seniors against elder abuse in any facility. As well, improved funding could be successful with a
partnership between non-profit agencies, re-allocation of tax dollars and corporate sponsorship.
Growth in the development of affordable, comfortable living accommodations with smaller
waiting lists would demonstrate an improved understanding of the importance of our seniors.
Three years ago, my Nona had a major stroke that went undetected by the nursing staff for
several days. She died later in the hospital from heart failure. If my Nona had lived in a more
caring residence she might still be presiding over our family functions.

Works Cited
1. BOS Medical. Nursing Homes Continue to Search for Qualified Nurses. So why is the
nurse-to-patient ratio so low?, 24 Apr, 2015. Web. 13 May, 2015.
2. Cohen, Eric. Access to affordable healthcare among elderlys biggest worries: study.
Globalnews.ca. Global News, 28 Jul, 2014. Web. 13 May, 2015.
3. Golant, Stephen M. A Potential Solution to Canadas Long-Term Care Crisis. Assisted
Living. N.d: 3-10. Web. 12 May, 2015.
4. Willick, Frances. Fraser, Laura. The Chronical Herald Special Report. Care in Crisis,
2014. Web. 13 May, 2015.

Stop The
Elderly Abuse!

By: Vanessa Rayner


Date: May15, 2015
Professor: Rick Book
Student Number: 031-006-075