COLUMN: A cruel ‘nebulous for the common good’ hospital plan for the elderly

Assisted suicide is probably better than wasting away in ‘a remote facility gulag with a bad reputation,’ says author of new provincial legislation

(Editor’s note: The next column is for provincial legislation passed Wednesday that would require hospital patients awaiting long-term care to attend nursing homes, not of their choice, on a temporary basis.)
Those of us in our 80s lucky enough to have escaped the horrors of COVID in understaffed nursing homes were finally starting to enjoy near-normal lives this summer thanks to visits with friends and family. , small outings, maybe even a concert or two.

That’s when the Ontario government’s plan to reform health care hit the airwaves.

Guess who the sacrificial lambs are? Same old, same old, literally this time again.

With understaffed hospitals closing wards and ambulances lined up in the emergency room, the easiest solution is to move those waiting for nursing home beds. These are frail elderly people who can no longer take care of themselves at home.

Perhaps the cynical calculation was that they would be dead or at least unable to vote in the next election.

The plan might have some merit, no one thrives in the hospital except it will be a forced evacuation. We are here because there are no vacancies in our chosen nursing homes, either because of family closeness or a history of excellent care.

Now it’s off to the gulag of a remote establishment with a bad reputation. If not, why would they have vacancies?

Those who have family members in long-term care in their home community visit regularly. Most husbands or wives visit daily, some twice a day. They are also elderly people who could not travel out of town.

Did those at Queen’s Park who drafted the bill think about this cruel consequence?

Recently, I observed an invasion of very small ants in my hummingbird feeder.

Every night I open the lid to find a group of these microscopic creatures rafting together to escape drowning in syrup. When picked up on the grass, they dash, or at least most do. There is a joint effort to solve problems in order to survive. I doubt it’s based on age.

If the government asked us seniors for suggestions, we would have plenty.

Invest more money in home care so we don’t need to be in institutions. Building new models of smaller units with more cohesive staff, paying family members to look after us so they don’t have to work two jobs. This would be for beginners.

Don’t sacrifice us to some nebulous common good. Don’t make change on the backs of the sick and demented.

It smacks of ageism at its worst. Sexism too, because women live longer than men. We are not pawns to be thrown out of sight simply because we cannot speak for ourselves.

We shouldn’t have to walk on a metaphorical ice floe unless we choose to. Given the choice between ending our days in an overcrowded, remote, substandard nursing home or opting for assisted suicide, many of us would reluctantly choose the latter.

What Ontario is doing with this bill could be considered a form of eugenics.

It shouldn’t come to this.

Maybe our government can learn from the ants. Otherwise, let’s all work together for a more positive, humane and equitable solution.


About the Author: After 40 years in the classroom, in retirement, Elizabeth O’Connor has focused on promoting peace, the contribution and needs of older people in our community and, of course, walking her little dog.

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