The Determinants of Community Health course provides medical students at the University of Toronto the opportunity to observe how various agencies promote health and meet the needs of their target population. A fellow student and I were assigned two days with the Community Care Access Centre, an agency dedicated to helping patients live independently at home or transition to a long-term care home. It was to be a straightforward client visit: Arrive at 2 pm, ask the questions outlined on page 101 of the guide, and return to the medical academy by 5 pm. What we did not expect is how the client’s caregiver would turn this visit into an opportunity to passionately advocate for change in senior care by sharing some shocking experiences. This piece reflects on that encounter while raising questions around consent, resource allocation, and the predicament that we’ll face in reconciling the two.
Her message at our meeting could not have been better told,
and twice she stated bluntly: “Treat me nicely when I’m old.”
She was a middle-aged woman caring for her ailing mom
in a distant rural region, seemingly quiet and calm.
Yet a storm raging within from a woeful ordeal
emerged as standard questions broke the fragile seal.
The many hurdles in the path of her mother’s care
were striking to say the least, and a cause of despair.
She perceived senior care as but a hollow bubble,
where elders were judged as being not worth the trouble.
“Your mom’s had a good run, time’s winding down on her clock,”
the routine pacemaker check-up was denied by her doc.
Interest to help the old just appeared to be drained,
“My mom wouldn’t be alive if I had not complained.”
The desire to assist seemed exceedingly rare;
her mom was DNR and they were not made aware.
She understands her old mom may very soon die,
but she resents the team that didn’t care to try.
No more could she have done in expressing discontent,
she shared her mom’s story hoping that it would prevent
a repeat of this ordeal, which in her eyes was guaranteed
once she hits old age and visits us to meet her need.
Her message throughout our meeting could not have been better told,
and twice she stated bluntly, “Treat me nicely when I’m old.”