Category Archives: Eldercare

Only Child looks into elder abuse

Mum and Dad when both were alive.

Think of the most elderly person in your family – a grandparent, aunt, a parent, a spouse. Would you want them to be abused? Maybe they are still living their life full steam. And maybe not. Put yourself in the position of a much older-than-you person. Would you want to be abused?

My Mom and Dad were not abused as elderly parents. That may be partly because they didn’t live long enough to get past their early to mid-60s. I visited my godfather (when he was still alive) in a nursing home plus visited other nursing homes when doing interviews for newspaper and magazines articles (not on abuse) and found the treatment of their residents varied from okay to really good. In fact, in one instance, one of the nurse’s aides actually came over to a patient with dementia sitting in a wheelchair specifically to take her to her room to change her diaper. The aide gently told the lady what she was doing in a friendly but matter-of-fact manner. This is the opposite to some of the stories we read about nursing home abuse of the elderly. So, I have not personally seen elder abuse and my opinions are gleaned from what I’ve read and heard. The only “seen” of abuse is that TV commercial which is shown looking outside from a window with its blinds closed. Outside in the driveway, a young man is taking money from his elderly mother. We don’t see who is looking out the window and that is very effective for this topic.

The above is financial abuse and in the United States that constitutes 12.3 per cent of elder abuse (See Many of us associate elder abuse with physical abuse in nursing homes. But that is only part of it. According to the same statistics, neglect gets the big statistic for abuse at 58.5 per cent with physical abuse coming in at 15.7 per cent. You can check out the website for more statistics. But elder abuse is more than a bunch of statistics.

When you consider neglect, think about someone’s grandparent or parent living alone or in a nursing home and their children seldom if ever come to visit. Or an elderly man or woman stuck in their home because no one – family or friend – comes to help them out to get groceries, take them to doctor’s or dentist’s appointments or even just stops by to visit. Sure, there are “care” organizations (for a fee) with some covered under various medical plans. But they are few and far between. Think of a crowd of people lining up for a big sale at a store, all for maybe five to ten actual items available for sale. That might give you an idea how bad the situation is in North America at least. And there are more of us getting up in age.

Read more about elder abuse, surprisingly more in the home, at (American Psychological Association, Elder Abuse and Neglect: In Search of Solutions).

How do we want to be treated when we are elderly? According to Statistics Canada (Family Violence in Canada, 2007, by 2015, there will be more of us over 65 than under 15. Who’s minding the elderly? Scary thoughts.

Here are links to a couple of recent Toronto Star stories on elder abuse.

“Elder abuse a ‘hidden crime’ MPs say” Nov. 17, 2011–elder-abuse-a-hidden-crime-mps-say

For those interested in the nursing home situation, see “Nursing home reform requires grassroots support says advocate,” Nov. 19, 2011.”–nursing-home-reform-requires-grassroots-support-says-advocate.

I have only touched the tip of a really big iceberg which among many other things consists of not enough long-term care facilities, the high cost of long-term care facility living, insufficient number of caregivers in these facilities, stress and burnout from caring for an elderly parent or spouse at home. The list is endless and I don’t pretend to know all of it.

I would like to get a dialogue going on this topic. Please comment.

Meantime, here’s a happy true story. Remember my friend Carol whose Dad died. I talked about that in last week’s post ( Carol’s mom is still alive and Carol and her husband had to put her in a long-term care place a few years ago. Her mum has dementia (and that’s a whole other subject). Carol’s mom may have not gotten into the best (or the worst either) of places. But Mum has a good friend in her roommate. The roommate looks after Carol’s mom, taking care she gets her meals, gets around in the nursing home, etc. Carol, in turn, gets this woman flowers and really when she visits her own mom she is also visiting her roommate. Just as well, the roommate’s family never visits.

Not completely happy, but the story shows some hope and inspiration.


Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes


Filed under Elder abuse, Eldercare, Elderly parents, Health Seniors, Nursing Homes, Only child

Only Child on elderly parents

Only Child's Mom and Dad

If my parents were still alive they would celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary November 25. Sadly they died when in their 60s (that’s age, not anniversary years). Dad was 66 when he died in 1965 and Mom was 63 when she died in 1971. Contrast that with my friend Carol’s dad who died earlier this month at age 88. Carol and her husband looked after her dad for six and a half years following his head injury from a traffic accident. They even moved in with him across the street from me and also managed to maintain their out-of-town home. I don’t know how they did it and I have only admiration for them both. I also don’t know how or even if I could have done it if by some miracle Mom, at least, would have survived her brain aneurysm. Dad with his cancer spanning almost seven years (including two remissions), is another story.

I was a very immature 22 when my Mom died and I remember thinking just after my then fiance and I rushed her to the hospital via ambulance that I didn’t want Mom to be a vegetable. Despite surgery, she never came out of her coma and died five days after the aneurysm.

Carol and her husband are a few decades older than my 22. But their situation and mine raises questions. Which is the better life scenario?

In my case I missed the stress, time, etc. of having to care for an ill or disabled parent. I didn’t have to go through the “put mom in a nursing home or care for her at home” question. (I’m ruminating on that question  for me – for in the future – way ahead in the future, I hope.) The downside here is I missed having my mother around living to an old age. Sixty-three isn’t old. I have to say that as I’m getting there myself. And I miss her still. Sometimes I think her spirit is around and she is trying to guide me. I say “trying” because I don’t always listen too well. And Dad? I still miss him too. Every time I go to Toronto’s Union Station or ride trains I especially think of him. As some of you may have read in previous posts, my dad worked for the CN (CNR as it was then known when it had passenger service) and Mom, Dad and I used to ride the rails for our summer holidays to visit family and friends in southern Ontario and Michigan, plus touristy trips to Buffalo, Rochester and New York City. In my memoir I write

“Board here for Guelph,” he [train official] says and checks our passes dangling from Dad’s hand.  “Uh huh,” he says and grabs the suitcase and duffel bag from Dad, lifting them up onto the narrow wedge between train coaches. “Watch your step, little girl,” and he takes my hand until I’m standing on the square footstool at the bottom of the stairs.

Dad is already ahead of me and he reaches down for my hand. The metal stairs sound like tin beneath my feet and I am thankful I don’t have to kneel on them. We need an usher because Dad now prances up and down the aisles, checking out the seats. I can’t see any difference in them. They’re all the same pale powdery green with a plastic bib draped over the top of their backsides.

“This one will do,” Dad says, pointing to one on the right, a few rows in from the corridor. He flips the back and now two sets of seats face each other.

I sit next to the window and place Darlene on my lap. Mother plunks herself down beside me and straightens the hem of her dress. After Dad places the big suitcase on the seat across from Mom and lifts the duffel bag onto the overhead rack, he sits down across from me.

“You’re going to ride backwards, Daddy?” I ask. 

“Yes,” he says, but he seems distracted and keeps looking up at the overhead rack. Then he stands up and gives the duffel bag a shove, but it’s already up against the wall.

“These racks are too small,” he says.

(Excerpted from “Riding the Rails with Dad” Chapter 7 from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

But that was back in the 50s and early 60s. Now, with both parents dead and seeing my friends and others caring for their elderly parents, I understand the paradox of our situations. There are good and bad points for each. Probably the best way to deal with either is to accept it. If your parents are elderly and living (even with dementia) be grateful they are still living. If they died younger, be  grateful they may have missed the difficulties of living old. I say “may” because my dad suffered through cancer before he got old.

Count your blessings because there is a lot of elder abuse going on today. Next week’s post will go into this aspect of aging.


Only Child

Sharon Crawford

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Filed under Canadian National Railway, Death and Dying, Eldercare, Elderly parents, Mother dying, Only child memoir, Railways, Uncategorized

Only Child looks at aging parents

Only Child's late Dad and Mom

My friends across the street had to rush her dad to the hospital again, the third time in as many months. Her dad is 87. My dad died at 66, my mom at 63. So I have no aging parents to look after but I have no living parents. Which is the better life scenario?

One thing I’ve found with any person I know – relative, acquaintance – anytime after age 82, you can go from living a good life (substitute “meaningful”, “productive,” whatever you want) to a life of hell – for you and your family. If you’re lucky, you make it into your early 90s before entering old-age hell. Oh sure, there are a few exceptions – you see them and read about them in the news – so-and-so is celebrating his or her 100th/103rd birthday. And they are relatively well physically and they still have active functioning minds. To them I say, “Great. You are very lucky.” But most of the elderly-elderly have to deal with some or all of the following: heart disease, aftermath of strokes, diabetes, extreme arthritis (including osteoarthritis of the knees and hips), blindness, cancer, and perhaps the worst of all – dementia.

It’s hard on the elderly person and it is hard on his or her family. I find myself flipping from both sides as to which has it worst. Sometimes I’m almost glad my parents died in their 60s (when I was 22 and 16) and then I want to shake myself because they aren’t here anymore (except in spirit and memory). I also have to remind myself that dying in their 60s didn’t guarantee them freedom from debilitating diseases. Most of you know my dad died from cancer, but it wasn’t sudden.  He had flare-ups of cancer off and on for almost seven years before he finally got out of his misery.

Mom’s situation was something else. After Dad died she fell apart and her health showed it. Suddenly arthritis flared up – rheumatoid arthritis in her hands and feet and scleroderma. She had to quit work because of these crippling diseases  when she was in her late 50s.  Both may have led to her death – she fell a couple of times and scleroderma makes the face so taut it can lead to pulmonary or cardiac complications and death. Mom “officially” died from a brain aneurysm.

Both deaths leave me ambivalent about when to die. With Dad I had a chance to say “goodbye,” but not with Mom. Her aneurysm came suddenly and when I found her unconscious in her bed I didn’t grasp the seriousness – perhaps out of panic. Despite surgery, she died five days later. During those five days while she was in a coma, in the “wisdom” of my 22 years, I grappled with “What if she comes out of it a vegetable? I can’t cope.” In my memoir in the  “Suddenly” chapter, I write

Where did going to church get her? Lying comatose while surgeons dig around in her skull to stop the swelling and maybe, just maybe, get her to wake up. I try to read one of the nameless consumer magazines piled on an end table, but my attention span is lower than that of an addict on speed.

If you let her just wake up and be okay, able to get around, I’ll… I’ll… I try to bargain with God.

You’ll what, Sharon? You don’t want to be a nursemaid. You’re 22 and that’s not happily ever after.

No, God, conscience, whatever, that’s not really it. If I’d have woken up earlier and caught her when she drifted off, if I’d acted sooner, if I’d called an ambulance immediately and got her into the hospital right away after I got up and found her. . .

If…If…if…if “guilt” were one of the seven deadly sins, I’d score a 100 plus on it.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).

And guilt often plays a big part in the sons and daughters of elderly parents. Do I put Mom or Dad in a nursing home? Do I look after them myself? Do I?  What is the right thing to do – for both Mom and Dad and me (including spouse and children)?

Seems there is no right answer. Well, maybe if we lived in relatively good health until 90 and then our bodies just died during the night. But that’s sci-fi. With people living longer now (men 78.0 years and women 82.7 years average. (2005 Statistics Canada Mortality Report and the rising number here (read “baby boomers”) the situation is in crisis. Sure, governments should provide more assisted-at-home living as well as more nursing homes. But these things cost one way or the other.

It’s Catch-22. I don’t have answers. Any ideas from my readers? Please comment.



Only Child Writes


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Filed under Death and Dying, Eldercare, Elderly parents, Family, Health Seniors, Heart Disease, Only child, Seniors