As human beings, there are only two things we can be certain of – death and taxes. In a worldwide pandemic, the often-ignored fragility of life has been illuminated for us. We are reminded of the certainty, which hid itself amongst the everchanging days and nights. However, for the elderly, this fact has remained ever present. They seek to live life to the absolute fullest with no regrets. Yet, the blood, sweat and tears of their efforts have been rewarded with more obstacles. Long-term care has rightfully been put under a microscope, which has undoubtedly resulted from the lack of accountability, transparency and proper policies and procedures.
Objectively speaking, the importance of long-term care is not as simple as a place of residence. Rather, it is a community of individuals, who paid their dues and want to enjoy their lives. Some may find that with their families, however, those that want socialization and require added assistance find solace in these homes. Which is to say, long-term care should provide joy for the elderly, to live out their days in happiness without feeling like a burden to their loved ones. In lieu of these facts, many long-term care homes have not been held responsible to their residents, adding onto their suffering and fears of the ongoing events of the pandemic.
To say we care for the elderly population, it is more than just a feeling or statement. As a Portuguese community, we must be vigilant in providing the utmost care to our loved ones. We cannot allow for improper health procedures, which escalate their fears and worries. We should not stand for unmet basic needs. For those who allowed us to prosper, we must recognize their humanity with compassion and support.
Here, at Magellan, our vision is to build a centre, which will represent the spirit of the Portuguese community. We acknowledge the legacy of those who built the ground we stand on. With openness, our hope is to ease the minds of families worried of their decision to place their loved one in the care of others.
In the past and most recently, long-term care homes concealed their failures, while silencing the voices of their residents. To our dismay, many of them are not capable of satisfying the cultural aspect for those they serve. It may seem arbitrary to some, but simply speaking the same language opens a whole world of possibilities. From social interactions to inside jokes, it can make a difference in their lives that cannot be seen on the surface. A non-Portuguese speaking personal support worker may perform the same duties, but their experience cannot overcome the language barrier. At times, it may be imperative, as one may not able to communicate their needs and wants. In which case, their voices remain ever silent…
Speaking from experience, my Avó was a victim of negligence living in a long-term care facility. It has been almost a year since she passed, and I will never forget it. While in Canada, she was not capable of learning English. One day, she noticed that there was water leaking from underneath the sink from a pipe in her room. However, due to the language barrier, she was unable to communicate her concern to the personal support workers and staff. Instead, Avó telephoned Mãe and she went over to check-in. It was clear that she was not overexaggerating; the water was a definite safety hazard. Four days go by, each passing with the water continually to drip profusely and the issue not being addressed. On the fifth day, my Avó, in the middle of night attempted to fill her glass with water from the faucet and slipped… hitting her head directly into the sink and passing out. She is rushed to the emergency room, but to no avail. For five days, she is bedridden in tremendous pain from a broken nose and neck, separated shoulder and internal bleeding, before succumbing to the injuries. Since that day, I always wonder… if she had the ability to communicate and advocate in her own language, Portuguese… would she still be with me here today?
It is truly disappointing that long-term care needed a pandemic to be promptly addressed. But the days of unseen pain are not gone. We, at Magellan, recognize the importance of the cultural aspect within those we serve. To many, it may seem like going the extra mile unnecessarily. Yet, for those such as my Avó, I would say communication is a basic need. To live with one another in harmony, it goes beyond presence. One may feel alone, amongst people who will never truly understand them. Some may find themselves unable to visit their homeland again; praying for a time which will never come. To that I say, let us provide you and your loved ones with a little taste of home… Portugal, the Magellan Centre.… we will bring you home.
Sara Isabel Dias, Executive Director – Magellan Community Charities