Mr & Mrs Smith (62 and 64 years) are married and have no children. They are the only caregivers of Mrs Smith’s mother. Mr Smith was an engineer and Mrs Smith worked as a client service auditor. They are currently retired. Mrs Smith’s mother had a brain stroke (CVA) 12 years ago. From that time on, the couple had been actively involved in caring for her in their home until they moved her to an assisted home in order to travel to Holland to provide temporary care for Mr Smith’s mother. Currently Mrs Smith’s mother is in a private care facility as the previous care facility was not meeting the couple’s requirements.
The Smiths assumed their caregiver role when Mrs Smith’s mother had a stroke 12 years ago while she was alone in the bathroom. Mrs Smith was lucky to find her just before they were leaving for a holiday. Her mother rehabilitated partially after one month but never fully recovered from the stroke. In fact, she became increasingly dependent.
Some factors complicated the Smith’s caregiving situation, such as: travelling overseas to care for Mr Smith’s mother; the fact that Mrs Smith’s mother lost her English speech after the stroke; the wait time of four years for nursing homes close to them; and the need for siblings to travel long distances to visit and help with their mother’s care.
In the years following her stroke, Mrs Smith’s mother’s health situation deteriorated notably as she started to forget more and more things. The couple agreed that it would be best for her to move to an assisted living home, where she lived for a while until she broke her arm due to a fall. She had to have surgery on her arm, which clearly affected her independence. It was clear to Mr and Mrs Smith that she could no longer stay by herself even if she was assisted. However, it was very hard to convince the healthcare system that this was the case. The couple was dealing with different social workers in every hospital department, and each of them had to evaluate Mrs Smith’s mother’s state, resulting in a lengthy and complicated process. The Smiths explained that the entire procedure would have clearly been more effective if only one social worker had evaluated the patient’s state and shared this information as needed. Furthermore, the health professionals should have carefully listened to the caregivers, the only ones well aware of the state of the patient’s condition before and after the fall.
During this evaluation period Mrs Smith’s mother had four more broken bones as a result of falls. Only after these falls did the hospital acknowledge the problem and make it possible for her to go to a nursing home. Mrs Smith’s mother needed particular emotional support during those times, and all communications in the hospital and in the nursing home had to be translated from English to Gujarati. After a number of visits to the nursing home, the Smiths realised that the home was not practically located, which led to a decision to transfer her to a private care facility. Mrs Smith found a lot of help from the local caregivers group and is now happy that after a long time, she can finally go for holidays with her husband.
The Smiths still feel that they have to stay on top of things to make sure that Mrs Smith’s mother receives the best possible care. The current and future situation for Mrs Smith’s mother’s care in Canada worries them, as they think that the current society is not prepared to provide care for these types of patients, and will not necessarily have the time and interest to care for the elderly.