Aug 12, 2009

Who cares? Senior with dementia is left to fend for herself

Who, besides Sonia, cares?

Who cares?

I'll put my own opinion on this story up later today. It might be very different than your opinion. Let's find out.

Subscribe to the Alzheimer's Reading Room
Enter your email address:

Senior with dementia is left to fend for herself

Sonia Mirakian runs a shades-and-shutters store on Yonge St., just south of College. A while back, she took a call from an elderly client.

And here, yet again, is how the Community Care Access Centre system is failing you and me, those who live alone, and anyone who is slipping quietly into dementia.

Sonia said: "We had done blinds for this woman maybe 15 years ago. She said her blinds were rotting, and asked if I could fix them. She wanted me to come. She didn't want an installer.

"I went to her place. I know the building; a bunch of retired CBC people live there. It's a nice building. She has a tiny apartment."

We were talking in the back of the store; Sonia lowered her voice anyway, to make sure no one was eavesdropping.

"So sad; there is a single bed, just two mattresses, no box spring, no cover, nothing. There are piles of stuff this high; shoes, hats, gloves – you don't see her sofa, you see these piles.

"If it's my mum, I wouldn't let her dress like that. Worse, I saw medicines on the floor.

"I recognized the bottles – I have glaucoma, I know that medicine, I take it myself. You're supposed to keep it in the fridge."

Not, repeat not, on the floor.

Sonia said: "My mother had dementia, but we didn't let her get this far before we got help. I went into the kitchen. She said the light hurt her eyes.

"The kitchen was piled with stuff. She said there was supposed to be a guy helping her to get rid of her things. I said I needed the chair to get at the blinds. She said not to touch it. I didn't touch it.

"The blinds were rotting. She brought out some money. She keeps her money in a drawer. That's dangerous – she lives alone, and if some guy is coming in to get rid of her things ... I asked why she didn't use cheques. She said money was better. My mum was like that."

Sonia said the whole apartment needed cleaning, and the fridge was not well kept, nor was there much food.

Old people often forget to eat.

And anyone with half a brain and half a heart knows this situation is not going to get better unless the woman gets help.

Sonia is smart, and she has a big heart. She remembered the same look – vague, vacant, unaware – on her mother's face.

She said: "I have one client, a social worker. She said to call the CCAC. So I called. The CCAC said they needed the woman's birthday, her SIN, her OHIP number."

How is Sonia supposed to get that information?

"The CCAC asked if she was starving. I don't know if she was fat before, and now she's starving. I said I would go with them if they came to see her. This is very sad: they said it takes weeks.

"This woman shouldn't be sitting there alone. I asked to speak to somebody higher. The CCAC wouldn't let me speak to anyone higher."

Sonia said: "I can't go over myself, alone. What if the woman says I took her money? What do I do? I called to ask her birthday, and she said she didn't know. She thought sometime in 1927."

I saw Sonia again the other day. She said the CCAC has repeated to her that there is nothing they could do because, when they called, the woman said she was fine.

She sure as hell is not fine.

Who, besides Sonia, cares?

Bob DeMarco is an Alzheimer's caregiver and Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for advice and insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob taught at the University of Georgia, was an executive at Bear Stearns, the CEO of IP Group, and is a mentor. He has written more than 2,210 articles with more than 274,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

More from the Alzheimer's Reading Room

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room