That is a phrase that I never want to hear or have to experience. It is however, something that many of our seniors and physically challenged people in care facilities face every day. What brought this to mind was a recent story coming out of Alberta as well as my mother’s own experience in a nursing home.
First, for my American friends, I should do a little explaining about our system of government in case you are not familiar with it.
We operate under a Parliamentary Democracy which means that the political party that wins the most seats in our Provincial Legislature or Federal Parliament forms the Government. I won’t get into the complexities of a “minority Government” as the concept is enough to cause a headache.
The political party that wins the most seats forms the Government and the Leader of that party becomes the Provincial Premier. Members of his/her party that won seats in the election will hold various Cabinet positions or sit as Backbenchers.
Parties that won seats but not enough to form a government sit as the “Opposition” and basically throw rocks similar to what the minority party does in your House of Representatives. We have no Provincial Senate.
A Province is similar to a State. Where we have Cabinet Ministers, you have Secretaries. Our Minister of Transportation would be equivalent to your Secretary of Transportation. All Ministerial positions are appointed by the Premier and separate elections are not held for any of our Cabinet positions.
That’s probably as clear as the proverbial mud but we’ll have to make do with that for the moment.
Anyway, my Mom was well taken care of at the home where she resided. She had a clear mind right up to the day she died but her body was pretty well shot. She had severe osteoporosis, severe scoliosis, and heart disease, was a breast cancer survivor, and had more underlying ailments than I care to mention.
The osteoporosis and affiliated scoliosis took her from a relatively tall height of about five foot six or seven to a height of under five feet. Needless to say, having a bath without assistance was not possible. She didn’t have the strength to get in and out of the tub and a fall could literally have meant the death of her. She needed to be hoisted in and out. So she was assigned a bath night.
That bath night was Tuesday. She led a relatively good social life at the facility and my brother and I would visit her regularly but we had to make sure we called first. You never knew when she might be playing cards or just visiting. On more than one occasion I would phone to arrange a visit and be told, “Remember, Tuesday is bath night.”
This was said with some excitement as you can imagine. Getting cleaned up after a week had to be a great feeling.
Let’s be clear, I’m not a great fan of camping unless I can get a shower or a wash in the river or lake every day. My idea of roughing it is a Holiday Inn, so being told that “Tuesday is bath night” and looking forward to it is beyond my comprehension. Now having said that, when I was growing up in the National Park we never had running water or an indoor toilet until I was five years old so by necessity baths were limited. Heating water over a wood stove especially in the winter by melting snow was a challenge. When we did get running water, we had to be sure that we didn’t run the well dry so a bath on Sunday night before starting school for the week was de-rigeur. So I am familiar with the concept of a weekly bath but not now and hopefully never again.
What brought this back to mind is a recent controversy in the Province of Alberta. A woman’s husband suffered a traumatic brain injury and he is in a continuing care facility. He is only sixty-five. She asked the facility to give him an extra bath a week and she was told that it would cost an extra $1,300 per year. Money she does not have. A friend of hers gave her a Christmas present of paying for 6 months of twice weekly baths. Once the story hit the news, she had the final six months covered.
One of the Leaders of the Opposition, who happens to be an ER Doctor, stood up in the Legislature and asked the Premier how the Government could justify giving people in Provincial Jails daily showers but couldn’t afford to take care of our elderly or infirm who only get a bath once a week. This prompted the following response from the Minister of Health:
“Mr. Speaker, a question like that doesn’t deserve the dignity of an answer from the premier of the province,” Health Minister Fred Horne replied angrily. (Quote courtesy of CBC News, December 7, 2012)
Damn, I thought it was a pretty good question! I hate it when governments only respond the way they want to. Oh wait I had a delusional moment there. I forgot that’s how government works.
So let’s all hope we never hear “Tuesday is bath night.”