Fearing loss of dignity and privacy

Institutionalized care requires some common sense and tact to make it easier on everyone

  • Apr. 19, 2012 4:00 p.m.

I recently visited an unhappy relative in an elderly care home and listened to her frustration about her living accommodations.

The home itself was clean, with excellent facilities, great window space and nice views.  There were many elderly people sitting around, chatting pleasantly to each other, and everyone has a private room. Staff seemed engaged with the residents, and while a nice sunny Easter Sunday afternoon with plenty of visitors might have been a factor in the generally upbeat mood, my initial impression rated this home high on a scale of nice places to spend time.

Sure enough, when I reached my aunt’s room, I was set upon with a litany of problems. Knowing her rather high maintenance needs throughout her life, I wasn’t surprised that her inability to get exactly what she wanted, when she wanted it, would be a problem. I am pretty sure she’s not winning the congeniality awards from the staff and I don’t envy them their task of trying to make her life more pleasant. She is not an easy person to please.

Still, because I have become more sensitized to listening to the elderly in the last six months, I tried to get past her personal quirks and understand if any of her concerns would be ones that I might share.

If there was one thing that struck me most, it was the matter of privacy. According to my aunt, staff regularly dash in through the door to pick up the wastebasket, bring some juice or clean up an area. The timing is random and the intrusion immediate.

Residents are encouraged to keep their doors open during the day, but with people coming and going in the hallway all the time, not everyone likes their life to be on display.

My aunt, who values her quiet, gets spooked numerous times during the day and awoken constantly from naps.

I am pretty certain that regular visits to a room is part of an institutional philosophy of keeping an eye out for the safety and well-being of everyone, as well as a simple scheduling need to ensure all the tasks that need to be done by varying staff members are fit into the day.  Still, it appealed to me that a couple of simple things might make the process a bit more dignified.

The first option might be a regular routine that the elderly understand. In other words, someone will be in every one or two hours, on a regular basis, so that there is less surprise and an opportunity to schedule those naps a bit better.

Secondly, just a light tap on the door and a moment to allow the elderly to become composed, might reduce the feeling that the staff member is blowing in and out without any consideration for the privacy of the resident. I realize that it might slow down a rotating worker a bit, but it shows at least a modicum of respect for that privacy.

I have a personal aversion to the concept of institutionalized care, because I fear my own loss of dignity and privacy.

Indeed, despite the many advantages of the residence in which my aunt was housed, I ended up leaving there with my personal fears reinforced.

Graham Hookey writes about education, parenting and eldercare.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Spray paint was discovered at Hot Rocks. (Special to The News)
Popular Maple Ridge summer destination vandalized

Rocks discovered with spray paint along South Alouette

Police shut down 240 Street after a single vehicle accident. (The News files)
Maple Ridge man dies following crash

Police believe he went into medical distress before accident

An early morning fire forced the evacuation of a Maple Ridge apartment building on Saturday, April 3 (Deborah Hampton/Special to The News)
City of Maple Ridge thanks volunteers for response to Easter weekend blaze

Emergency Support Services volunteers stepped up to help displaced residents

A partial image from the painting Kanaka Creek by Eric Hotz, which in the exhibit at the Pitt Meadows Art Gallery.
A Study of Nature exhibition opens at Pitt Meadows Art Gallery

Eric Hotz paintings feature familiar scenes from across the Lower Mainland

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
Puppies stolen during weekend break-and-enter in South Surrey

Surrey RCMP seeking public’s assistance in locating three American Bulldog puppies

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

Mounties say they “corralled” four Ford Mustangs April 4 after an officer saw the muscle cars racing down 184 Street near 53 Avenue at about 10 p.m. (File Photo)
Mounties impound four Mustangs

Surrey RCMP say they seized four cars for street racing

Most Read