My aunt was only 68 years old when she had her first stroke. This was followed in rapid succession by two more. While the first two left no noticeable long-term consequences, the third left her partially paralyzed and with global aphasia. A family member looked after her at home for 6 years until this was no longer possible. At that point, Ruth (not her real name) had to go into a long-term care facility.
At 76, Ruth is no one’s idea of a spring chicken, but she is by nursing home standards as the average resident age in Ontario is 83. The last two years have been difficult for Ruth. Even with her global aphasia, she still has more cognitive function than most of the people in the home, many of whom are in various stages of dementia. “I can’t talk to anyone but the staff. It’s very lonely,” she mentioned on my last visit. Ruth tends to stay in her room watching TV about 16 hours a day.
I was reminded of this situation because of a recent Toronto Star article on a 61-year old woman with multiple sclerosis forced to move into a continuing care facility when she was 56. She is currently about 15 years younger than anyone else there. The province simply does not have the facilities to handle people with disabilities who require the degree of care that she does. It’s a sad situation and one that will only get worse as our population ages.
It is painfully clear that we need to shift our priorities. Money is always an issue in provincial budgets, but this is already a notable problem and one that is simply going to grow worse with time. I’m guessing this is one of those issues that will not get solved (or, at least, properly addressed) until a substantial portion of the public starts making noise. I hope that happens sooner than later.