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Advocating Christine Thelker © 2020 Dementia For This I Am Grateful Living well with Dementia

Why Brian’s Story is Important

Brian and his daughter Fentisha
Fentisha and I on the arrival of my
newly published book,
For this I am Grateful, living with Dementia

I’m posting an article I wrote after the loss of Brian, it will be one year ago on Wednesday. Brian’s life mattered, Brian mattered and during Dementia Awareness Month it’s important we remember Brian.

It is imperative we look at what transpired during Brians last year, and it highlights so many issues within Long Term care that were present before COVID.

Today there are still many issues and they cannot all be blamed on Covid and in the coming days I will talk about my personal view on many of the issues in Long Term Care, but today is about honoring a man, who in my opinion the system let down.

Let me make it very clear that there were many who crossed paths with Brian who did everything they could, they are incredible people who are caught up in a system that too often stop them from providing the care they could and would if not hindered and buried under bureaucratic policy and procedures that have nothing do to with the human elements of care but are more about operational and $$. So not only was Brian and his family treated unjust manner, so too are the workers.

Again I will tackle that in another blog. But I will say that Covid brought issues to light it is our responsibility as a society to ensure that things that happened to Brian don’t happen to anyone else.

Fentisha has become an amazing friend and someone who supports me and all my flaws and ups and downs with my life with Dementia. I feel incredibly blessed that Brian brought our lives together. The bond created walking through Brians’s journey wit Fentisha shall forever keep us connected in ways that are hard to explain.

So please read and share Brian’s Story, there is too many Brian’s in Canada and I believe globally and we need to keep these stories in the forefront until real change happens.

This story is written and shared with Permission from Brian’s Family 

Brian’s Story 

This is Brian’s story, well it’s my perspective on Brian’s story. I first met Brian’s daughter when she reached out to me through my blog, Brian lived here, she did not, she was trying to get help and to understand what was happening to her dad. We talked many times, questions and tests to request the doctor to do, she suspected Dementia but was struggling to get the help and a diagnosis for her dad. She came to town, it was then that I met Brian for the first time. I’m 60, Brian a few years older at almost 65, Brian was struggling, I could see it, but he was still engaging, still had a spark, and a sense of humour, we all had lunch downtown, Brian enjoyed going downtown for coffee/ lunch. But Brian also liked and had for most of his life lived a life in isolation, a lifestyle he chose and was most happy in. ( I believe if we look back in history many of our talented and brilliant lived lives of isolation, likely in large part because it then allowed their creativity to flow, I believe this was likely the case with Brian, he was brilliant, and an extremely talented artist, photographer and craftsman.) Brian and I connected on that first meeting, in a way few would or could understand, he knew I had dementia as well, we had a knowing between us. It wasn’t long after that Brian ended up in the hospital, I went to the hospital, Brian was extremely sick at that point, again his daughter came, she stayed with me, I am only minutes from the hospital. Once Brian started to improve the cracks in the system started to show, Brian was placed in a room with another three people, this is not in his best interest, his meets are now not being met, this is a man who’s life of isolation requires he have that quiet space, which he could not have with others surrounding him, he did fairly well though given the circumstances, unless they were trying to do things he didn’t want, or they didn’t have the time to help him with the things he needed help with. I visited Brian often, we would walk the hallways, I would take him boiled eggs and yogurt. He would always ask me where my car was ask me to help him escape, we would laugh, I loved Brian’s humour, before I would leave I would always tell him to be good, he’d laugh say no, I’d say good, there’s no fun in being good anyways. Finally Brian went home, but this was short lived, again Brian ended up in hospital this time it became apparent Brian was going to need care, and the family started looking at options. Brian’s Dementia was moving at a fairly rapid pace, I took Brian’s daughter to several facilities, the concern that was always at the top of the list was Brian’s absolute need for his own space, his own room, so he could maintain his privacy, and his quiet. Unfortunately Brian ended up in a facility in a four bed unit,( which should be outlawed), it wasn’t long before Brian was struggling, his daughter was continually trying to get them to address the fact that Brians struggles were being created by the environment they had him in, he was purple dotted( this means aggressive and behavioural issues, Brian was not a mean or violent man, Brian was a man who could not and did not function well in an environment where there was constant noise and chatter. Another battle to have Brian moved again, ( it is a known and proven fact that these moves create decline in people), Brian was moved to another faculty, again Brian’s need for privacy and quiet were fought for, he needed to be able to stay in his room, he wanted his meals in his room( this was against policy) so again Brian was subjected to environmental things that caused anxiety, stress, agitation for Brian, nurses trying to trick him by putting pills in his yogurt, as though because of his dementia he wouldn’t know( dementia people are not stupid, they just can’t communicate in the same way anymore), so if they had taken the time to tell Brian they were going to give it to him that way, it may of been better received, Brian should also have been given the right to refuse these medications. Brian still had a great grasp of what was going on around him, he understood, but he wanted his wishes to be upheld and fought back when they were not. He communicated in the only way people heard at this point, and often that was with behaviour. Brian’s family would take him out, he always did well, he continued to struggle in the facility though, forced to be in a dining room of strangers, I still had good visits with Brian, then Brian ended up back in the hospital, this time things did not look like he would recover, Brian had a very explicit health a Care directive, I arrived, I spend time with Brian’s love Ann, and his son, I explained what the process of dying can look like what changes they might see, I spent time talking with his son, who was struggling, But he did and was able to finally say to do what his father wanted. Brian wanted no interventions, the doctor 

on came in, I was talking to Brian, asking him, if he understood that by having no interventions like antibiotics etc, he would die, yes he knew that, the doctor said “ he doesn’t know or understand , wow, I couldn’t believe what I had just heard, he then went on to say he wasn’t comfortable and he would continue treatment until Brians doctor ( he was away) returned. This is where education even for doctors becomes so important ( whether the doctor was comfortable or not should have never come into play, Brian had a health Care directive which was know not being upheld). Brian wants me to call his daughter, I do, she assures him she’s on her way. And so the family injures the stress of know having to fight a fight that they shouldn’t have had to, to have his wishes upheld. They wanted him moved to Hospice, that’s not possible either, he has to be returned to the facility ( the family is told they can provide palliative care there so they do not transfer patients to hospice. ( This is a human rights issue). Again more stress for the family, Brian is transported back to the facility 

, Brian’s daughter again staying with me to be with her dad, I get a message from Brians daughter she is distraught, I go to the facility, she is filming her dad writhing in so much pain and discomfort, unable to get help, I ask have you called the nurse, she said I keep asking they keep telling me she’s on her break., there is a young care worker who has been brought in who was supposed to extra hands, he is pacing up and down the hall and standing in the dining room, ( if he could do nothing to assist with Brian proper training and mentoring would have seen him spent time with other patients who could use some one on one time, instead we hear another staff member yell at another resident ( to shut up, I don’t want to listen to you today), ok I’m upset, I worked in care for years this kind of stuff should not be happening. ( what happened to the days when nurses came off their breaks when needed then resumed them once situations were looked after, or nurses from another floor came and stepped in so people were looked after. This was outrageous, finally after bearing witness to Brian’s suffer as long as we could, we marched down to the nurses station, found the nurse back from break doing paperwork ( perhaps the first stop should have been Brian’s room), we asked that the doctor be called, we were told they would let us know once they’d done it( in other words we were being dismissed), no not this time, insisting the doctor be called and that the daughter speak to the doctor, finally Brians pain was being addressed. However in the coming days, it was exhausting for the family trying and fighting to ensure meds were given on time, I sat at one point for 5 1/2 hours not one care staff came in the room to check on Brian, the nurse came, gave him his pain meds and left, another family member was there for eight hours no care staff, one day his meds were 1/12 hours late, when the nurse was questioned the short reply was , were short staffed we will get to things when we get to them. Sorry Brian is not a thing he his human being at the end stage if life. Yes there were staff who tried, and who were kind and caring, and this isn’t really about the staff as much as it is about a system so broken, that the care is gone, taking care of a person at all stages gone, and you can see staff are exhausted burnt out, wanting to a job, that policy and procedures prohibit them from doing. This is about a man who deserved better from a system he worked and paid into his whole life. This is about a family who shouldn’t have to endure the added stress of fighting a broken system at a time that is already unbearably difficult. And yes Brian’s journey is about me, I live with Dementia, and watching and witnessing all this has left me traumatized, In the weeks since Brian passed, I have said over and over again, it is this very thing that I witnessed that causes me to say I’m going to go buy and stock pile illegal drugs, so I don’t have to endure any of this, I halos have a very explicit health care directive, but I just witnessed one not being honoured, I no longer feel like I can rest assured my wishes will be upheld. I worked in care and dementia care before my diagnosis I was proud of my career, it was an honour to be with someone on their final journey, it was their final home, they are no more than warehouses know, it’s devasting. I am know terrified. I’m glad Brian’s family fought so hard so he could finally have his peaceful passing, I know he looks down proud of them. I will always remember Brian for his humour, that he shared with me, and for him shining the light on something so perhaps others won’t have to endure the same. Brian I will continue to advocate for all living with Dementia until I too have no voice.

Christine Thelker

About the Author

Christine Thelker worked in Dementia Care until Diagnosed with Early Onset Dementia at age 55, she risides in Vernon BC, she is a board member of Dementia Alliance International, a member of Dementia Advocacy Canada

She has spoken at Dementia International Conference in Chicago,

the United Nations in New York, and works at advocating for improvements to Dementia Care World Wide.

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Christine Thelker © 2020 Dementia For This I Am Grateful Living well with Dementia Silver Linings Uncategorized

Underwater Exploring

So I hate that people think that dementia is all about memory loss and the inability to do or learn things. We may not learn in the same way, but we learn, we may not do things in the same way but we do things.

People with dementia are anything but stupid, in fact, quite the opposite, people with dementia are inventive and adaptive, it becomes necessary as a way to live with the disease. We become very creative in finding ways to do things we once did with perhaps ease, but know its a struggle. Others may shake their heads watching us, baffled at the hows and whys of the things we do, but the important piece is that we do. We enable ourselves instead of disabling ourselves, often people with dementia are disabled instead of enabled because people assume that because we can no longer do something we once did, or at least we cannot do it in the way they believe we should, that we just should no longer do it or attempt it.

I don’t believe people are doing this disabling on purpose, I believe they think its kinder to take over and do or stop us from doing because it is often difficult for them to watch the changes in us and how we do things.

So in fact it becomes more about them and what’s best for them than about what’s best for us. There may come a day and time when we need that level of assistance and we all need assistance with certain things. I know there are some areas that I am struggling with more and I in am need of more assistance with. But that doesn’t mean I need assistance with everything and we should always be encouraged to do as much for ourselves as possible.

So this video illustrates one of the things I do, I love water, I love photography. People often ask why I take so many pictures, well pictures trigger memories and events and places and feelings associated with the picture. So this video is some underwater pictures I took with my little underwater camera while walking in a creek, while on a camping trip with my sister and niece.

For me, this is living in the moment doing things that bring me joy, they may not be award-winning photos but they remind me of things I love. It brings me happiness to take them, then put them into a video ( I struggle with this part but after many days eventually get through it.) Building power points, presentations, were something I did with great ease at one time, it is no longer that way, and it’s ok, it doesn’t mean I should stop or stop trying. It doesn’t matter if its other people’s standard what matters is that I still try. What mostly matters is that I am still trying to live my best life despite having Dementia.

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Christine Thelker © 2020 Dementia For This I Am Grateful Living well with Dementia Silver Linings

Something about small towns

So just this past week, I was in Valemount, a small town in Northern BC, to do a book signing event, and to catch up with friends.

You see Valemount was the town were my husband and I lived, along with the kids, Natasha and Brenden, we loved our life, we loved our community. people came together to support one another, to enjoy watching the kids be it basketball or hockey, we loved our life there.

After my husband passed away, I came here to Vernon to be able to work full time, commuting back and forth, working a set going home for a set, it was difficult but necessary. Eventually, I made the difficult decision to move permanently. It was hard to leave so much and so many behind, but life changes and we have to change with it. But friendships withstand time and distance, I returned as time allows, always happy to reconnect with friends.

When my book, was released a dear friend contacted me about coming to do a book signing. She then set out to make it happen despite the challenges of Covid.

The Gathering Tree Restaurant offered up space, ( this meant closing the restaurant early) and the making of boxes of finger food ( Covid ), Remax ( Shelly Smith Battensby). Infinity Office and Health provided posters, soon everything was well planned. I din’t know the owner of the Gathering Tree or Infinity, Shelly Battensby of Remax is a friend of many years.

I enjoyed the drive, remembering many things, and reflecting on the life I had once had there. It always brings an emotional element returning to places of the past. But its also exciting to see people you don’t get to see often.

The local Television VCTV wanted to do a sit-down interview and arrangements were made for that. I did a lovely 45-minute interview done by Michael Peters, whom I also had never met, he came to Valemount after me. He did a great job and I was hoping to post it here, but it’s not ready yet, so it may have to be posted separately.

Next was an interview with the local paper ” The Goat”, another great interview and I look forward to seeing it.

The Book Signing was a great success, I met new people, including the lovely owner of the Gathering Tree Restaurant, its full of great energy, felt good to just be there, Tanya is full of life, upbeat, and a great addition to Valemount.

Just before the signing began, in came Michele, whom I also had never met ( the owner of the Infinity Office and Health Store), another lovely young woman, and she came early to do a meditation session with me before the launch, so that I could release anything that I was carrying and enjoy the evening.

These young women are bright, are following their dreams, opening businesses, living the type of life that brings them happiness. They welcomed me, they offered up time and space, and most importantly, they were the reminder of what is still good in the world. The kindness of strangers, who extended themselves to me, the warmth of a town that used to be home, the love of friends that always there with a warm hug, and welcoming homes.

By the next day, two businesses, The Infinity Office and Health Store ( Michele) had books to sell in her store and had a display build in her storefront, The Goat Newspaper also took copies to sell from their business.

The small town, where everyone wants everyone to succeed, there’s walking into a store the next day and hearing a store owner call you by name, that reminds you of why you loved this small town, and why the idea of small-town living still has a lot of pull for me.

I am so grateful to everyone in Valemount, for their support, for their friendships, grateful for the new friendships.

A heartfelt Thank you to everyone for making my Valemount Book signing a huge success. PS, the little green table, last picture below came home with me it says ” In a gentle way you can shake the world”, I believe this to be true, its what we are trying to do in our advocating trying to shake the world, to show all that dementia is, instead of what its thought to be, thanks for helping with shaking the dementia world Valemount.