‘Crying out for Care’ feedback

elderly-in-chair-back

It has taken me awhile to gather my thoughts following the ‘Crying out for Care’ episode (http://www.cbc.ca/marketpla…/…/2017-2018/crying-out-for-care) aired on Marketplace. “What makes you an expert?” you may ask.

Here’s the reader’s digest version of MY story in point form.

  • My Mother, at the age of 63, was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease in 1997. By the year 1999 I had to place her into long-term care in a Municipally funded home in a specific area for Dementia residents. At that time she could still walk, but no longer could speak (other than gibberish), nor could she make decisions, dress herself, shower or even remember to go to the bathroom. She exhibited many outbursts and behaviours at the time, which was handled with medications to sedate her.
  • Throughout the 8 years in long-term care she declined rapidly mainly due to the age she developed Alzheimer’s disease – the younger a person develops the disease, the quicker the decline.
  • She experienced 2 falls that required medical attention (one being a broken pelvis). Following the fracture she never walked again. I can only assume it was because her brain wouldn’t allow her to relearn the task at hand. Add in a wheelchair combined with her disease made her more vulnerable to neglect and resident on resident adverse behaviours; one being a resident entering her room to try to sexually assault her. A family member witnessed this and immediately ran to the nursing station. My mother was examined and it was determined that she had not been sexually assaulted (they had caught the other resident right before he tried anything). As a daughter I was outraged, disgusted, and told the home that I didn’t want my mother in the same wing as the other resident, otherwise I would call the police. Within an hour my Mother was transferred to another floor and placed in a respite room until a bed arose on that floor. Following a few weeks, she had her own room, and lived the remainder of her life on the second floor receiving outstanding care.
  • Jump to the year 2005. I decided at the age of 41 to return to school full-time and study activation in gerontology at the downtown Toronto George Brown campus. I graduated in 2007 with honours. I found a full-time activation aide job almost immediately at a privately run home in Bolton (King Nursing Home). Eager and excited to be working with residents and staff where I could bring both my personal and schooling experience to was a dream come true. How was I to know, at that time, and years later throughout my career at different facilities, it would become a nightmare?

Your story on Marketplace was correct in the lack of staffing in the nursing department, but what you never touched on was the lack of staffing and sometimes education of staff in the recreation department.

  • Recreational and Social Activities

(a) have a post-secondary diploma or degree in recreation and leisure studies, therapeutic recreation, kinesiology or other related field from a community college or university; or(b) are enrolled in a community college or university in a diploma or degree program in such a field.

* You will notice that the issues with the designated lead and staff qualifications is that individuals who have a social worker diploma or OTHER can also work in long-term care in the recreation department. It takes special education to deliver holistic programs to work with individuals who are elderly, suffer from different forms of dementia, and those who are cognitively alert yet physically challenged. In comparison, I ask that you refer to the LTC act for the personal support worker qualifications.

Every licensee of a long-term care home shall ensure that on and after the first anniversary of the coming into force of this section, every person hired by the licensee as a personal support worker or to provide personal support services, regardless of title, has successfully completed a personal support worker program that meets the requirements in subsection (2).
(2) The personal support worker program,
(a) must meet,
(i) the vocational standards established by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities,
(ii) the standards established by the National Association of Career Colleges, or
(iii) the standards established by the Ontario Community Support Association; and
(b) must be a minimum of 600 hours in duration, counting both class time and practical experience time.

I have to question why is there a difference in qualifications/education for personal support workers versus the recreation/activation/life enrichment/programs department? I believe that many people are unaware of the on-going training needed to work in long-term care and with residents. Recreation staff makes up an integral part of the residents lives, but sadly is many times overlooked in the homes by the MOHLTC and management.

  • PSW’s deliver ADL (activities of daily living for e.g.: getting resident up out of bed, dressing, bathing, bathroom duties, brief changes, feeding, etc.)
  • Recreation takes over from there.

The Recreation department endeavours to run small, large and one-on-one programs tailored to the specific needs, abilities and challenges of each and all residents. Yet once again, as in the staffing for PSW’s, there is no ratio of recreation per resident set out in the LTC act.

  • For example, when I was Program Manager at Eatonville Care Centre that housed 247 residents set out on four floors, I had one full-time recreation staff member per 60 residents. How can one person meet the different needs of 60+ people every day? How can recreation complete paperwork in a timely manner when they are being pulled in different directions on the floor? Recreation staff is constantly called upon by nursing when resident behaviours get out of hand. “Take Mary with you into the program, she keeps yelling out in the hallway”, “We need something for Harry to do, can you do something with him?” etc. etc. etc. With the reduction of prescription use of antipsychotics in long-term care (which should have occurred years ago), I have to say that I have witnessed more challenging behaviours exhibited by some residents ergo more trained recreation staff is needed. Recreation staff who have been specifically educated in recreation in gerontology are trained to diffuse unwanted behaviours such as: delusions, hallucinations, fear, anxiety, depression, anger, etc., but it takes time (diffusing unwanted behaviours doesn’t happen in two minutes).

One of the questions you asked in your expose was: Is long-term care in Ontario in crisis? No, we are beyond crisis, and we are failing each resident residing in a long-term care facility. Whether it’s a thirty-nine year old MS resident, a fifty-nine year old schizophrenic resident, a seventy-five year old massive stroke resident, a sixty-five year old Alzheimer resident, or an eighty-seven year old resident – should it matter? Hell YES, it matters! We as a society and province OWE it to each and everyone of them to properly care for their needs, and more importantly care for them as a ‘person’ with dignity and empathy, not as an inconvenience or annoyance…Our system grades an F for fail on all accounts; failing staff and more importantly failing residents, their families and loved ones. I only hope that with more conversation and education our system can be rebuilt as soon as possible, otherwise just ship me out on an iceberg when it’s my time.

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Unsung Heroes

matinee11

A hero is a real person or a main fictional character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, or strength. Like other formerly solely gender-specific terms, hero is often used to refer to both men and women.

As I sit comfortably in my home self-isolating, my thoughts wander to those living and working in long-term care facilities across the country…

Here’s to the unsung heroes in long-term care… 

What is everyone going through right now? What is the nursing staff up against with staffing, personal protective equipment, and caring for each and every resident? What is the environmental department doing? How many times can they disinfect an entire home, resident’s rooms, staff areas, and washrooms? With limited staff in housekeeping and laundry, how exhausted are they? How is the recreation department handling activities? With 1 full-time recreation aide per 60 residents (which is the…

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Unsung Heroes

A hero is a real person or a main fictional character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, or strength. Like other formerly solely gender-specific terms, hero is often used to refer to both men and women.

As I sit comfortably in my home self-isolating, my thoughts wander to those living and working in long-term care facilities across the country…

Here’s to the unsung heroes in long-term care… 

What is everyone going through right now? What is the nursing staff up against with staffing, personal protective equipment, and caring for each and every resident? What is the environmental department doing? How many times can they disinfect an entire home, resident’s rooms, staff areas, and washrooms? With limited staff in housekeeping and laundry, how exhausted are they? How is the recreation department handling activities? With 1 full-time recreation aide per 60 residents (which is the norm), how are they working to keep the residents engaged? Now that there are no entertainers, volunteers, and pet therapy visits, where does that leave the residents? How do family members feel now that they can no longer visit, reassure and touch their loved ones?  

Long-term care in this country is messy. A great number of those working in long-term care are part-time workers, which saves the home money, but to what expense? Now that provincial governments are mandating that no staff member can work at two or more homes, where does that put resident care? In fact, where does that put the part-time worker? For those part-time workers who give up one of their jobs, they may see their hours increased at the home, but how much stress and burnout will LTC see in the very near future? Stress is like a snowball; it runs downhill gathering quickly and emanating towards the vulnerable persons who need care 24/7.

The individuals who work in long-term care are a special breed. The majority are caring, empathetic and loving people who don’t do the job because of the pay, as the wage is lower than most would imagine. They do the job because they actually fall in love with their residents. LTC is a second home for those working in the facilities, especially the smaller homes with 65 or less residents. Most staff spend more time at the care home then at their own homes. This is why my heart breaks for these unsung heroes and residents. 

Point blank: the system is broken. Those living and working in LTC will eventually fade away, disappear and die. Harsh words and horrible picture, but as seen in each and every province, this nightmare is only beginning. I experienced the SARS outbreak when my Mother was in a LTC facility. Some would think that this would have been a lesson for government and owners of facilities, but memories are short and pocketbooks shallow.

It’s heartbreaking to imagine what is occurring right now in LTC. How frightened are the residents who suffer from different forms of dementia when they cannot recognize their caregiver due to personal protective equipment? How difficult is it for staff and residents not to hug one another? During outbreaks in units, how challenging is it to keep 30 or more residents in their rooms and have meal tray service delivered? What about those residents who cannot feed themselves? How much extra work is there for staff when they have to feed each resident individually? What about those who are mobile and need to wander throughout the unit, how does the staff care for them? 

There are many crevices in the system that have grown into craters. I’d like to think Covid-19 might be the change we need to re-work our long-term care facilities, but unfortunately death of the vulnerable will be our cost.

To all working with our vulnerable in an unprecedented time, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

To the government, I say, it’s time to step up! Talk is cheap. It’s time to dig deep and increase staffing in LTC on a permanent basis. It’s time to take care of our elderly and vulnerable in LTC, before it’s too late. 

Namaste

Meditation & Mindfulness on a Monday

Turning corners, taking the left fork in the road instead of the right, rediscovering who you are and what you’re here to accomplish in your years on this planet. Whether it’s a move, a new job, or new friends, we all need time to reflect.

We come into this world as a perfect baby; no hang-ups, no preconceived ideas, no prejudice, no anything for that matter. We are held in a shroud of light, love and feel protected. We are shielded from the craziness of the world and its dark side. What happens as we grow and begin to learn? Our first teachers are our parents, who we realize as we age, are far from perfect. We reach our teens knowing everything and challenge all we’ve been told. Oh, those were the days.

Our twenties and thirties are filled with schooling, jobs, perhaps a marriage and family of our own. The forties march in and before we know it, we are in our fifties. One leg in the grave, some may say.

I’m not that ‘some’. The fifties are an introspective time. A time to rediscover what is important and what our purpose is here on earth. It’s a time to lead and a time to learn. It’s a time to reflect on our definition of perfection. It’s a time for a higher realization. It’s a time for meditation.

Through loss of jobs, family and friends our lives are constantly changing. Sometimes for the better, other times not so much. But if we keep in mind that kindness, empathy and higher learning overcome doubt, sadness, and the ugliness that appear throughout our life, then we can enjoy our golden years.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.’

I bow my head and dream of today while living in the present because I can’t do anything to change the past and have no idea what lies in my future.

I meditate, examine my life thus far, and ask that I explore the beauty of this day.

To all my beautiful family and friends, take a minute to breathe deeply and rediscover the child within. Namaste!

Yoga-Namaste-Quotes.jpg

“I’m your boss… you do what I say…”

b29175e2ea1b2b843f4035761b18fe7a--bully-boss-workplace-bullying

Let’s talk ‘harassment’. (Try not to grimace; I realize we are inundated with this word right now, but, rightfully so) The headlines are everywhere…

Broadway Gets Serious About Sexual Harassment – Variety

38 accuse writer-director James Toback of sexual harassment – CBC.ca

The (incomplete) list of powerful men accused of sexual harassment …

Women and a few men have publicly spoken out about their past sexual torment with mainly the male population who held powerful positions over them. My heart aches for the women and men who have endured silently and suffered for years; as the #metoo weighs on my mind and in my heart. The fact that some people (and I do not want to make it all about men) can invade and threaten a person’s physical and emotional space, is in one word, wrong. Although, it’s empowering to see individuals come together to eradicate this ‘wrong’, I worry about those working, for instance, at your friendly diner, in retail, and within small businesses, who cannot complain, cannot fight, and may never win a legal battle against their employer or manager because they need to provide for their families and/or themselves. A battle in the courtroom costs everyone (money, time, reputation, emotional and physical stress). At present we have all heard stories of those who have spoken out following years of abuse, who are now self-sufficient and are financially fit for life. ‘Good for them’ I say, but what about the rest of us?

What about the hostile work environment, you know, the one where sexual harassment doesn’t play a role? In other words ‘bullying’ by those in power over their staff or team.

The definition of bullying found online from the Miriam Webster dictionary reads:

– abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, and more powerful. 

If you haven’t already figured it out, ‘bullying’ is just as prevalent, or more so, than sexual harassment in the workplace. I searched online to find statistics in relation to workplace bullying, and believe it or not, it wasn’t as easy as I thought, even using the World Wide Web. Is it because workplace bullying is tough to define? Is it because it’s tough to prove? Is it because very few people report it? Is it because we stay silent and suffer? I say ‘we’, because looking back, I’ve been there. I’ve suffered silently at the hands of the majority of my female managers over the years. In this day and age of ‘women supporting one another’, why is this still happening? Is it because women need to prove something to themselves and to others and/or men in particular? I can’t answer many of those questions, because I don’t understand it. I don’t understand belittling, I don’t understand psychological torture, I don’t understand the words “I’m your boss; you have to respect me”, yet you don’t respect me just because I work under you, and may have challenged you.

I remained silent for years. When I was younger I changed jobs when I no longer could take the verbal abuse from my female bosses, but as I grew older and wiser, I became more vocal and began to stand up for myself. “Woohoo”, you may say, “You go girl”. It didn’t help. Not as far as I could see. In fact, my situation at work worsened. At the moment my boss knew what buttons to push, she bulldozed over me, not only that, she pulled in another female manager to assist with her verbal abuse. This continued for months, until I couldn’t take it anymore. I found myself crying all the time. I found myself tired. I found myself sneaking past her office hoping she wouldn’t see me and confront me with some sort of issue. I found myself hating my workplace. I found myself writing my resignation letter. There’s a breaking point for everyone and this was mine. If I had been stronger at the time, I may have stayed and allowed my boss to fire me (at least that way I may have had a case or at least been able to collect some sort of compensation). Instead I left a position and job I loved, and one in which, I could never use as a reference on my resume. I did have an exit interview with one of the owners of the company and spilled everything. I’m sure if any of my words and accusations were followed up, it would have been a ‘she said/she said’ scenario. There was no one to back me up. I couldn’t ask others to help out. I cared too much for my peers and team to allow my ex-manager’s abuse to continue onto them. When it came down to it, which was more believable? The manager who had worked there for years dividing manager from team (by using intimidation tactics and power on those below her), or me (the newbie), the one who finally took a stand against her?

It’s sad that it can take one or two persons to create a toxic workplace, but on the flip side, it can take one or two persons to make a healthy and kind workplace. It’s a choice or a battle, one that will continue to be voiced.

Here’s my two cents worth; maybe if more people would speak out, maybe if more would listen, maybe if old-school workplace concepts evolved into new workplace objectives, then only, just maybe, the vulnerable would not suffer under the hands of the more powerful.

Baba

mom dad baba

The weekend arrives and I concede to Baba’s wishes of visiting Mom at the nursing home. I hope that once she sees how bright and airy the facility is that she will not worry as much. In fact, I’m hoping Baba doesn’t blame me anymore for placing Mom. Baba’s idea of a nursing home is a dark and dingy institution filled with crazy people. She believes that it’s a place where one drops someone off, leaves him or her, and never returns. Not unlike, “Someone flew over the cuckoos nest”.

“Your Mom does not belong in there. Why can’t I move in with your Mother?” She begs over the phone.

“It’s a lovely home Baba. You’ll see. Mom has her own room and it’s decorated with her own photo’s and furniture.” I reply, ignoring her pleas.

I pick up Baba at 12:30 at her apartment. I estimate that this gives us enough time to arrive at Mom’s new home after lunch.

I notice she’s waiting outside the lobby in the pick-up area. My first thought is that she looks exhausted. Her usually thick grey hair seems to have thinned out greatly. She is wearing her brown and beige dress (that looks two sizes too large for her) with tan open toed shoes. “My bunions hurt, these are more comfy for me, I can’t wear closed shoes”, she continually tells me when I ask if she doesn’t have a more comfortable pair. She carries a cane in her right hand while keeps her purse cupped on her left arm. I rush out of my car to open the passenger door for her.

“Oh Paula, I can do it myself. You don’t have to help me in the car.” She says.

“I know Baba, I guess it’s just force of habit for me.” I smile; take her cane while I help her into the seat.

The drive is quiet. I can’t think of anything to say. I feel Baba’s heartache as she sits silently and blankly stares out the passenger side window. Neither one of us could have foreseen this future. All three generations (Baba, Mom and myself) are duelling with the demon called Alzheimer’s, but in different ways. Mom had always been Baba’s rock. Following Dad’s death seven years ago, Baba had suggested Mom and her live together, “two widows with many years left”, she’d remark; Mom kyboshed that idea immediately. I think Mom wanted to try living on her own. At the age of twenty-eight Mom went from her family to marrying and moving in with Dad. She never lived alone, or at least lived independently. I keep thinking that if Baba and her had lived together, maybe she wouldn’t be where she is today. I shake my head and think, “yeah right, like living with someone can stop Alzheimer’s”.

We arrive and I pull up to the entranceway. I help Baba out of the car and notice her looking around.

“This is not what I pictured.” She simply says.

I nod, get back into the car and park.

I quickly walk back to Baba. She is still holding her cane scooped on her right arm.

I take her cane and say,

“Baba, here, don’t forget to use this.”

We enter through the first set of automatic sliding doors. A binder sits on a small table set up before the main entrance. A sign taped to the glass says, “All visitors must sign in when entering and sign out when exiting.” I bend down, take the attached pen in hand and sign the book. Baba says nothing.

I punch in the four-digit code in order to open the sliding glass door into the atrium. I explain to Baba about security and how this is to make sure some of the residents don’t leave unattended. I used the word “unattended” because the word “escape” may confirm Baba’s fears of an asylum.

We enter into the bright and clean sunlit atrium. To the left are tables and chairs set-up for visiting, to the right is the reception desk. It’s quiet as I take Baba’s right arm in mine and walk her over towards the left side of the nursing station for Mom’s section.

A keypad rests above and to the right of the fire door. I punch in another code that I’ve memorized. I tell Baba that we have to be careful opening the door as there may be someone on the opposite side and we don’t want to hit them. I withhold the real reason; we don’t want anyone to bolt out the door, in other words, escape.

We walk through the doorway and notice a few residents walking around. A personal support worker recognizes me and tells me Mom is in the dining room. I’m torn as to what I should do; do I take Baba to Mom’s room and sit her down, then fetch Mom? Or do I take Baba directly to the dining room? I look down at Baba and notice she is out of breath. This is new for her. I wonder if it’s because she’s anxious or whether there is a serious health issue she is not telling anyone about. I’m not sure she will be able to walk down the long hallway to the end where Mom’s room is located. The head nurse appears around the corner. I smile and introduce her to Baba telling her she is Mom’s mother. The nurse senses my apprehension or notices Baba is in distress when she suggests Baba borrow a wheelchair.

“It will be easier for your grandmother. That way you all can visit and she can be comfortable.” She says as she runs into a room and fetches a common wheelchair.

Baba says nothing and doesn’t refuse the wheelchair. I’m hit with the realization that all my time and energy has gone into Mom, which in turn has meant I’ve ignored Baba’s needs over the last while. My eyes tear up, as my guilt boils over. Baba is not only my grandmother; she is my friend, my second Mother. How can I have been so selfish and wound up in Mom’s issues and mine to have not checked on her more often?

My thoughts are interrupted when Baba sits down in the wheelchair. I push her down the hallway towards Mom’s room. Baba looks straight ahead and says nothing until Mary (a resident) walks over to me and gently places her hand on my arm.

“And who do we have here?” Mary asks.

“Hi Mary. This is my Mom’s mother, Josephine.” I tell her. Why I don’t say, “she’s my grandmother” is beyond me.

Baba perks up. She smiles and puts out her hand to shake Mary’s. Is it the Scottish accent I wonder? Baba’s first husband was from Edinburgh, so I’m thinking the accent is familiar to her.

They chitchat and Baba brightens up. I look at both and ask,

“Can you wait here for a moment while I get Mom from the dining room?”

“Of course dear, I’ll keep Josephine occupied.” Mary laughs.

I turn and glance back at Mary (who is now sitting on her walker directly in front of Baba). It looks like they are getting along. They both smile and touch each other on the arms gently. What are they talking about, I wonder. I begin to relax and am relieved it’s Mary that Baba is speaking to (there are many other residents here who do not speak and are further along in their Alzheimer’s). I’m happy Baba has met one of the residents here and my hope is that she is more comfortable with Mom’s new home, or at least, less anxious.

I hate the night

hallway

Arriving at the condo, I take the elevator up to the fourth floor. Hunched over, I walk towards the door, put the key in, and open it. Once again, I expect Mom to greet me and a wave of sadness envelops me. My breath is uneven and my heart beats rapidly as I walk into the living room. I make my way over to the sofa and am cognizant of the fact I have to sell what’s left of Mom’s furniture, or throw it out. I have no more room at my place and Stephen has taken everything he can for his new apartment. I sit down on the sofa and rub my hand on the surface of the material. I smile when I think of how much Mom loved her furniture and reflect on the many memories attached to this piece. This was the special sofa placed in our living room over the years. Visiting family and friends sat comfortably on the couch telling stories, jokes and laughing way into the early morning. Alcoholic drinks and ashtrays with cigarette butts covered the coffee table. As a child in my pajama’s I’d sit mesmerized listening to each and every word. I’d always fall asleep on the floor in the living room, but find myself waking up in the morning in my own bed. I never knew how I got there; it was a complete mystery to me. Through the years the sofa has been recovered a couple of times because Mom never found another one, “as well made as this one,” she’d remark. The current colours and texture reflect Mom’s taste. A cream background surrounded by a floral print of pale pink, blue and purple. I wish I could take it, but it’s not really my style (too flowery for me), plus I know it would be ruined within months of living at my place. Mom had a knack of taking extra care of her possessions, which is a trait I did not inherit.

My head is cloudy and my mind is tangled like a bunch of necklaces in a jewellery box. I keep thinking, is there a way I can keep Mom’s condo? I answer out loud, “Damn, there is no way”. I stare in a daze at the floor and know that there is barely enough money in her savings account to pay for her monthly care as it is right now. I know if she were sixty-five years old and receiving old age pension things would be different, but she’s only sixty-four; two thousand two hundred dollars a month is a lot of money to pay at the facility, add in medications, hairdressing, and cable TV and we are in the red if we try to keep Mom’s place. On top of all that, I have no job and no income. Then I realize, whom am I kidding anyway? It’s not like she will ever come back here. A long-term care facility? That’s a joke. It really should be renamed, end-of-life facility. It’s not like any of the residents will ever leave the place, unless they go into a hospital to die. Her disease is terminal and I’m having such a hard time wrapping my head around that fact. Everything I read about the disease points to the fact that she’s never going to get better; in fact, she will continue to deteriorate mentally and physically over the next few years. Alzheimer’s will take over her entire being and I sense it will take over mine in the process. I remember a quote I read years ago that declared, “If we fear the unknown then we surely fear ourselves” (Bryant H. McGill). I think I may be frightened of how and if, I can handle this pilgrimage. In fact, I’m afraid of the present day and more so, the future. My phone rings and it’s the realtor. Time to get on with business. I have no choice. Mom’s condo will be sold and I’ll have one less thing to worry about. The money from the sale will be set-aside in her name for her care. I take one last look around her home and hope that whoever buys it, takes care of it and enjoys it. I’m beginning to realize that time is precious and to bask in the now as one never knows what’s around the corner or over the hill.

Later in the evening Mark and I cuddle on the couch watching TV. The security of having a person love me unconditionally comforts me. I allow myself to escape and fall into his arms and just be, if only for a short time. I wish I can stay here forever, but I’m brought back to reality when the phone rings. I jump up. The first thing that comes to mind is; please don’t let it be an issue with Mom, immediately the next thing that comes to mind is, Baba. I run both scenarios through my head, praying the call has nothing to do with either, as it continues to ring. I hesitantly answer. I look over at Mark as I listen to the stranger at the other end of the line. I apologize. I cry. I say, “Thank you so very much.” I tell the stranger Mom has early on-set Alzheimer’s and is now living in long-term care facility. More tears from the both of us at different ends of the phone line. We say our goodbyes and I gradually hang up the phone. Mark looks at me and asks,

“What was that all about?”

I run to grab tissues and ask him to give me a minute. I sit back down on the couch and begin to tell him the story.

“It seems like for the past few months Mom had been calling a complete stranger thinking she was calling me.” Tears fall down my cheeks.

“What? Baby, what do you mean; calling a stranger?” Mark asks.

It’s hard for me to repeat and process everything that I just heard on the opposite end of the phone line, but I try anyway,

“She told me that Mom called at least once a week. She talked to this lady or her daughter as if she were talking to me. The lady tried her best to convince Mom she had the wrong number, but it didn’t seem to register with Mom.”

Mark is silent. I’m sure I’m not making any sense, but I continue,

“Eventually, over time, her daughter and herself went along with Mom because Mom didn’t seem to understand the person on the other end of the phone wasn’t me. She added that Mom seemed sweet and kind. Neither she nor her daughter wanted to upset Mom.”

“But, I’m not getting this. How did she know how to reach you, then?” Mark asks.

“I guess some old fashion detective work. The last time Mom called, she dialed *69 in order to get the phone number. The next time Mom called she asked Mom’s name and Mom answered; Anne Macpherson. She then looked in the phone book for any other Macpherson and found me. She said she had no idea if I was related to Mom, but thought she’d give it a try.”

“But why did she wait so long to call you?” Mark asks.

I cry.

“I have no idea, I never asked.” I reply embarrassed. Why the hell didn’t I ask more questions? Why didn’t I get this lovely lady’s name?

Mark reaches out and we embrace. I cry on his shoulder. Through my sobs I say,

“She…she said she was worried she hadn’t heard from Mom in awhile.”

Oh my god. My heart is breaking for Mom. How could Mom not know that she wasn’t talking to me? Why didn’t I spend more time with her? Why?

Through all the crying, I question; what else was I unaware of? What if she called other people by mistake, thinking she was calling me? What kind of daughter am I, not to have known any of this? Once again, my feelings that I am the worst daughter in the world resurface. I need to escape and sleep.

I hate the night. When I was a child suffering from the flu, I remember Mom saying,

“The nights are always the worst, our temperatures go up, we become restless and unsettled. Sometimes there is no peaceful sleep in bed.”

During these ill times for me, Mom used to place an empty basket next to my bed to use if I felt sick to my stomach. Before long, she would settle in and curl up beside me in the twin size bed, holding a cold compress on my forehead while caressing my face. We’d snuggle together until I fell asleep. I felt safe and secure, and usually within a short amount of time, I’d be in a deep slumber.

There is no deep sleep for me now. I toss and turn. I can’t turn conversations off; I can’t stop the fears, and I have no answers to my many questions. I wish there was a switch I could turn off to tune out the voices, but there isn’t. I’ve tried drinking beer (many bottles) thinking it will help me pass out and sleep, but it never works. My brain does not stop. Somehow I think that my stomach may be attached to my brain because it never relaxes and it feels like a fisherman’s knot; tied up and rigid. Those few times when sleep does come (usually in the afternoon), I don’t want to wake up, because when I do wake, it means I’m thrown back into the reality of Mom’s disease, Baba’s aging, no job and everything else that is happening in my life at the moment. There are no dreams just nightmares. I hate the night.