He’s Just a Dog

He’s just a dog

At 11 weeks old he entered our home, full of piss and vinegar and to the chagrin of our other dog Mattie. Mattie (who would become his surrogate mom) would put him down many times when he got out of control, but he’s just a dog. 

He guarded his food with aggression from all in the house. It took time to teach him manners and trust, but he’s just a dog.

With his wombat puppy look he endeared himself to our friends, neighbours and us, but he’s just a dog. 

He would run and run and run for hours chasing anything that moved, but he’s just a dog.

He fell in love with our neighbour’s daughter and up until the day they moved, he would wait every afternoon until she exited the school bus to greet her, but he’s just a dog. 

He loved little puppies until one day a pup thought his private part was a nipple, but he’s just a dog.

His bond with Mattie became unbreakable and they played and played until she couldn’t play any longer; from that moment on he would lie down next to her, but he’s just a dog. 

He barked at anything and everything. We noticed his sight was diminished. We asked ourselves is that why he barks and is protective? Then again, he’s just a dog.

He went on long walks with me in secluded forests, but he’s just a dog.

The day I had to say goodbye to Mattie, he cuddled up to me on the couch as if to say, “It’s going to be okay, I’m here.” He’s just a dog.

We brought another friend home for him named Layla. He wasn’t happy at first, she was 6 months old and he wasn’t impressed. He’s just a dog. 

After a couple of days, he and Layla were inseparable. She gave him a new lease on life and kept him young, but he’s just a dog.

He and Layla would run around the house for hours playing. Sometimes he would be in the lead, other times she would take it, but he’s just a dog. 

He would love to run through his favourite people’s legs, but he’s just a dog. 

He was a nervous dog; shaking and drooling at the vet’s until we found a vet who would do home visits. He’s just a dog. 

He had a thing with vinyl, ceramic and linoleum floors. He couldn’t do it…. Couldn’t walk on it and most definitely wouldn’t enter other people’s homes if any of those floors existed. Oh yeah, he’s just a dog. 

Years of running the property and at times into trees due to his limited sight took its toll on his body, but he’s just a dog. 

He was a trooper when we had to move three provinces away. As long as we had little carpets to put down on the floor in motel rooms, he was good. He’s just a dog. 

A year at his new home in a new province he has slowed and has a permanent limp accompanied with limited eyesight and hearing, but he’s just a dog. 

Now we watch him sleep, struggle with stairs down to the fenced yard where he takes a long nap, but he’s just a dog.

12 years old, the one who always made us laugh out loud is slowly deteriorating before our eyes, but he’s just a dog. 

For those who do not know Fergus, yes, he’s just a dog, but to others, he is a sweet soul who lived hard, played hard, loved hard and weaved his way into our hearts and soul. 

We wait until the day he tells us he’s ready, because we know he’s not ‘just a dog’, he’s our comedian, companion, friend, and heart centre. 

Getting old is shit, but…. he’s just a dog. 

From The Outside Looking In

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I am in the process of taking an online course (well many really), but the one that hits me hard in the heart is the ‘Indigenous Canada – Looking Forward / Looking Back’ course through the University of Alberta.

When I was younger (ages 8-11) I attended school in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was a Catholic primary school run by the Sisters of St. Ann, called Immaculate Conception. As a child, who moved from one school to another, this was the longest I attended any one school prior to high school. It was also the place I began to learn about the Indigenous people of Canada, or so I thought.

In those pivotal years, I learned about the Colonists who landed on the shores claiming the land for either England or France. As a kid, I learned the history that was part of our curriculum, but little did I know, it had many holes and missing parts.

In our class, we had a few Indigenous children who were bussed in from their ‘reservation’. They, like all of us, had to wear the required uniform. I wasn’t friends with any of the Indigenous kids and to this day I don’t know why. Were we segregated? My memory fails me. I do know that the girls were roughly taken by the Nuns to wash up every day due to their unkempt hygiene. I do know that the girls were quiet and kept to themselves. What I didn’t know, was that most likely these children had no choice but to attend our school. The only positive (if there is any for these children) is that they were able to go home every day to their family and community, as our school was not a boarding school.

I always had the impression that residential schools were church operated only. I had no idea that it was also financed by our government. Of course, the church mission was to ‘Christianize’ the children by educating them, but the government’s mandate? The government covered the education cost of each Indigenous child to make them ‘more civilized’ and to take them out of their ‘savage state’. In other words, assimilate them into western society and strip them of all their language, customs and life.

The boarding schools, known as the Indian Residential Schools, began in 1883 thanks (or no thanks) to Prime Minister John A. MacDonald. These Boarding schools were set far away from the indigenous districts so that the children would have no contact with their family and community. By the year 1920, it was mandatory that all Indigenous children from the age of 7 to 15 attend these schools. What is worse than that? Separating parent from child, child from parent? Perhaps, that parents who refused to have their children taken away, would be punished by fine or even imprisonment. If you feel incensed right now, good! I’m not done.

I’ve learned that the children who resided in these boarding schools lived under horrendous conditions. Not only were these schools (run by the Church) unsanitary but these children (remember they are just kids taken away from their parents and community) experienced sexual assault by the hand of those running the schools, beatings, poisonings, starvation, freezing and electric shock. Some children were used as experiments (sounding a little too familiar – think WW2). Documented by some of the survivors one school had used an ‘electric chair’ to discipline the children. St. Anne’s Catholic Residential School that was open from 1904-1973 housed an electric chair in their basement, until the school closed. WTF?

I’ve only touched the surface of these atrocities made by Canada against the Indigenous community and culture. There continues to be an enormous impact for survivors and their family directly from the Residential school fall out. It is called ‘intergenerational trauma’. If you know anyone who has suffered any childhood trauma, you have heard of the damage done and how it stretches out to family and community. The consequences of childhood trauma can be witnessed through domestic violence, drug use, addiction, suicide, etc.

I reflect back to my childhood; how lucky I was having two parents who provided a home full of love and safety, how I was blessed to have grandparents who shared stories of their childhood and traditions, and last but not least, how I am able to pass down family stories to the next generation. I then begin to think about all the Indigenous children who were stolen from their parents and are now but a veil of their people. Whatever stories they carry, remain as scars on their heart and spirit.

I don’t know how to end this, other than to say… I’m angry. I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I’m sorry. I see now … my eyes are wide open. I’m sorry.

Canada Day is tomorrow. Let us not forget the Indigenious people. Let us continue to tell stories to the young and teach one another. Let us reflect on how we have treated each other. Let us think of how we can make Canada a safe, balanced and cultural society where we respect one another’s traditions and history. Let us learn from one another. Let us move forward never forgetting about the past. Let us have compassion and love for one another!

Happy Canada Day!

 

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Bag meet Balloon…

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I only realized lately that I carry loads of suitcases and a balloon. This baggage at times can be awkward and a burden that weigh me down, while the latex filled bubble is light and airy, changing colour, not unlike a chameleon.

Of course, I will always choose the balloon in order to float upwards, but how can I rid myself of all the baggage? You see, there are things in the suitcases that are a part of me. Some good, some bad. How do I determine which is which? What do I keep and what do I let go?

The balloon retains all my dreams, inspirations, and hopes for the future. My suitcases on the other hand, hold my past experiences, feelings, and ego. Can you see my dilemma? To reopen some of the bags will bring tears, regrets, and grief. Travelling down the old gravel road is like a wound that will not heal. It means facing self-doubt, self-sabotage, toxicity and my old self head-on. Is this something I want to do? I can sense the anger, hurtful words, and ignorance bursting within my effects. Why would I want to do this to myself? Because knowing one’s self, is the only way to shift and turn the switch to the ‘on’ position, rather than the ‘on-hold’ position.

I will pick through each bag as if I’m seeing it for the very first time. I will be non-judgmental and accepting of each item that bears my trademark. I will feel compassion and love for each element enclosed. I will forgive myself for those items where I didn’t know any better. I will also forgive myself in times where I DID know better. I will have patience. I will give myself time.

One thing I’ve learned is that we all have suitcases dragging behind us. The real journey is opening those bags, learning from each item contained within, then setting free those which do not serve us anymore. Perhaps you are thinking… ‘that’s easier said than done’. Of course it is, no one ever said life was easy, but then again, maybe the human race make it harder than it needs to be. I don’t have the answers, in fact, I have more questions as I make this journey. But, isn’t that what we are here for; to discover, investigate, and connect with others?

The balloon? I’m energized to see where it takes me. Each day as I eliminate a bag, I find myself lighter and sailing upwards. I feel freedom from past mistakes and mishaps. I feel that every day IS a new day. I leave behind old habits and develop new routines. I meditate daily. I look at nature in childlike wonder. I question. I’m attentive to what and who is around me. I’m grateful for my family, my fur-family, along with old and new friends who open my heart and expand my world.

I may forever carry a bag or two, but in addition, I will increase my balloon to perhaps, two? When others whisper, ‘her head seems to be in the clouds’, I will grin casually, because I know, the clouds are where I’m destined to be.

 

 

 

The Great Pretender…

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Do you ever feel like you are an imposter?

Going through life acting as someone else?

Taking the road most travelled?

Authentically, not you?

I’ve been asking myself these questions for the past 24 hours. What makes me think I can discover who I am? What makes me think I want to? What is hidden so deep inside? Do I want to know? What will be the outcome if I continue on the road less travelled? Will it be a positive experience? Will I have many regrets? So many questions and hardly any answers.

Self-discovery is uncomfortable! It’s difficult to explain to the younger generation. As a baby boomer born to the Silent Generation, my upbringing was in contrast to generation X, Y, Z, and the current Millennials.

My parents, a product of the silent generation, felt it unwise to speak up and out. Any type of anger demonstrated by children was deemed insolent, impolite, and out of line. Children had strict rules to follow. “Children are to be seen, not heard” and “Respect your elders” were the words echoed throughout time. Sensitivity was seen as weakness. Catastrophic events, such as suicide, alcoholism and mental illness were swept under the carpet and hidden in hushed corners. This precept continued outside the home through the school system. This is not a blame game. I’m not criticizing The Silent Generation, because without them, the following generations would not have evolved. The Silent Generation had their reasons as to why they kept quiet, to which I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. I am saying out-loud to myself; have patience.

I’m trying to fit into this new world, but have to admit, I feel I’m on a seesaw. The inner conflict stemming from past episodes, scholarly teachings, career choices, and religious upbringing, swirls in my belly, travels and clumps in my throat. On a good day, I speak my truth. I challenge myself to learn and explore. I feel free just as the wind breaths into the quietness of the forest. On a not so good day, I doubt my voice. I am confused and begin to shut down. Self-sabotage is an awful emotion, that jittery pessimistic throbbing in your heart. I have decided that I will not run from self-doubt anymore. I will face it head on.

Maybe I’m not an imposter. Maybe I’m going through stages like a butterfly. Maybe I’ll come at the other end of all this a better human being. It is feasible that with inner exploration and conversations with like others in awareness of ‘compassion’, my journey will take me to a destination I never imagined.

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying: “You never fail until you stop trying.”

I will keep trying… I will continue to speak my truth… I will make progress in stripping off my mask…I will support others in this thing called ‘life’ and… perhaps….one day those ‘not so good days’ will be far and few between.

 

Essence

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Blind of what was ahead, she gently placed her hand on the doorknob and turned. It had been years since she felt this free, still hesitantly, she walked through the threshold. She stepped over the stones to the towering chestnut tree. She didn’t look at anything else. In full bloom with weeping leaves and broad bulbous ivory blooms, he beckoned her. Looking up at the large tree, she lightly touched the aged bark. Somehow, she felt a oneness with him. He invited her to sit at his feet. She accepted. She settled at his base and pulled her legs up to her chest.

“Breathe”, he reverberated.

“Breathe”, he repeated.

She slowed her breathing and closed her eyes.

She was instantly enveloped in awareness.

The words came from every direction, “You are not good enough… Are you sure you want to do that…? Take the familiar road, don’t take the one less travelled…don’t be different…make everyone like you…. Ignore your gut, it’s always wrong…. You are too old…. You are too young… keep that to yourself… In order to get anywhere you can’t be liked by everyone…No one will love the ‘real’ you…you can change him…”

The words swirled around her, then suddenly, went silent. She opened her eyes. The tree branch brushed her shoulder.

The forest glowed in bright pink. She was about to run but was stopped by the animals who approached her. A rabbit hopped into her arms and a deer grazed at her feet. The dog who she had loved and lost, snuggled beside her.

Without a sound, she began to weep. The dog nuzzled closer, the deer looked into her soul, the rabbit curled up within her lap. The tree? He stayed rooted, held her thoughtfully, and swayed in the soft breeze.

It was like the forest knew she didn’t want to leave, when it responded;

“You must leave now, but you can come back anytime you wish. You still have much to do and many hearts to touch. Step carefully, be grateful, and use your compassion to teach others.”

She slowly stood up and hugged the big chestnut tree and looked down at her old companion. With tears in her eyes, she held her friends head in her hands.

“I miss you the most but am grateful you taught me unconditional love. I will come back soon.”

The old dog nodded and pushed her back towards the door as if to say,

“Go now and shine. I will always be here, my energy floats through the universe with you. And one more thing; promise me, you will see yourself as I see you.”

The girl nodded and walked towards the door. She looked back at all the beauty she was leaving behind; a single tear fell down her cheek.

Walking through the doorway she felt something. Was it strength? Was it acceptance? She closed the door behind her and said aloud…

“I am!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unsung Heroes

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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!

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‘Crying out for Care’ feedback

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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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“I’m your boss… you do what I say…”

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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.