Do you think it’s nearly over?

Could it be? I have started doing my own groceries but I do still wear a mask. My bridge group is now meeting in person. I ventured out to Temples Sugarbush (my favourite) earlier this month for their pancake breakfast. I have booked tickets to see a Celtic Illusion concert at TD place in late April – a mix of Celtic dancing and magic!! Again, I will likely wear a mask. I’m more hopeful than ever that my twice delayed holiday in Abruzzo, Italy will actually happen in September. My brother and his wife are coming for an Easter visit – haven’t seen them for over 2 years. Surely these are signs that either COVID is coming to an end or I have decided to try to “live” with it. Either way, it’s an improvement.

My advocacy group on changing the way care is given in Long-term Care homes has achieved a major milestone. As I type, the chair of my group, along with representatives from CARP National are meeting with Premier Doug Ford who expressed an interest in learning more about emotion-based models of care in LTC homes. It’s hard to imagine he hasn’t heard of this stuff before – but it’s a chance to actually have his ear in a private zoom meeting. I sure wish I could be a fly on the wall! Building many new Institution-like buildings for LTC is not the answer unless the way care is delivered drastically changes. Also today is another of our Lunch & Learn webinars – this one on a new village concept for LTC in Comox, B.C. – including the important emotion-based care we are striving to achieve. We are hoping to make this an election issue with provincial elections coming along in June of this year.

My friends, neighbours, family, and Herbie (my kitty) have kept me on an even keel over the past 2 years of lock-downs, vaccinations, boosters, etc. I think I could easily become a complete hermit as I found I didn’t mind staying at home, being lazy, reading, watching garbage TV (other than Sens games), etc. Life is becoming a little bit more “normal” these days as I watch my calendar fill up with face-to-face appointments (what a novel idea), bridge games and other outings with friends and family.

I hope you are all finding your own “normal” these days and that you are well and at least content.



COVID-19 – Repeat

Oh my goodness this is getting tiring. We seem to be in worse shape today than we were one year ago. I’m still ordering groceries from home, still seeing only a very few people unless it’s outside, masks on, well distanced and even then, I’m picky-choosey in terms of who that might be. It’s the Tuesday after Easter and my grocery shopper is not doing well – shelves are empty – so many things out of stock. It’s not as if they didn’t know Easter weekend was coming. This is nuts!

I’ve had my first of two vaccinations (March 29) but my second is booked for July 19 – too far out as far as I’m concerned. I’m hoping, with more vaccine shipments, it will get moved up. Until then, I’m placing myself in near lockdown.

I did manage to see my cousin John and his wife Julie and two of their kids and grandkids over Easter weekend – all in separate places – and all outside. It was very nice to actually see some family faces – at least their eyes from a distance. They were all really careful to give me my space. It also gave my car a little run!

I remember feeling very tired and unenthused about doing anything a year ago when we were in a lockdown scenario. I became a sludge and had little interest in doing anything worthwhile. After a few months, I did start to do some de-cluttering in the house – closets, drawers, etc and got onto quite a roll. Unfortunately, that didn’t last and I’m back to being a sludge again. While the weather was yucky, I was doing jigsaw puzzles with a neighbour – but now, it’s too nice not to at least sit on the front porch. Good thing I have a KOBO E-reader full of books and there are some hockey games to watch.

I hope my friends who read my blog are doing well – thank goodness for Herbie (my kitty). We chat back and forth and snuggle at night. It could be worse.

Getting Involved in the Long-term Care Issue

A while ago, I wrote an email to Premier Doug Ford, Ministers Christine Elliott and Dr. Merrillee Fullerton – and I copied C.A.R.P. Ottawa – just because I had seen a number of articles from them on LTC. Having spent so much time in a LTC home when Mom was a resident of one – and then visits to my Aunt after that – I had a few things to say.

I didn’t hear back from Ford, Elliott or Fullerton, but I did get a call from Kathy Wright, Volunteer Board Member of C.A.R.P. Ottawa and Chair of the C.A.R.P. Advisory Working Group on Transformative Culture Change in LTC Homes. To make a long story short, I was invited to join the group, first as a guest, and then as a permanent member. We are now 6 members with help from other C.A.R.P. Chapters and organizations.

The Vision of the group is to have all LTC homes adopt an innovative model of care which looks like this: A warm, caring environment that feels like home and supports quality of life (ideally 8-12 residents). A place where all residents, staff and families are treated with dignity and respect. A place where the care is person-centered addressing resident needs – both physical and emotional, with adequate well trained full-time staff and adequate hours of “direct care” and a focus on empathy. A place where routines, schedules and activities are flexible and match resident preferences, needs and abilities. A team approach that recognizes families and caregivers as integral parts of the team and where relationships between/among staff, residents, families and volunteers thrive.

Our Mission is to raise awareness – not so much of the issues with the current system – they are already well documented – but to make people aware of how urgent real culture change is in LTC homes and of the options right under their noses. Several locations in Ontario – and even one in Ottawa – have begun or completed the transformation to one of four known successful and innovative models of care developed in different parts of the world. They are all very similar. The model most followed in Ontario is the Butterfly Model, developed in the U.K.

Results of this kind of transformation include an improved quality of care and of life, reduced boredom, helplessness and loneliness, an increase in social engagement, reduced agitation and neuropsychiatric symptoms resulting in a significant reduction in anti-psychotic drugs, reduced falls and hospital visits, reduced staff sick time, and staff feel valued and part of a community with the residents and families. Most of these results come with cost savings. Two of the units where the transition is complete were able to do so under the existing funding model and any initial outlay of costs were recouped in as few as 18 months. And – they did all of this while still meeting Ministry requirements!!

So – why aren’t the rest of the 630+ LTC homes in Ontario lining up to make this transition?? It seems like a no-brainer. Right now, it feels like we have a very tall mountain to climb. It is ever thus when government is involved and where real leadership is needed to invest in something relatively new. We will keep plugging along – we all feel very strongly about what it will take to “fix” LTC properly. The group did have a chance to do a presentation to the “Independent Commission” set up by Ford and we are anxiously awaiting their report due end of April.

If you have ideas or contacts you feel might be helpful – bring them on!

Coping with COVID-19

My world has changed since mid-March. Appointments for the rest of March, all of April and May, have been cancelled. Even my cleaning lady stopped coming. I was living a life of absolutely no commitments and loving it. While some of my friends were finding the isolation very difficult, I wasn’t lonely, I wasn’t bored, and I had no desire to be “out and about”.

The days seemed to fly by as quickly as always. Just what was I doing with all the time I had? I have read a lot of books – but probably no more than usual, I have done a huge pile of jigsaw puzzles – I can get lost in one of them for hours, I have been playing online bridge with one of my bridge foursomes, I have done too much on-line shopping, I have been gardening and I have been baking and sharing the results with neighbours to avoid eating it all myself.

I have the bulk of my groceries delivered using a great system – one where I can “chat” with my shopper if she has any questions about my list. I do make the occasional trip to Farm Boy for fresh fruit and veggies. My pharmacy has a drive-thru window so I have no need to go into the store for prescription renewals.

I started watching the PMs updates at 11-11:30am followed by “the Panel” and then Ford – but soon found this to be repetitive and frustrating since JT refused to answer any of the questions posed by reporters. I no longer watch this but read the paper each morning and do the puzzles – both crossword and sudoko. The TV goes on for the 6pm news. There isn’t often anything worth watching after that!

As the weather improved, so did my social life with friends stopping by or vice versa for a chat on the porch, always trying our best to maintain the required social distancing. From the start, my “bubble” included one neighbour and friend who often joined me at the jigsaw table at my house or hers, was always happy to taste my baking efforts and provided a lot of help with my garden. We also treated ourselves to take-out now and then – pizza, Swiss Chalet, Baton Rouge etc. Having a friend in my bubble – and of course my cat Herbie – helped a lot.

I did have to cancel a planned and booked getaway to Lake on the Mountain in Prince Edward County. That was disappointing but we’ll book again for next year.

I had two telephone appointments with my GP – one a diabetic check and the other my annual physical! How strange those were. I had a better “chat” with my GP than usual and not all about medical stuff. I think some form of these will continue with the doctors only seeing people face to face if the telephone appointment results in a need to do so. It will save everyone time and money.

Now, in mid-June, other appointments are being re-scheduled and I find myself resenting most of them! I would be quite happy to be left in partial isolation without the commitments that make me feel “too busy” most weeks. Being retired is a busy business!

I, personally, don’t know of anyone who has or has had COVID-19. I do know that I don’t want to get it. Between age and my diabetes, they say I am in a “vulnerable group”. We certainly have never experienced these drastic measures before – not for the flu, not for N1H1, not for SARS, etc. This global pandemic is likely the worst event in most of our lives – sort of like a war.

I don’t know what the future holds. Will we have another wave of this awful virus and go back into isolation? I hope not for the sake of most people – people who are still working, kids trying to complete their schooling and for those who get cabin fever if there is a need to stay in the house more than two days in a row. And I have a trip to Italy planned for next Spring – fingers crossed that it can safely happen.

I consider myself very fortunate to have, at least so far, escaped the virus but also because the measures taken to ensure we stay healthy haven’t made my life difficult or miserable in any way. I guess I’ve learned just how lazy I can be, lacking motivation to accomplish much of anything! Isn’t that what retirement is supposed to be all about?


COVID-19 and Staying at Home

These are definitely difficult times for everyone.

If you are young and pre-school or still in school, you want to be outside playing or huddling with your friends.

If you are working, you may be lucky and can work from home, still receiving a pay-cheque – but many are unemployed trying to pay mortgages or rent and to make sense of the Federal and Provincial government programs designed to help ease the financial pain and the anxiety. So far – they sound good, but anxiety grows when trying to figure them out while waiting for them to actually be of use.

If you are retired – likely the best case scenario – unless you depend on income from investments to keep you going. OAS and CPP alone don’t cut it and the market is in the toilet – nobody knows for how long.

I got a head-start on this physical distancing with a nasty chest cold just before Coronavirus became a household word. Perhaps that was a good thing – but it just added 2 weeks to what already seems like an awfully long time to be house-bound. While I don’t get cabin fever as some people do, I don’t seem to be able to settle long enough to do anything constructive like cleaning out closets or drawers never mind spring cleaning. I flit from reading the newspaper in the morning, to working on a jigsaw puzzle to checking my email, to reading a book,to chatting on the phone with friends, to watching what is probably way too much news (there doesn’t seem to be much else on TV), to taking a nap, and making up my grocery list for delivery that is a week away (first available delivery slot). I go to bed early and get up when I wake up.

I think we are in this for the long haul and life with COVID-19 will probably create a “new normal” once we can get back to whatever that is.

This is an extremely nasty virus that takes lives no matter your age or your status in life, and is extremely ugly for anyone with existing medical conditions. There aren’t too many of us over 70 that aren’t dealing with something.

To my friends, neighbours and family – I think about all of you often and hope that you stay safe and stay well.


Managing without one Hand

Towards the end of November (November 25 to be exact), I had surgery on my left thumb/wrist to relieve the pain of arthritis.  Both thumbs are affected – but better to start with the left one first and see how it goes.  The surgeon was Dr. Simon Chan, a plastic surgeon who specializes in hands and wrists.

For those who are interested – the actual procedure is/was called a Trapeziectomy with Ligature Reconstruction.  In lay terms, they cut a slit at the side of the bottom of my thumb where the wrist creases, took out a piece of bone (that was rubbing on another piece of bone), then harvested some tendon from a bit further up my arm and somehow used that to hold everything together.  When I looked it up on the Mayo Clinic website (the only site I’ve found that explains things in very simple terms), it said this could take as many as 6 months to heal completely.  Yikes.

Well – for the first 2 weeks I had a cast on my left hand.  My fingers were available and it went about 6″ up my arm.  I was told not to drive.  I couldn’t really use it and it wasn’t too painful being held tightly in place as it was.  Once the cast came off, my protection had skipped town and it was all trial and error from then on.

I’m sure there are things I’ve already forgotten, but here are the challenges that really stuck out for me:

  • In order to shower, I had to get my left hand and arm encased in a plastic bag with an elastic on to keep water out.  Try doing that with one hand.
  • The next challenge was doling out the shampoo.  The norm was to squeeze the bottle with the right hand into the left hand.  Instead I had to squeeze the bottle directly onto my head – no control over quantity.  I think I used half a bottle of shampoo in the first week.
  • I was able to use my right hand to wash under my left arm but not vice versa.  The flow of water would have to suffice.
  • On the first or second shower day, I tripped getting out of the shower and of course put out my hand to steady myself – the wrong hand.  That hurt….a lot.
  • Then there is trying to get dried off – a thing one usually does with two hands and a large towel.  Air drying works, folks.  It just takes a while.
  • How do you usually squeeze your toothpaste tube?  I normally hold the toothbrush in my right hand and squeeze out toothpaste with my left.  Putting the toothpaste tube on the bathroom counter up against the sink and squeezing with my left elbow worked just fine.
  • I could only get deodorant under my left arm.  Either my friends are very tolerant – and polite – or deodorant really doesn’t do much anyway.  Nobody complained or suggested I could use some pretty smelly stuff.  Same thing with cream – only on one arm – the other had to stay “unmoisturized”.
  • Ever tried blowing your nose with one hand?
  • Next, I had to get dressed.  The bra went by the wayside for a few days but then I learned how to do it up and put it on over my head as one would with a pullover sweater or t-shirt.  It wasn’t perfect, but it did the job.  I already had practice getting pants and stuff on after 2 knee and 3 hip replacements.  Shoes and boots had to be slip-ons.  The left hand had to go un-gloved if I had to go outside.  Nothing would fit over the cast.
  • Cooking and eating was another challenge – for the cat as well as for me.  I had to ask friends and neighbours to open several cans of cat food when they visited, covering them with slip-off lids or saran until needed.  They had that funny little pull tab on the top.  Just pulling doesn’t work unless something is holding the bottom of the can.
  • Using both a knife and fork was out of the question.  I could eat with my hands, sorry – my hand – or only make mushy stuff that didn’t need any cutting up.
  • Straining veggies in a pan – out comes the collander.  Washing dishes had to be done the same way – put a mug on the floor of the sink and hope it doesn’t move around too much while you clean it…..or use the dishwasher – for everything.
  • How do you change the sheets on your bed?  Even more difficult – how to you fold those sheets after they have been laundered?
  • Kind friends and neighbours took me to appointments and grocery shopping, or added my shopping list to theirs and delivered! – Others had to do up my seat belt for me like they would for a small child.  I could pull it out with my right hand but I couldn’t manage to click it into the waiting slot on the left.
  • Help was needed to get a glove or mitten on my good hand and, once the cast was off, definitely a large mitten on that hand.
  • After 2 weeks, cast comes off.  Can I drive now?  Doc asks if I could control the car with both hands should something happen.  Nope.  Another week of being totally dependent on others.
  • How do I play bridge?  I found a very neat gadget made of wood, curved with a slot running along the top to hold  my cards.  Whewwww!

Here it is almost 3 months since I had this surgery and I still have swelling and pain in my left wrist and thumb area.  Last check-up (mid Jan) I was told it would probably take another 2 months and I was to keep on trying to use it.  I am doing just that.  Sometimes I overdo things and it really hurts and sometimes it simply tells me that what I’m trying to do or carry is just not going to work – yet.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  It is improving and I’m able to do more and with my left hand as time goes on.

My right hand needs the same surgery.  It hurts now, though not as bad as the left one did – maybe I’ll continue trying the cortisone injections for a while longer.  It’s hard to pick the right time to go through this again – I’ll have to put my big-girl pants on one of these days!





Political Nonsense

I misunderstood this “benefit” Trudeau was proposing so I am correcting this blog.

When I read that Justin Trudeau planned/promised (if he wins the upcoming election) to increase the  CPP one-time survivor benefit by 25% FOR WIDOWS, I nearly came unglued.  What is equal about that?  Widows are single people who have lost their spouse to death.  As sad as that is, they sometimes get an insurance pay-out and/or a portion of that spouse’s pension and that person’s RRSPs, savings, investments, etc.  Single women get none of these things and aren’t given any other special benefits either.

This is one of the most ridiculous political promises I’ve seen from any of the parties – I guess it’s right up there with budgets will balance themselves!

For those of you who are planning to vote in October, I found a great internet article that very simply identifies, by category, each party’s platform for that category.  It’s an easy way to spot the differences between parties.  The url is:

I also noted, when reading through this article, that there is no category for seniors.  We represent a sizable group of voters across the county and we have contributed to the country for many years.  Are we ignored because we are “old”?  So many special interest groups get attention and special benefits – not so much for seniors.  I’m waiting for some of the actual candidates to knock at my door.  I do have some questions for them.  I think, as a group, we need to speak up.  I hope you will also have some questions for your candidates.



Friends and Life Stages

I had a delightful lunch with a dear friend and her husband yesterday.  We met about 15 years ago when our Moms were in the same long-term care facility.  We often had lunch together while we fed our Moms.  Some people just stay in your heart no matter how seldom you manage to get together.  They are in the process of moving on to a new stage in their lives – retirement residence living.  Both have health issues to complicate the situation.  We talked a lot about how to do this in such a way as to produce the least stress.  Easy for me to say, right?

In fact, I have been thinking of what my next step will be.  I am getting tired of the responsibilities of home ownership – especially since I can’t do many of the “to-do’s” myself and have to hire people (if I can find them).  I think a rental apartment is in my future and I’d like to do this before I’m in the position my friends are in of “having to do it”.

I know they will be fine.  They have 2 lovely and helpful daughters and good heads on their shoulders.  Once a plan is in place, it will all come together – and I am always here, ready to listen.


Is Spring Really Here?

With the northern snow pack yet to unleash its melt to areas already in a flood emergency situation, and temperatures still going south of zero at night, it sure doesn’t feel like Spring.  There are signs, however.  Buds are starting to form on the trees and shrubs, grass is starting to green up (of course my grass is always green – even in the dead of winter) and the robins are out and about.

I’m afraid for my appliances at the moment.  If things follow my Maytag range (stove/oven) and stop working just past the 10-year mark, I’m in big trouble.  My new stove arrives this morning with a feature I hadn’t heard of before.  It does have the self-clean where temperatures go way beyond my comfort zone – but it also has “steam clean”.  The bake/bottom element is underneath the floor of the stove.  You simply add a cup of water to the oven floor and turn on the steam clean feature.  This loosens all the mess you’ve made and you wipe it out with a damp sponge.  Yes, you should be doing this right after you’ve made the mess – but I do like having an option that doesn’t raise my anxiety level and also doesn’t use that awful oven cleaner spray.  We shall see how it all works out.

I feel very lucky that I have a neighbour who has set himself up as the local handyman.  My list for him this Spring is a long one – but he is gradually working through it….take down Xmas lights, patios, porches, garage floor and fences to power wash, new bench for the front porch to put together, out-of-control blue arctic willows to cut down and haul away, parts of the deck to be fixed, put new handles on my shower door – it just doesn’t ever seem to end.  As soon as one thing is done, I think of another.

I had a nasty tumble last week (my third this year) trying to take the new porch bench to the garage – I never know how I do these things – but in a nano-second, I found myself on the garage floor, having missed at least the last step – resulting in a few colourful bruises.  I should know better and ask for help.  I have no balance – partly due to the neuropathy in both feet.  I’m just too stubborn for my own good.  Lesson learned, I hope.

I guess Spring is here.  It just doesn’t really feel like it.