Category Archives: Society

Surviving the Borg

More stories pour in about the crisis in our residential care homes.

No article I’ve written for Focus has provoked so many impassioned calls, emails, posts to my website, and interceptions in the street than my feature about long term care of the elderly (“Who has the Right to Control Your Life?“, January).

Many relatives of seniors said the stories of deteriorating conditions in care homes and people being unfairly stripped of their rights reflected their own experiences. “On Christmas Eve in 2006, my mother was abducted,” described one woman. “[They began] transferring her to different nursing facilities where they were drugging her with so many drugs that she could not lift up her own head…”

Another wrote, “[S]taff have frequently written reports itemizing problems, and the numerous reports are consistently ignored. Continuing issues such as filth-still there; toileting-constant struggle; activities-not very many that actually engage people…”

For these people, seeing the issues publicly aired was heartening.

But many frontline care attendants accused me of being negligently selective in my examples and grossly unfair to them. Continue reading

The Olympics, Propaganda and Airstrikes

Cue horn sections. Dramatic drums roll. It’s 2010!

You probably know it only recently became 2009, but in this commercial-driven world where Christmas always begins in November, just turn on the TV and BELIEVE!

If you’ve managed to avoid inundation, “Believe” is the CTVglobemedia and Canadian Olympic Broadcast Consortium’s recently launched promotional campaign for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. And if you didn’t use your internationally-unifying VISA to join our athletes on the Coke side of life in Beijing, fear not. You’ll get many more opportunities to answer the call from Olympian passion and determination on Samsung Mobile.

Already this year, cute kids tumbling on skis and eating Wonder bread have been encouraging Canadians to let the dreams begin. Petro-Canada has been reminding us to dream big. McDonald’s “Hopefuls” have given rousing speeches. Air Canada has announced they’re proud to fly our athletes around. Royal Bank exhorts: carry this torch proudly, Canada. (If you actually enjoy this kind of stuff, you can find many of these ads on YouTube.)

Yet we can be sure mega-billion-dollar corporations like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola aren’t that excited about seeing an upward sales blip in Vancouver for several weeks in 2010. (And this propaganda blitz is a uniquely corporate phenomenon. Small businesses more typically get sued for trademark infringement for suggesting they make “olympian efforts” to satisfy customers.) So why do corporations and major media adore the Olympics even more than Christmas? Continue reading

Who Has the Right to Control Your Life?

Caught between archaic, paternalistic laws and deteriorating conditions in care homes, more and more BC seniors and their families are discovering how easy it is for the elderly to lose basic civil rights that we often take for granted. (Originally published in Focus, January 2009.)



We’re here to bust an 86-year-old woman out of a nursing home.

Kim packs Joan’s personal items (some names have been changed to protect anonymity). I survey the quaint room and ask, “Do you like it here?”

Joan replies, “I want to go home.”

Instantly, I see why Joan is in trouble. I’ll soon learn she’s smart and funny, but she looks feeble and vulnerable. Dammit, she looks old. You feel an instinct to reach an arm around and reassure her, “I’ll take care of everything.” You want to take charge.

For Joan, that’s become the problem.

We walk toward the exit. But how hard can it be for a daughter to get her own mom get out of a residential home?

“I thought I could never be shocked again,” Kim says later, while her mother meets with a lawyer. As a health care consultant, Kim thought she’d already seen the worst of health care. “But I’m continually reeling.” Continue reading