Category Archives: Health

Would I Consider MAID?

Would I consider MAID?  It’s something I’ve thought about as I watch my elders reach their final life phase and realize that time is approaching for me. 

Younger people seem startled by the suggestion I might consider medically assisted dying, but when discussing it with folks I know who are my age I find the majority would prefer to make their own decision about life’s end.  They’ve witnessed a parent’s or grandparent’s challenging experience and have no desire for something similar.  

My mother-in-law spent her last year dependent on caregivers for her most basic needs after a stroke. She told me it required more courage than any other life chapter. Knowing the challenges Mom had already faced in the past I was so sad for her. “Growing old is not for cowards,” she confided. 

Old Woman in Bed- by Australian artist Ron Mueck- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2015

Several family members in their 90s are currently enduring debilitating health challenges. They are people of strong religious faith and have shared their bewilderment and even anger with God for not allowing them to die.  Their peers are gone, and they are living in difficult circumstances, their ability to find joy and hope curtailed further by the pandemic.  What possible purpose might God still have for them?  

Traditionally religions have taught ending one’s own life is wrong, but some people of faith are asking thoughtful questions about that assumption.  Would a loving God really want us to endure unbearable suffering? Didn’t God give us the gift of choice? Some pastors are providing spiritual support to families during the MAID process. 

Recent medical advancements have made it possible to extend life to such a degree that current generations are perhaps the first to really have to consider just how long we want to take advantage of the health care system’s ability to keep us alive. 

Caring for the elderly can be challengingPhoto by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

Experience is teaching me that caring for older family members is challenging.  If at some point I am no longer independent I would grieve if my children were forced to make tough decisions about whether to steal important time away from relationships with partners, children, and grandchildren to tend to me. 

Researching long term care for seniors in my family has opened my eyes to the state of the facilities where many people spend their last years. To be honest, it would be tough to be institutionalized in even the nicest ones, but some places I’ve visited are truly deplorable and we should be ashamed that in a wealthy country like ours this is the way we treat our elders. 

Rather than spending time and energy trying to fight MAID legislation as some do, I’d suggest investing one’s resources in volunteering at a senior’s residence, advocating for pay and benefit advancements for nursing home workers who do one of society’s most challenging jobs and pressing politicians to increase funding for home care and other supports for the elderly.

I believe we should be able to make our own decisions about the end of life.  I know people nearing their hundredth birthday who despite some physical and social challenges still enjoy each day and find meaning and purpose in their routines and relationships and their connection to the natural world.  

My mother faced considerable health problems, but little pain, before she passed away. Even in her last days she connected meaningfully with loved ones and still appreciated music, flowers, and laughter. MAID would not have been a choice for her. 

I don’t know what my end-of-life experience will be or whether I will decide that MAID is the best decision at some point, but I am glad I live in a country where I have that choice. 

Other posts………

Life Lines

More

Heaven Meets Earth

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Filed under Family, Health, Retirement

Canada is TRYING to do the Right Thing About Abortion.

Ever since the United States Supreme Court indicated it might be poised to remove a woman’s right to have an abortion I’ve been thinking of a scene in the television series The Handmaid’s Tale. A young woman named Moira is trying to escape from the United States where women’s rights have slowly been eroded by the religious zealots who control the government.

Moira has run for days through fields and forests and has no idea where she is when she stumbles into an ancient barn that houses a beat-up old truck. She falls down on the ground in exhaustion and reaches up her hand to wipe the grime off the truck’s licence plate so she can read it.  It says ONTARIO and she weeps with joy and relief. She is in Canada!

Like the woman in the television series, I too am very grateful to be a woman in Canada and not the United States. Our country is at least TRYING to do the right things when it comes to making abortion safe and accessible for women who want it while at the same time TRYING to do the things that make women less likely to feel they need abortions.

Yesterday an editorial in the Winnipeg Free Press lauded the federal government for its plans to make abortion services more accessible nationwide but urged them to do even more to ensure reproductive health care is available to women in rural and remote communities.

Leah Gazan my member of Parliament (photo from her Facebook page)

Yesterday’s Free Press also carried an opinion piece by Manitoba economist Evelyn L. Forget on the legislation my member of Parliament Leah Gazan has introduced in the House of Commons asking Canada to implement a basic income for all citizens. Ms Forget says such legislation is the most compassionate choice, particularly for people with disabilities. But I think it would also make a big difference to women considering an abortion because a basic income would guarantee they had the financial means to care for a child.

Photo by Naomi Shi on Pexels.com

Canada’s new daycare plan will make affordable childcare available at a reasonable cost across the country. This could be a game-changer for women considering abortion due to worry they will have no one to look after their child while they try to build their careers.

Of course, Canada has universal health care and so pregnant women need not worry about getting prenatal care for themselves or pediatric care for their children, a worry that may lead American women to seek abortions. Soon we will also have a dental plan so all children will have dental care.

Canadian university tuition is on average $5000 a year compared to $32,000 in the United States. For female students considering abortion, the lower education costs must make the decision to keep their child easier for young Canadian women than it is for their American counterparts.

Image from Wikipedia

Since 2019 the Canadian Pediatric Society, The Canadian Medical Association and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada have recommended that birth control be available for free right across Canada. They claim universal access to no-cost contraception, particularly for young people will have long term benefits for the economy. Hopefully, provincial governments will heed their advice because we know access to free birth control helps lower abortion rates.

Photo by Laura Garcia on Pexels.com

Canada’s generous parental leave plan and child benefit payments are other things that provide the security women may need so they can choose not to have an abortion. In the United States, they have twelve weeks of parental leave. In Canada, we have parental leave plans that can last as long as 69 weeks. In the United States, their child benefit is $2,600 annually while in Canada it is up to $6,000.

We haven’t got there yet on all these initiatives but Canada is at least TRYING to do many of the things that will lower abortion rates even more than they already have in the last decade. At the same time, we are TRYING to make abortion safe and accessible for those who choose it.

I’m glad I live in Canada.

Other posts…………..

Sex-Selective Abortion

Three Things I Couldn’t Get Out of My Head While I Watched The Two Popes

Pro-Life or Anti Woman?

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Filed under Canada, Health

Proud of My Country

I was very pleased to hear last week that universal dental care will soon become a reality in Canada. In its latest budget, the federal government promises to provide $5.3 billion over five years and $1.7 billion every year after that to provide free dental care for needy Canadians. This will start with children under twelve in 2022 and expand to those under eighteen, seniors, and people with disabilities by 2025. 

Almost a third of Canadians do not have dental insurance and about 6 million Canadians avoid dental care annually because they can’t afford it.  I have seen those people firsthand. 

I volunteer at a thrift store in one of Winnipeg’s most impoverished neighbourhoods.  Seniors come into the shop every day who obviously lack proper dental care.  The poor condition of their teeth is visible when they talk or smile, and I keep thinking how having rotted or missing teeth must cause them pain and impact their ability to eat properly and have a positive self-image.   

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I worked for nearly a decade as a university supervisor for education students doing their practicum placements in Winnipeg schools and I have noted the poor condition of many children’s teeth.  Some kids are fortunate enough to be served by a program of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority that goes into a select group of inner-city elementary schools to offer dental care to children, but there are children living below the poverty line in many other Manitoba schools who don’t have the benefit of that program. Dental problems can impact a child’s ability to pay attention in class and feel confident with their peers.  

 I also know first-hand just how expensive dental care can be.  During most of the time I worked for the Hanover School Division teachers did not have a dental plan as part of their benefits package, so my husband and I paid for our sons’ dental care as they were growing up. It wasn’t cheap and dental care prices have risen substantially since then. Luckily in our two-income household, we could afford good dental care for our children, but many families aren’t that fortunate.  

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Although the price tag for subsidized dental care may sound expensive we know that investing in it can have long term financial benefits.  Poor oral health has a negative effect on people’s overall health. Medical research has linked oral health problems to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and respiratory infections. In pregnant women, poor oral health has been associated with premature births and low birth weights. Some people who receive opioids for chronic tooth pain become addicted to them. Addictions can lead to all kinds of social problems that are expensive to solve.  Good dental care can help prevent other medical conditions that would be even more costly to treat. 

Visible dental issues can also negatively impact the self-confidence required to apply for and maintain a job and people may end up needing unemployment benefits another cost to society. 

Many additional workers will need to be hired to provide dental care under the new government programs. These added employment opportunities will be good for our economy too. 

A recent Oxfam report estimates the increased income of Canadian billionaires during the pandemic to be close to $111 billion dollars. Taxing those dollars at even a small increased rate would provide plenty of money for universal dental care in our country. 

 As Canada rolls out its program of dental care for citizens it joins more than a dozen other countries that have similar programs in place. It is something for Canadians to celebrate and be proud of. 

Other posts………..

The Lady From Saskatchewan, the British Dentist and Me

His Smile is Costing Us a Fortune

Is Laughter Really The Best Medicine

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Filed under Canada, Health, Politics

Is Swearing A Good Thing?

I grew up in a home where my parents did not swear. I remember my Dad using a bad word exactly once. We were on a family trip and after an exhausting day of travel during which we four kids had done an unusual amount of bickering in the car, we were continuing to argue in our small family trailer set up at a campsite for the night.

Dad who was probably helping Mom cook supper on the Coleman stove at the picnic table after a long day of driving in the summer heat heard our arguing and exasperated he came to the door of the trailer and said, “What the h____ is going on in here?” We kids were absolutely shocked! We had never heard our Dad use a bad word. We immediately ceased our argument.

The CBC Radio program Tapestry had an episode recently where they were interviewing pastors about the use of swearing. Daniel Benson a United Church pastor who had grown up in a home where the colourful use of language was the norm admitted he was more judicious about his use of swear words after entering the ministry although he said there were times a swear word was needed.

He recalled visiting a couple whose son had just been tragically killed. Everyone sat in uncomfortable silence until the pastor said, “This is just plain shitty.” Somehow that use of profanity broke through the wariness and pain and allowed a conversation about the boy’s memorial service to begin.

Rev. Dr Allan Rudy-Froese of the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary said in his interview on the radio show that sometimes a swear word inserted into a sermon can really make people sit up and listen as my siblings and I certainly did when we heard our Dad swear for the first time.

I admit I use profanity on occasion although rarely in public and hopefully not around children. I may be a bit prudish but too much profanity in a book or movie can spoil the message or story for me.

An article in Psychology Today lists the benefits of swearing. It can be an alternative to physical violence when expressing anger. It can help alleviate physical and emotional pain and make us feel less like passive victims in certain situations. It can provide a way to express ourselves, share humour and bond with peers and it can be good for us both physically and psychologically.

Mark Twain once said, “Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”

Perhaps the key lies in being judicious about our swearing. It can be helpful but loses its effectiveness if over-used.

Other posts…………

Profane Parrots

Mark Twain is a Character in my Novel

A Bad Choice of Words

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Filed under Health

Empathy and Kindness Personified

Photo from the film’s Facebook Page.

Kímmapiiyipitssini The Meaning of Empathy is the name of a documentary film we saw last night that tells the story of the opioid crisis ravaging the Kainai First Nation in Alberta. The film was made by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers a young woman who comes from a Kainai community.

Kímmapiiyipitssini is the word for a Blackfoot teaching that says empathy and kindness are the keys to survival. And no one embodies that empathy and kindness more than Esther Tailfeathers who is a doctor on the Kainai First Nation. She is at the very heart of the film and will stop at nothing to help people deal with their deadly addictions. Her aim is to reduce harm to addicts in whatever way she can.

Esther listens to people tell their stories of addiction without any trace of judgment. She is literally empathy and kindness personified. Esther always remains encouraging and positive with her patients.

She collaborates with others in the community to train people to use naloxone kits. Naloxone is an antidote for fentanyl overdoses. Next, she introduces opioid replacement therapy despite the community’s resistance. Then Dr. Tailfeathers is instrumental in building a detox center that houses and supports a steady stream of addicts. In the film, we are given a window into the lives of some of these addicts who share their stories openly and honestly.

Image from the movie’s Facebook page.

I admired Esther Tailfeathers and the way she could connect with seniors living with the effects of their years at residential school, middle-aged folks who’d had traumatic experiences in foster homes as children, new mothers trying to kick their habit to get their babies back, and young men who had succumbed to peer pressure and started using drugs.

I admit that the in-depth look at the opioid epidemic in the film gave me a pretty bleak view of the chances for a healthy future for the Kainai First Nation but……. I was also left with a sliver of hope because with an amazing woman like Dr. Esther Tailfeathers as their champion a more positive outcome does seem possible for the Kainai.

Other posts……….

My Grandsons Teach Me About National Reconciliation Day

Acknowledgments are Important

Clean Water

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Filed under Canada, Health

Is Laughter Really The Best Medicine?

Laughter by Nanette Nacorda Catigbe

My younger son was about a year and a half old when I walked into our kitchen to find him sitting in a huge puddle of ketchup. He had emptied almost an entire plastic squeeze bottle of the stuff out onto the floor. I was just about to reprimand him when he looked up at me with his big brown eyes, smiled sweetly, and caroled, “Fries please!” My anger dissipated immediately and I burst out laughing.

Robert Provine, whose New York Times obituary credits him with creating the modern science of humor, once said laughter is the perfect way to deflect anger. If other people in a tense situation join in, the risk of confrontation will almost certainly dissipate. My husband is a master of this technique. He often uses his dry humor to ease the tension between us when we’ve had an argument.

In the movie Patch Adams Robin Williams played a doctor who used laughter as a way to heal his patients.

A Mayo Clinic report says laughter improves your immune system, stimulates heart and lung circulation, lowers blood pressure, can relieve pain, and reduces anxiety. Psychologists are finding that people who laugh have more hope, energy, creativity, and a deeper connection with other human beings. Remember that 1998 movie Patch Adams? Robin Williams plays the role of a real-life doctor who used laughter to heal his patients.

Laughter in Creases by Christina Carmel

I am fortunate to have good genes when it comes to laughter. My grandmothers both knew the value of a good laugh. My father’s mother had a witty one-liner for almost any situation. At my grandmother’s funeral, one of my cousins said, “When I think of grandma an image comes to mind of her whole body just shaking with laughter, her eyes brimming with tears and her teeth on the verge of falling out.  She is laughing at a funny comment, probably one she made herself. “ 

My maternal grandmother loved to laugh as well.  I can remember times when she and her daughters would start telling funny stories and get so carried away they simply couldn’t stop laughing. They would be holding their sides, tears streaming down their faces as they recalled some humorous incident from their family’s past. 

Neither of my grandmothers had easy lives. But I think they must have known as writer Madeleine L’Engle once said that a good laugh heals a lot of hurts.

Other posts………

 He Hasn’t Lost His Sense of Humour

Warms Your Heart and Makes You Laugh Out Loud

Start and End Happy

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Filed under Family, Health

Clean Water

Elders from the Lhoosk’uz Dené community tasting water from their new water treatment system (Photo source)

I was excited to read recently about a small Lhoosk’uz Dené community in northern British Columbia which finally has a steady supply of clean tap water. Village leaders approached the University of British Columbia to help them develop a water treatment system that uses a combination of ultraviolet light and chlorine disinfection to ensure the water in the community is safe enough to drink.

The innovative system is simple to operate and can be maintained and repaired without having to call in specialists from other places or pay for expensive parts. The community partnered with a team of scientists and engineers that use a collaborative, community-driven approach to develop practical drinking water solutions for rural Canadian communities. The new water system in the Lhoosk’uz Dené village ends a 14-year boil water advisory.

The good news story reminded me of an installation I saw at the Art Gallery of Ontario a few years ago by Ruth Cuthand. It was called Don’t Breathe, Don’t Drink.  The blue tarp on the table is the kind used for hastily constructed shacks people on one reserve had to move into when black mold was discovered in the drywall in their homes.

The glasses of water on the table contain plastic and beaded representations of the different kinds of bacteria and parasites found in the water on northern Canadian reserves that have boil water advisories. 

baby bottles boil water Don't Breathe Don't Drink

The artist put some of the bacteria-filled water into baby bottles to remind us that children may be drinking this contaminated water too. 

I am glad those kinds of problems are over for at least one Indigenous community. According to a government of Canada website as of today, there are still 32 communities in Canada with boil water advisories in effect. Let’s hope that innovative solutions like the one found for the Lhoosk’uz Dené community can be created for those 32 communities as well.

Other posts………

She Is Gripped By Terror

Blackwater- A Book That Connected With Me

Locked Away

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Filed under Canada, Health

Should There Be Mandatory Vaccinations for Long Term Care Workers?

In the latest update from the personal care home where my father is a resident, we were informed that visiting privileges would be expanded to include anyone who is two weeks past their second vaccination date. Previously only two designated family members could visit and now others will be able to visit as well, as long as they are fully vaccinated.

All visitors however will still need to wear masks and goggles, do a covid questionnaire, have their temperature taken before entering and stay six feet away from their loved ones.

Ironically another section of the same newsletter responded to numerous inquires from families about whether all the care aides who look after people in the personal care home have been fully vaccinated. The administrators of the home simply don’t know.

Vaccination is still voluntary according to the provincial government and employers cannot ask if a worker is vaccinated. They can offer on-site vaccinations, encourage employees to get vaccinated, and educate employees about vaccination, but they can’t terminate their employment if they aren’t vaccinated.

Image from an excellent Policy Options article about what needs to be done to improve compensation and working conditions for long term care workers.

I would be the last person to criticize long term care workers. Every day when I visit my father I see the vital and very challenging job they do. According to a Canadian Health Care Institute-funded research paper long term care workers are generally middle-aged women, with a high school diploma, who speak English as their second language.

They are paid on average in Canada $18.95 an hour and 25% of them work in more than one care facility for financial reasons because they can’t get enough hours at a single placement. This despite the fact experts recommend long term care facilities should have a lower patient to caregiver ratio than they currently do.

I understand that much needs to be done to improve long term care workers’ salaries and working conditions. We are not treating them fairly given the extremely important work they do. But is it fair to require them to be vaccinated?

A City News story earlier this month said Ontario is making vaccination mandatory for all long term care workers and British Columbia is considering it as well. Is it something Manitoba should consider too?

Other posts……….

A Realistic Look at Aging?

Growing Old is Not For Cowards

We Are Vaccinated But…………

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Filed under Health, Retirement

10 Reasons Green Exercise Is Good For You

I have been a regular member of a gym for most of my adult life. Of course, since the pandemic started I have had to change my approach to fitness and almost all of my exercise takes place outdoors.

There are lots of advantages to what is known as green fitness although here in Manitoba it might have to be called white fitness for at least six months of the year.

What is green fitness?

Various sources define it as…….. exercise that takes place in a natural outdoor environment or the act of being physically active in a natural setting.

According to the experts, outdoor fitness has better results than indoor fitness when it comes to………

Restful sleep

Reduction of stress and anxiety

Sense of well- being

Cognitive performance

Cancer risk

Healthy blood pressure

Self- esteem

Bone strength

Healthy body weight

Motivation

Looking at that long list of benefits I am wondering if I should ever go back to the gym even once the pandemic is over.

Other posts………….

Into the Wilds of Winnipeg

Hiking the Virgin

Walking on the Seine

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Filed under Health, Nature

Drawing on Past Experience To Quell Anger

Each year I choose a signature word. Acceptance is my 2021 word.  One goal I’ve set is learning to accept people who have beliefs different than mine.

I have to admit that kind of acceptance is a bit tough for me right now when it comes to people adamant about not getting vaccinated.  They make me angry because their choice could mean others will get sick and maybe even die, and their decision may ultimately prevent us from getting back to a normal life.

In a recent newspaper interview, pastor Kyle Penner suggested using friendship and positivity to convince folks who are vaccine- hesitant to change their mind. I agree. But if social media comments are any indication there are still many people who aren’t just vaccine- hesitant they are adamant their families won’t ever be vaccinated for COVID-19.  How do I accept that without getting angry? 

When my first child was born in 1979 I wasn’t able to receive extended maternity leave benefits from the school district I worked for

Luckily I have some experience to fall back on. Decades ago when I had my first child, I was angry at the school division I worked for because they didn’t have extended maternity leave benefits like other jurisdictions.  I was angry local churches didn’t recognize the leadership gifts of women and that few women held political office or higher executive positions in my area. I was angry inclusive language wasn’t standard in my local newspaper or my church constitution.  I learned from that experience being angry didn’t do much good. 

Instead, I had to try and accept there were many in my hometown who didn’t believe women were equal to men or deserving of the same opportunities and recognition. I had to try and understand people’s fear of change because I realized they were convinced women’s equality would negatively impact the way their families and communities operated. I had to try and understand that their ideas were grounded in uncompromising religious beliefs. I had to learn people didn’t want to be forced by a law to treat women equally, that it threatened particularly men’s feelings of power and importance. 

And so, instead of getting angry, and I will freely admit initially I did, I had to learn to accept people with differing views but at the same time try to be true to my own convictions in as non-confrontational and engaging a way as possible.  So, I wrote about women’s contributions, challenges and rights in my newspaper column, in other publications and in the curriculums I was asked to author.  I accepted invitations to speak in area churches about female leaders in the Bible even in churches that told me I couldn’t stand behind the pulpit because that was a spot reserved for men. I tried to be careful to always use inclusive language in my speaking, teaching and writing and I served on the teachers’ salary and benefits negotiating team engaging in a lengthy process to extend maternity leave. 

Photo by Phil Noble

I want to remember that experience when I’m angry at those who won’t accept the reality of the pandemic or the value and safety of vaccines. As people did at the start of the women’s movement many now feel their personal freedom, their religious beliefs and their ability to control societal change are being threatened.  I have to accept that and be true to my own personal convictions in as non-confrontational a way as possible. I have to continue to engage with everyone.  

At the beginning of the pandemic, I responded angrily to a social media post that refuted science. Someone called me out on my anger.  I’m glad they did. I erased my comment, apologized, and have tried to be more circumspect.  Anger can fuel change, but I think in the long run acceptance and engagement, and living your own truth as best you can, is healthiest and most effective. 

Other posts………

Why People Don’t Trust Scientists

The Tsunami and the Pandemic

And A Little Child Shall Lead Them

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Health