Monday, February 16, 2009

Caring for the Aged and Infirm in Ukraine

Folks who self righteously proclaim about how terrible it is in North America that we “lock our old people away in institutions” instead of caring for them at home are usually those who are not now and likely never will have that problem. Lots of families do look after their aging parents, because they want to.

My cousin and his wife looked after his mother for the last few years of her life when she could no longer manage in a senior’s apartment. His father spent the last years of his life in a Level 4 Care home with Alzheimer’s as did my late father-in-law. Both spouses looked after their husbands as long s they could at home.

There are programs to help old people be independent as long as possible: home care, meals on wheels, special buses, etc.

In Ukraine there is no alternative to looking after the aged or infirm except family. Tanya visited my Aunt Jean (90) and my sister’s mother in law (95) in a seniors’ home in Calgary and just marveled at the surroundings and the care they receive. I will admit, that was one classy place and out of my price range. But Ukraine has nothing comparable to even the nursing homes in small town Saskatchewan.

Our friends in P’yatikhatki couldn’t go to Dnipropetrovs'k with us because her mother was too ill to leave alone over night. There is no respite program for care givers.

Our neighbour’s mother is in her late 80’s. She lives next door to us in a rented cottage with coal heat and Lucia lives on the other side of us. At least they both have some privacy that way. Baba is almost totally immobile. Poor circulation has caused what may be gangrene to set in her feet. A Home Care nurse will come and give her antibiotics. She doesn’t want to go to hospital. I doubt she will make it to summer which will be a relief to both of them.

Lucia needs to go to the Cancer clinic in Dnipropetrovs'k as there is fear of recurrence of breast cancer for which she was operated two years ago but she can’t leave her mother. She has not been away from home over night for a long time. There is no one to look after her mother. Tanya has offered to cover for her so she can go to Dnipropetrovs'k this week and I hope that works.

Tanya’s friend Lena lost her husband last fall. Heart attack while recovering from an emphysema attack. Lena has both his mother and her mother to take care of. She couldn’t even go to the theatre with us as she cannot leave them along for long. Her two boys still live at home. Her husband’s mother is turning her apartment over to Lena, likely for the oldest boy. The upshot of that generosity is that Lena’s sister-in-law will have nothing to do with looking after her mother-in-law, though she and her husband are well heeled and their son has his own apartment. (Greed knows no cultural barriers; Canadian or Ukrainian the story plays the same too many times).

Tanya will go to Dnipropetrovs'k this week to help her friend Alexander who has gone recently blind. Alexander worked for years in the Soviet space program and radiation from the computer screen gave a 55 year old woman the face of a 100 year old ghoul, wrecking her eyes and thyroid. Her drunken useless husband, from whom she had been separated for years died last year and she needs to change the title to her apartment. Her drunken useless son refuses to take her because she is putting the apartment into her name and her niece’s name because the niece is going to look after her. Tanya will take her to a lawyer and help her with the document process.

Be thankful that there are facilities and programs to allow the elderly and infirm to live with as much independence as possible for as long as possible and that provide care for them when they are not able. You (and they) have a choice of how and where to provide care as your parents grow old. It is not a trap as it is here where there are no alternatives.

My children will leave me on the ice.


  1. Be thankful we're even going to do that much!

  2. Blog Fodder, doesn't matter how strong your banks are, you are dependent on America and it's going to take you down with us.

    I love Canadians, but they are as stupid as we are.

  3. May-B Surely you could drop your Dad off on the ice flow on your way to the movies.

  4. First: How do you EVER learn how to spell those names!?

    Second: If I remember correctly, in the OLDEN days when the old ones were being cared for in the family homes, I don't remember hearing about dementia and cancer as much as now.

    The people in the Ukraine, sound a lot like the residents of the Appalachian hills in American. No money and nothing available to them even if they had some.

  5. May-B, your beauty is exceeded only by your generosity.
    BBC - you may well be right. The American crash took the rest of the world with it in the '30's, too. Next time we reorganize the world economy, I vote we leave you guys out of it.
    Demeur - good thinking. It wouldn't be much out of her way.
    Dana - in the OLDEN days there wasn't as much dementia and cancer because people didn't live that long. Infectious diseases tended to do them in. And yes, there are similarities, aren't there.

  6. Hey, I though the Ukraine was a socialist country with all those wonderful socialist amenities. What's happening? What you've shared makes Canada look like a socialist country, and the Ukraine as a capitalist nation. Life just gets curiouser and curiouser.


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