I’ve officially been working at The Lighthouse for a year now and I’ve made a commitment to write more about life at an emergency shelter and supported living facility.
It’s hard to though, because I want to say positive things. But I become so enraged over the way life is for people living in poverty or experiencing homelessness, it clouds my thoughts and often makes me forget the victories. When I started I was so excited to help marginalized people, share about what the Lighthouse does and make a difference in Saskatoon.
For you I was a flame
Love is a losing game
The Lighthouse is basically an old hotel that has been re-purposed, so the hotel rooms are now apartments for people in need, often because of being in poverty, having been homeless, having a mental illness or addiction, having an acquired brain injury, or other cognitive or physical disability.
When I started, there was a list of people whose needs were not being met. Out of 69 people, there was at least 4 elderly tenants who needed more care than we provide (all had mental health issues and incontinence problems). Since we wanted to help the people staying in our emergency dorms move on to an apartment, it is better for everyone if we move the higher needs clients to the right level of care in the wider community, so other people who are in need can have a suite with us.
I and the rest of the staff have been desperately trying to find better homes for these elderly clients. It has been an almost impossible task. If you are elderly, poor and have a mental illness in this city there are very few resources. There is such a low vacancy rate and such high demand for nursing homes, care homes, group homes, and mental health group homes, they can decide a client’s issues are too complicated to be able to help them.
Self professed… profound
Till the chips were down
Recently I got one of these tenant’s assessed. They did not qualify for a care home but were promised that services would be brought in to help them do better at our place.
The in-home services find every excuse in the book not to come. It gets to the point where they haven’t bathed in weeks. I have bathed someone twice since working here and I know other staff have as well. We are not paid to do this, nor do we have the time, or resources. We love our tenant’s and see them in need, so we fill in the gaps where other services are supposed to be.
Today I found out this tenant was turned down for a care home for a second time even though she wants to go to a place which provides more care. This person can barely swallow liquid, can’t manage stairs, is incontinent, and can’t maintain personal hygiene. The tenant doesn’t qualify because of ‘personality issues’ stemming from diagnosed mental illness and dementia. As well the in-home services to support her where she is currently living have also stopped.
I pleaded with the assessment manager to tell me what to do to allow this client of mine to have some sort of care. She suggested that I stay in the room the whole time anyone is there giving her help, to make sure the client was well behaved and compliant. I could also appeal their refusal of accepting her in a care home, which would require me to record all incidences including outbursts, tantrums, incontinence issues, dizzy spells, falls, and lapses in her memory for one week.
Played out by the band
Love is a losing hand
More than I could stand
Love is a losing hand
So I have a week to prove this tenant is in such poor health but has a pleasant enough personality for her to qualify for a nursing home. Because I love her I will try. The assessment agency is counting on the fact that I won’t evict her to make them actually do something. And that she will be allowed to live here, inability to swallow, incontinence problems and all, until she falls and breaks a hip, or worse.
I care deeply for the people I work with. Therefore I will try my best to provide my (what I know to be inadequate) services. The professionals who are paid to provide these services refuse to do so. It shouldn’t be that you have to ‘win’ services by fitting into the right categories. If someone needs and asks for help when their health begins to fail, it should be provided, regardless of economic status. People in poverty die from lack of preventive medicine and care, and treatable illnesses. The more I love my clients, the more I realize how society has failed them and continues to do so, no matter how much I fight for them.
Over futile odds
And laughed at by the gods
And now the final frame
Love is a losing game