Editor’s note: This is the third part of a four-part series from long-time reporter, author and columnist Mick Lowe on living in a long-term care home during a pandemic. So far in the series, Lowe has written about the mood in Pioneer Manor, where he lives, in the midst of the pandemic, relates how a stroke landed him in the manor, and discusses the issues facing long-term care in Ontario. Catch up on the story so far: find Part One here and Part Two here. When we last left Lowe, we learned that his care needs were too high for him to remain living in his own home. He and his wife, Anita, had toured Pioneer Manor, and were waiting on a room to open up, a room Lowe would eventually call home.
Meanwhile, Anita and I were back out on the Lake; me, happy as a clam, Anita grinding, grinding away at our daily life. We told the CCAC to move us into the “in crisis” category, which should have moved us higher in the waiting list for an LTC bed.
Finally, Anita could stand it no more; she called the CCAC to ascertain the length of the remaining wait time. After numerous busy signals and many hours on hold, she got her answer: the wait for a private room at Pioneer Manor was still four or five years!
Well, that tore it. “Baby, don’t you know someone down at the city we can call? I just can’t do this!”
Not really wanting to leave the Lake and risk another Extendicare experience, I professed ignorance. Truth was, my journalistic practice tended to be of the “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” variety, so I highly doubted that I’d have any influential “friends” who might help.
But Anita was determined — and desperate. She thought the matter through and played all the angles, settling finally on someone who just might act as an intermediary. Turns out we did have one very powerful friend at city hall.
Within weeks we received a call from CCAC: a bed in a private room had opened up in Pioneer Manor.
“Old section or new section?” I asked cautiously.
“New section,” came the reply, and it was as if the heavens had parted. We suddenly had the best of both worlds.
While I’m still not thrilled we had to “jump the queue” to get here, we weren’t about to look the gift horse in the mouth. When I expressed these misgivings to my intermediary friend shortly afterward, he quickly brushed my objections aside. “You did a lot of good for a lot of people, Mick,” he said quietly.
And so, on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 28th 2018, I stole my last glance at my beloved lake and climbed into the car for a fateful drive into the unknown.
Daughter Melanie, bless her heart, preceded us, awaiting our arrival in the Pioneer Manor front parking lot, holding down a push cart to convey my heavy stuff to my new “home.”
Writ large on her face was the anxiety we all felt: Was this day to be the beginning of something new or just the beginning of the end?
To Be Continued. Next: Part Four: KLM
A long-time columnist with Northern Life, Mick Lowe served two terms as president of the residents’ council at Pioneer Manor from 2011-2014. A prolific author, his most recent book is Wintersong, the third volume of the The Nickel Range Trilogy. We asked Mick to write about what it's like living at a long-term care home during COVID-19, and he delivered. It looks like he plans on writing us another column on the topic.