• Susan Flanagan

Yes, you can | The Kids are Alright | Aug. 7, 2012

I met Carter in a dumpster on the St. Pius X parking lot off Elizabeth Avenue. I passed a business card in over the rusty metal rim; he took it in his blackened hand and we’ve been in business ever since.


Carter is a collector of recycling. You may have seen him around. Unlike most recyclers Clinton makes his way west along Elizabeth Avenue. Tanned, muscular and mustachioed Carter appears happy. Ever since our chance meeting we have an unwritten contract. Every two weeks Carter comes to my house and takes away all my beverage containers. It’s a great service. He’s happy. I’m happy. The environment is happy. (Note: my last collector Roy was not well physically and simply disappeared – I’m hoping he’s in a care facility but I fear a worse fate for him).


Here’s what a working day looks like for Carter. In the morning he leaves his Cabot Street residence pushing a shopping cart on the downtown hills. He stops at his clients’ houses and relieves them of their recyclables that are worth money. He works his way through Georgetown, over to Torbay Road and Elizabeth Avenue, sometimes stopping to cash in beer bottles for a pack of smokes. By the time he reaches our house, Carter’s trolley is usually quite packed.


When he first started coming I assumed he left our house to roll his shopping cart five minutes up the road to the Elizabeth Avenue Green Depot. But after a couple of visits and more chatting, I learned Carter has been excommunicated from that depot for soliciting recyclables from people in the parking lot. I wasn’t present at the time of the alleged infractions, so I only have his side of the story. So once he has a full load of east end wine bottles and soda cans he crosses town to visit the depot on O`Leary Avenue. Surprisingly Carter doesn’t complain. He has a good work ethic. You may notice his lean five foot six frame making its way west.


I thought about Carter just before I left for my vacation. Although I wouldn’t be home I knew he could still get our recyclables in the backyard, but I had wanted to chat more with him about a new program initiated by Memorial University’s SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) program which is “focused on improving our communities through the positive power of business” and has won numerous international awards. A couple of weeks ago when a Memorial University student came to my door, I was sure she was collecting for something and ran to get a few loonies. But rather than asking for money, she handed me a pamphlet from SIFE Memorial about a new program called Yes We Can, which to me sounded like a Bob the Builder video title. Yes We Can involves an initiative to assign recyclers to certain neighbourhoods. An interesting concept. For the recyclers it means less distance traveled for hopefully more product. It’s a fantastic idea.


SIFE will help the collectors with marketing and consumer trust. It sounds like a win win situation. But the first time I spoke to Carter about it, he said he’s worried about the new system.


“I’ve had customers over here for seven years,” he says. “What are they going to think (if I get assigned to a new neighbourhood)?”


Perhaps assigning collectors to specific neighbourhoods is like assigning house painters neighbourhoods. It makes perfect sense logistically. The painters finish one house and move on to the next one in the area that needs painting rather than packing up their gear in East Meadows and moving to another project in Mount Pearl. But what about the clients? They may prefer their favourite painting firm. And the painters themselves may have clients who they’ve worked with for years. Could a turf war ensue like the time another collector tried to take Carter’s cache of tin cans at my house?


I must say I would miss Carter if he was assigned to Georgetown which is closer to his neighbourhood and I no longer got to see him. I like it when he drops by. He’s ever pleasant in the chill of winter or in driving rain. He asks for nothing but he’ll take a hoodie if it’s chilly or a fresh baseball cap and is ever grateful for cold water or a snack. On the other hand I would like to see him be able to collect more recyclables in less time and without having to cover such a distance.


So will the SIFE program work? I emailed Jon King, the Yes We Can contact, to ask him what kind of reception the program has had. His response was enthusiastic and encouraging.


“We are actually spreading our project beyond our first pilot participant,” he emailed back. “We now have three and are always looking to help more participants. We make the project unique for each collector and try to stay as close to their old route as much as possible. If you could tell me how to get in touch with (Clinton) I would be more than happy to see how we may be of service to him.”


So rather than forcing collectors to take a specific neighbourhood, King and the Yes We Can program are there to help any interested collectors set up in a designated district.


“By running successful routes, participants will no longer struggle to find their daily quota of recyclables. They will get more money and endure less hardship. You will get a frequent recycling pickup and our city will enjoy a greened future,” says the brochure.


So the program is a great idea, open to those who choose to partake. If you or anyone you know is interested in getting involved, you can contact King at jking@sifememorial.ca


Then every Tuesday you can leave your recycling by your door and someone will come along and collect them. And you’ll know you are doing your bit to make the earth a cleaner place and at least one person’s life easier.


Susan has changed the name of her collector to protect his identity. She can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca


Care feedback:

Melissa writes: “Wonderful and informative article. My family just recently began the process of putting a loved one in a home, unfortunately for us, she didn't make it out of the hospital. The care providers in these facilities are wonderful indeed.”


Jaydee writes: “Wonderfully informative article. We could have sure used all this info a couple of years ago when we had to put my beloved Auntie in a home. I'm sure it will be a help to a lot of families struggling with these decisions. God Bless.”


Connie writes: “Just read your article though both my own and my hubby's parents have passed onto their reward. I found the article very informative as a heads up of what I/we need to have in place now, while we are well in all respects, so that things will go more smoothly for ourselves and children when that time comes. Thank you for the information and positive comments on your dad's experience.”


Elaine Murray in Placentia writes: “The Kids Are Not All Right!

This has reference to the article titled “Parenting Your Parents” by Susan Flanagan, writing under the byline “The Kids are Allright” in the Tuesday, July 31st edition of The Telegram.

I have to disagree with Ms. Flanagan, I do not think “The Kids Are Alright”. In fact, I think every ”kid” in the Province would need to take a much closer look at issues surrounding health care provided by Eastern Health and very other health care region in the Province of NL. As each of us is going to have to deal with the same health care system to get us through the “golden years”, this reality creates this strong imperative – and every person in this Province should take this closer look!


Shortly after my family’s beloved Mother passed away at Hoyles Escasoni Complex on October 17th, 2003, I asked the PC Government that took office the day my Mother was buried, to conduct a review of my Mother’s passing, in an effort to try to come to some understanding about what happened to my Mother at Hoyles Escasoni.


Unlike Ms. Flanagan’s Father who lived on for four months at Hoyles Escasoni, my own Mother passed away in five short weeks, she died alone in her room at 8:15am, Friday, October 17th, shortly after the morning Nurse came on duty at 8:00am. The Nurse on duty during the night my Mother was preparing to leave this world had worked for 37 years as a Nurse. She retired as a Nurse for good, to her out port home, just minutes after my Mother passed away. I was bluntly told in a telephone call from Hoyles Escasoni by the Nurse coming on the morning shift, minutes after my Mother passed around 8:15 am. - “Your Mother just died.” I rushed to Hoyles Escasoni with my Aunt.


Two nights earlier, I had found my Mother’s oxygen tank unplugged from the wall in her room at Hoyles Escasoni, when I visited her in the late evening, I was very concerned about her level of care. I reported this matter to staff on duty when I found it and subsequently to the Chief Executive Officer of Hoyles Escasoni. Not long after my Mother’s passing, this CEO was moved to another region of the Province.


Nor have I ever personally been told by staff at Hoyles Escasoni what caused my Mother ‘s sudden passing and although I have tried on numerous occasions, I have not had a satisfactory sit down session with Hoyles Escasoni medical staff, to help me gain an understanding of what had gone wrong for my Mother. My Mother’s passing at 91 is still upsetting for me and will always remain a very bad memory that haunts, whereas I have closure about my Father’s peaceful passing at home, at 90, in 1995.


I believe the complications I experienced were caused as a result of the Advance Health Care Act Directives of the Health Care Act, which mandated a “majority rule” vote by members of any aged person’s family, to facilitate the appointment of one person in a family to act as a Substitute Decision Maker and thereafter to act as a contact person for Eastern Health. But first, an aged person in NL must be deemed mentally incompetent under the Mental Incompetency Act, which process can potentially remove the human rights of any aged person in NL, allowing Eastern Health to institutionalize the aged person in a Nursing Home, once a Substitute Decisions Maker is in place.


I asked the PC Government that took office the very day my Mother was buried, to conduct a review of my Mother’s passing and, to revise this piece of legislation and the Mental Incompetency Act. I consider both pieces of legislation to be divisive, devious and unjust. I have spoken on this matter to the Minister of Justice, Felix Collins and to prior Ministers of Justice and Health. I will copy Premier Dunderdale, Minister of Justice, Felix Collins and Minister of Health and Community Services, Susan Sullivan, on this letter to The Telegram. I badly needed to understand what happened to my Mother at her time of death and this remains the case.


As Ghandi noted, “In matters of conscience, majority rule does not apply.” Else, pity the poor family, with members torn asunder, in some cases for a lifetime, by a piece of legislation that ends up with a tie vote in their family (2 against 2) or, with 3 family members voting to put their Mother in a Nursing Home while 2 vote to bring her to her home community. It is wrong of any government to visit such a vile piece of legislation on the people, ie Advance Health Care Act and the Mental Incompetency Act, nothing will change this reality except changes to both Acts. I believe that these pieces of legislation need to be thrown out, to safeguard the aged in this Province and in the interest of their families. A sense of humanity, justice and compassion for the aged in our Province and their families demand it.


However, of most grave concern to me is the first step taken against aged persons in this Province -that deem the aged person Mentally Incompetent and commit him or her to a Nursing Home, this done in advance of the administration of the Advance Health Care Act that selects the Substitute Decision Maker. Before they could deem my Mother mentally incompetent, Eastern Health had to give my Mother three different Mental Incompetency Tests! The first one was given by the staff person responsible, at the Health Sciences Complex. This test was given despite the fact my Mother had almost died four days earlier, she was just not up to a test of this kind. In addition, my Mother was quite deaf at 91 and did not have hearing aids for the testing, as I pointed out. My Mother survived this first testing; they called for a second testing.


The second test was given by a young female Intern. I asked to be present but was not permitted. However, the hand-scratched results which the Intern showed me were embarrassing also for their lack of evidence, and the results once again had to be deemed inconclusive. The third test was given by two male staff Doctors, with a male member of our family present, quite early one July morning. The Mental Incompetency Test was carried out, without my knowledge, on my 91 year old Mother by three men, only one of whom she knew. I was never shown the written results, although I asked to see them.


Given that my Mother had almost died two weeks earlier with a lung infection, I do not believe that the Mental Incompetency Test was administered properly or fairly to this sick woman, by these two Doctors. However, it was this very Mental Incompetency Test results, backed up with the results of the Advance Health Care Directives Act, which put my Mother in Hoyles Escasoni. She was forced to remain at Hoyles Escasoni until her death a short five weeks later. I knew my 91 year old Mother would not be able to make this abrupt adjustment to Hoyles Escasoni, as she was to accustomed to being with her family.


I carry in my wallet this past nine years, a picture of my Mother which was taken at Hoyles Escasoni the day after she was admitted to this institution. She has a newspaper in her hand; she read The Telegram every day and also loved to get her hands on a Globe and Mail. She was a former schoolteacher, a wonderful wife and Mother. My Mother taught me to read and homeschooled me in my early years, at home in Placentia.


What she had told me and many others on many occasions, inlcuding before hospital staff at the Health Sciences, was that she ‘wanted to come home to Placentia because it was her home town’. She did not mean to take anything from anyone else, she simply wanted to come home and we wanted to bring her. We were trying to make it possible for her to come home, so that when her own time came, she could pass away peacefully in her marriage bed, like her husband did when he left this world on January 13, 1995. No question, it is undeniably one of the most difficult matters we have to deal with in life, - letting go of a beloved parent (s)?


Another point you have to allow, - it is quite a challenge for women of all ages to garner a similar level of respect and attention from some health care professionals, as a male commands? From my own past experience, my Father’s wishes to die at home were respected, both by the health care system and his family, and he passed away in his own bed, as he wished. His wife’s wishes were ignored and pushed aside. Why? In a just society, a decision made by an aged woman should receive no less respect from health care professionals than from a younger man? In the 21st century, we cannot offer NL’s aged women and men any less than this?


I hope that no other person since has had to go through the extreme worry and human torment that I suffered while my Mother was under the care of Eastern Health. I am not in a position to be able to speak for my Mother’s anguish before her death nor her family’s, in the nine years since she passed on. Ms. Flanagan, I truly hope your Father was happy during his four months at Hoyles Escasoni. I know that Hoyles Escasoni has made many policy changes since my Mother’s passing in 2003, I am very glad that you and your Father’s experience at Hoyles Escasoni were more positive than were my Mother’s and mine.

However, Ms. Flanagan, I would like to respectfully suggest that you review these pieces of Provincial Legislation – Advance Health Care Act and the Mental Incompetency Act , in an upcoming edition - “Making Sure The Kids Are All Right” in The Telegram. I think we should all explore how we can make these pieces of legislation here in NL work properly for the first time, properly, for EVERY aged person and EVERY family in this Province, -so that this legislation does what it is supposed to do – protect the rights of all aged and their families. After all, every one of us “kids” will be aged one day?


I agree that it is very good news that there will be a new dental clinic in the new complex in Pleasantville, as an aged person without dental care is most certainly not well cared for. While smiles from the aged are very welcome and wonderful to witness and this new dental clinic is a big plus, we must not lose sight of human rights of the aged in the process. I think every “kid” in NL should remain very vigilant about their human rights, as an aged person in NL.


As we all know, it is impossible to change what is past, we can hopefully forgive, continue to search for the truth, make needed changes, hope for a better future and move forward with a measure of faith.


It remains my strong hope that one day all aged persons in this Province will receive the kind of treatment, care and, respect from Health Care Professionals and Nursing Home staff that their worthy lives deserve.


Hopefully, in that scenario, one day, the healing that is badly needed by unknown numbers of devastated NL families can and will also happen.”

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