I know I comment often on the failings of the local hospital system (or some would rightly say complain), but I do find it therapeutic to rant sometimes. And I always have the hope that someone in a similar situation will read my story, learn from my mistakes, and not suffer the same proverbial slings and arrows as I did. For the rest of you, feel free to skip this article.

Eighteen years ago today my father was sent home from the hospital, with promises from the hospital staff that we could return him at any time, or that we could have respite care if it was too much, and most important they repeatedly promised that my father would be moved into a carehome within a few days.

At the time, my father was completely paralyzed on his left side. He was unable to do anything for himself, and was wheelchair bound (and would be for the next four years or so). And since he weighed well over 300lbs, it was a real hardship on my elderly mother when the hospital told her to carry him and and his wheelchair up a stairwell every time he needed to go to an appointment!

I had been raising concerns for several months about how much they were dumping on my mother. I was in the process of starting a new life in Edmonton, and would not be around for much longer, but the hospital staff kept dismissing my concerns and insisting that my father would be in a carehome very quickly and that it would not be an issue. They repeatedly made promises of all the support that would be available to my mother during this time, and promising that it would not interfere with my plans in any way at all.
But they did not keep those promises.

A few days was soon changed to a few weeks, and then a few months. Finally they admitted that they had no intention of moving him into a carehome, and told me that once a patient goes home - even if just for a short visit- they were taken off the waitlist for extended care. So if anyone is in this situation, do not ever take a patient home for any reason, even if the staff insist it is just for a visit.

A lot has happened in the eighteen years since then. When I was moving to Edmonton my father cut my truck fuel lines to keep me from leaving (as he confessed seven years later). Then when I had a great job offer in Vancouver a year later, he got my apartment cancelled, black listed me for other apartments by using fake names and identities, and then finally threatened that if I took the job he would harm my mother. And still the hospital did nothing.

A few years after that he ended up in the emergency room, and the staff tried to bully my mother into driving my father home at one o'clock in the morning. When she refused, my father threatened to use his gun collection to murder her. Again we requested that be moved into longterm care or a proper care home. And yet he was still sent home. (And for the record, a couple of years later after my father had died we found that he did indeed have dozens of rounds of ammunition hidden in his bedroom, and paper records that indicate at some point he did own multiple handguns. The guns were never found, but neither could we find any record of him selling them or disposing of them.)

For another year, we suffered with his constant threats, violent tantrums, physical attacks against people and property, and general abusive behaviour. In the end the only thing that stopped his reign of terror was his sudden death - nearly nine years after he first came to the attention of hospital staff. And yet the carehome never materialized.

I don't know how general this situation is - it could have been worsened by the fact that my father worked in the hospital system and boasted of how many people owed him favours (or worse, how many he had blackmailed over the years). At the end of the day though, the hospital system failed us. And worse, several members of the hospital staff protected one of their own even when he was threatening violence against his wife and children. That should never be allowed to happen in a civilized society with a professional healthcare system.

So I hope someone can benefit from my experiences, and perhaps avoid sacrificing as much as we did in those nine years. Maybe someone will read this, and refuse to take a violent patient home with them until there are more concrete contracts and timelines in place for when the patient will move into a suitable care facility. And if even one person has their life saved because of my cautionary tale, then it will have been worth the telling.

And now back to my usual lighthearted fare :)