For a number of years I worked as a family support worker with five different agencies in Edmonton. Social workers would call the agency because someone was needed to help various families with different issues. The issues were parenting, addiction, abuse, education, health, budgets etc.
I saw many parents who had trouble coping with day to day life. Within the first couple of meetings, I would be told background histories on my clients. Every one had stories of abuse, lots of abuse. A question I always asked was, ‘Who loved you?’ As long as my client had a father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle or someone who really loved her/him, I knew my client had a fighting chance to deal with whatever and come out of the situation stronger and healthier than before.
Those who could not name one person who loved them took longer, if ever, to come out of their personal fog.
Street drugs took their toll. Heroin addicts and alcoholics aged really badly. I saw so many that were twenty years younger than me look twenty years older. It was sad and yet it seemed that somehow at a younger age, they could have been helped. The children brought up by addicts often disliked their parents, but again found themselves on the same path.
Then, I worked for a company (Excel) which ran and owned over thirty group homes and day programs. These were homes for adults over 18 years of age. The disorders were often multiple, brain damage (strokes, beatings, drunk driving, drugs), autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, Alzheimer’s, deaf (plus), depression, developmentally delayed (plus), diabetes, leukemia on and on. I think I only met one client in all those homes who was not on medication. Other clients did meet and mention to their Capital Health worker that they would like to get off the drugs. These souls were told in no uncertain terms that to get off drugs meant leaving the house.
Alternatives were never brought up. Pharmacies tried to stay with clients, but the one favoured by Excel forced many others out. What a cash cow!
At the beginning, each client had a photo taken which was placed in the medication book. This made it easier for new staff. In this way, the client could be recognized and the wrong meds would not be given. It made me feel sick to realize that many of these people would never get better and would end up taking more and more meds, usually stronger and stronger.
A client in one of these homes came in, very depressed. He stayed in his room for days and rarely left the house. Then somehow, he perked up, followed his interest in cars and got a part time job. He began staying over night at friends and family. Noah began missing his meds. Yet, he was still doing well. You see, when a client left for the day or night, he took the meds he needed with him. Noah did not always come back when he said, but he was doing great. A staff member, in charge of the house, was quite controlling and resented his coming and going. The fact that he was getting better did not seem to occur to her. Eventually, he did leave, much better than when he came. Noah wanted to get off all the meds and missing his allotted pills in such a gradual fashion seemed to be fine. Noah told me that he needed to feel like he was doing something. Anyone in a depressed state is usually blocking creative flow. Doing something, anything is a good start.
My point is clients on a lot of meds, such as taking pills morning, noon, suppertime and bedtime can really age clients. As I went from house to house, I would ask when the photos were taken. In two years, these clients looked as if they had been on the streets. In five years, whoa, they did not look good.
When I mentioned that legal drugs and street drugs age people pretty much the same way, I was met with dumb struck looks. This convinced me that no one wants these poor people to get better. I do have to say that most of the Excel staff were good, compassionate but no one seemed to think of any other alternative. What seemed obvious to me such as eating healthy not processed food, was not a big deal in some of the houses. The microwave which eliminates 98% of nutrients was in constant use. In one of the all male houses, the same clients would return hour after hour for another microwaved meal because they could not get full.
Combine bad food with microwave food and a barrage of medications, I can see why clients rarely left. They just died.