Locked in long term care 'prison:' Woman asks for assisted suicide rather than continue in COVID-19 isolation | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Locked in long term care 'prison:' Woman asks for assisted suicide rather than continue in COVID-19 isolation

Shirley Turton with her daughter Jennifer Molgat during happier times in July 2019
Image Credit: Submitted/Jennifer Molgat
August 15, 2020 - 8:29 AM

After months of being locked up in her long term care room, 78-year-old Shirley Turton has asked her family to arrange an assisted suicide for her.

She’s depressed, not interested in eating and can’t even put a glass of water to her lips but, most of all she is lonely, her daughter Jennifer Molgat told iNFOnews.ca.

“She led a very high quality life and, on a day-to-day basis, was heard to say, ‘I am so lucky, I’m so glad,'” Molgat said. “It was so amazing because we would look at this woman, disabled in her wheelchair, and here she was so confident about her life. But that’s gone now. That has been snuffed. She’s lost all hope. She’s going downhill.”

Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown in March, the family had a private care aide who would take Turton on outings, get her hair cut and such things three days a week. Family members visited regularly and took her to Molgat’s farm, the beach to watch the grandchildren playing in the water or feed her home cooked meals.

They waited years to get Turton into the care home (Molgat didn’t want to name it out of respect for all the help they’re getting from front line staff). Turton loves her room, which is now her home, so much she doesn't want to leave. But, because she’s confined to a wheelchair she can’t go out and mix with other residents, family visits are limited and she's not allowed any outings.

After the family was excluded, they tried zoom meetings but Turton couldn’t hold the iPad. A care aide would drop it in her lap and leave the room. Turton would look up at the ceiling or around her room to try to figure out where the voices were coming from.

They were able to visit by looking through a window or a wrought iron fence but, Molgat said, that felt like they were in a prison and, since Turton’s voice is so weak and she was 20 feet away, conversation wasn’t practical.

“It’s cruel, in a way, these visits, because they’re so hard on her,” Molgat said. “I think a lot of seniors in long term care are in the same boat. They’re not able to visit and chit chat and have conversations. They just need to be close to people and have the proximity of their family members. These visits are not appropriate or helpful.”

Shirley Turton with her daughter Cindy Turton and granddaughter Meghan Turton.
Shirley Turton with her daughter Cindy Turton and granddaughter Meghan Turton.
Image Credit: Submitted/Jennifer Molgat

Last month, after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry relaxed the lockdown rules, Molgat’s sister became the designated single visitor. Given Turton’s deteriorating condition, Molgat is now allowed to go in but only at set times every second day in the mornings, something that’s not easy to do because she works full-time.

“I do feel administrators and employees in higher positions could apply more logic and critical thinking and make decisions that are based on individual cases rather than just blanket, following the rules blindly,” Molgat said, noting it would be easy to have more visitors to Turton’s room and still safe distance from other residents.

Even better would be to take her out to the farm or on other outings.

“Obviously, we’re not going to put our mother or her care aides in danger,” Molgat said. “We’re highly aware of how important it is to keep everybody safe.”

She’s run into a total brick wall in trying to get these changes.

“It’s just crazy to me, and I can’t see how it’s even legal that they’re able to keep these people trapped in their homes,” she said. “All my mother would like to do is have us wheel her wheelchair down the road, put her in her private wheelchair van and bring her out to our farm so that she can see the horses and enjoy the sunshine. We would never take her anywhere where it’s dangerous. But they won’t even look at it. ‘Talk to Bonnie Henry, talk to Bonnie Henry’ they say. Well that’s not always practical.”

Turton has asked the family to look into assisted suicide but, because she’s not terminally ill, she likely doesn’t qualify.

Instead, they want some changes so Turton can regain her will to live.

“She said if things can change she does not want to die,” Molgat said.

READ MORE: 'Serious inquiry' needed into B.C.’s lockdown of long-term care homes due to COVID-19

Molgat also took to Facebook to get her message out. Her post can be seen here.

Shirley Turton with her daughter Jennifer Molgat and granddaughters Phoebe Molgat (in touque) and Maddie Molgat.
Shirley Turton with her daughter Jennifer Molgat and granddaughters Phoebe Molgat (in touque) and Maddie Molgat.
Image Credit: Submitted/Jennifer Molgat

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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