Friday, 28 June 2013

Extending Friday afternoon for many decades

Friday afternoon before the July 1st long weekend is always exciting. It’s the cursor summer holidays, and perhaps the most telling sound is the laughter of children in school playgrounds today. It’s the end of the school year when so countless children — like our grandson Nicholas, who bids farewell to Grade 4. There are hundreds of Edmonton Grade 12 students who probably could use a few extra hours of sleep today since there were several graduations Thursday night.

Whether kids are starting kindergarten or graduating from university, they all have one common denominator: they are our future. They are going lead our cities, provinces and country. They are going to provide inspiration and motivation. They will, of course, need help — but that opens the doors for their family and friends to help. Every student who graduates or passes into a new chapter this afternoon needs to be celebrated.

In Canada, we celebrate the end of June with trips to the lake. Maybe the mountains. Maybe even just an afternoon trip to that special place off the beaten path for a family picnic. We will use our highways. They will be busy. Perhaps it’s a reminder to slow down, to be careful, to be alert … to drive safe. It’s a glorious Friday afternoon. Let’s make everyone has the opportunity to enjoy their full potential, starting Tuesday morning and many years beyond.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Home care worker concerned about dangerous driving conditions (PART 2 OF 2)

Just imagine the frustration. Imagine a home care worker, on a cold winter day, trying to get to their next visit to care for and to help. And their vehicle — even a four-wheel drive — breaks down because of wear and tear. Imagine how it would feel, knowing someone is depending on you, but because of a new payment structure, you’re stuck … and can’t do the thing you love to do.

Donna says that is a bigger reality than we might want to think. Donna works for WeCare and drives to and from people in the community. But Alberta Health Services re-wrote a new contract with WeCare. Donna, not her real name, says WeCare workers will no longer be compensated for the distance they drive. “We only make between $15-17 dollars an hour as caregivers. By the time we take all our expenses off our hourly wage we will be making less than minimum wage. As you can appreciate this is unacceptable and all qualified people are leaving their jobs Aug. 1.  It is impossible to run a vehicle with no money.”

She continues: “I fear for caregivers driving old, unreliable vehicles down gravel roads in the middle of a snowstorm. This is dangerous.  We will have casualties in the field.”

And that is … unimaginable.

Guest blogger Ron Plant on Rick Hansen


When I read the 4000+ word article that David Baines wrote Vancouver SUN, questioning the ‘FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP’ of the Rick Hansen Foundation, it raised a few questions for me.

1.How many months has this man devoted to this story, and what was his motivation?
2.Why, of all the prospective targets to finger point, would you choose this topic for your swan song? Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Baines.
3.What business is it of David Baines, how the Rick Hansen Foundation is run, or what compensation Rick Hansen receives?

In my opinion, if Baines is afforded months to conspire and craft his… ummm… complaint, exposé, or whatever it is, shouldn’t the folks at the Rick Hansen Foundation be given some time to respond? That is IF they feel the need to respond at all. Why is it that after a cursory read through of one reporter’s article, some members of the public (many of whom have never read a financial statement in their lives) start throwing around words like fraud, and demanding explanations? Rick Hansen doesn’t owe me any explanation, and I dare say he likely doesn’t owe you one either.

To me, Rick Hansen is a man who has made huge strides in affecting public perception of persons with disabilities. He has given hope to generations of persons with spinal cord injuries and related disorders through significant, ongoing research fundraising efforts, and has shown a spirit of determination in the face of adversity well beyond what the average person has. You ever roll around the world in a wheelchair? Me neither.
If I have any point to make here at all, it is simply: Don’t rush to judgment. Even at 4,000 words, David Baines hasn’t given us all the facts, nor do we have any feedback from the foundation. Or does that not matter in the court of public opinion?

An unlikely hero speaks volumes

We may not have heard Jacqui Brocklebank’s name until earlier last week, but it’s a name we need to remember. Brocklebank lived in High River and had cerebral palsy. Sadly, the 33-year-old died because of the flood: and the way she died was so unselfish. More importantly, Brocklebank showed how we all can help others, and how people with disabilities aren’t always on the receiving end of getting assistance.

Brocklebank’s mother Janie Pighin tells CBC her daughter knew everyone in town. Brocklebank lived in her condo on the east side of High River, which was safe from the flooding. But she was worried about others. So she left her home, concerned about friends in trouble. It was then when Brocklebank was swept up in flood waters and died. It is tragic: words can’t even come close to describing.

Brocklebank needs to be remembered as a hero. She put the safety of others before hers. She accepted the risk of her disability, but put in behind her. She has made a profound statement of how people with disabilities help others, even in dangerous situations. And, for me, her story is something I will never forget.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Guest blogger Marie Renaud Martin on Rick Hansen


It was hard to even read the Vancouver Sun's article. We live in a country where young hockey players make more than some small countries. Yes, Rick Hansen's fund raising goal was huge and he fell short. The man went around the WORLD in a wheelchair. It makes sense that he thinks big. He made a mistake. So what?

If Rick Hansen makes hundreds of thousands, I am happy he does. He has given his adult life to raising awareness. In Alberta, our government pays volunteer appointed board members hundreds of thousands of dollars in honorariums and we don't even flinch. All about perspective. So Mr. ex-Sun writer, good for you, you can read a financial statement, point out mistakes and manipulate words. How have you positively impacted our world?


Poll: What do you think of Rick Hansen Foundation story in the Vancouver Sun

 There have been many comments about the Vancouver Sun story on the weekend where columnist David Baines questions the management of the Rick Hansen Foundation. Baines, who took a recent buy-out from the Sun, took 4,100 words to examine the foundation, specifically the 25th anniversary celebration. In his story, Baines also looks at Hansen’s compensation.

Hansen declined to be interviewed for the story. In an earlier blog I said — and I still believe — he needs to publicly respond. Many of the comments I have heard say Hansen really hasn’t done anything wrong. Perhaps Chris Minchau summed it up on Facebook best:

"I glanced through the article and my mind soon glazed over. I once had a college instructor, who said "Figures lie - and liars figure". The reporter throws out a lot of numbers, and implies wrong-doing without directly naming names. Looks like a straight up hatchet job to me, a final farewell from a mean spirited reporter, who apparently just announced his retirement. I figure when the reporter has raised even 1 percent of what the Rick Hansen Foundation has over the past 25 years, then he gets to complain!”

What do you think? Is the piece justified? Do you think Hansen is hiding from something? Or is the story so out in left field and unfair? We really want to know!


We are going to close voting Thursday. So please have your say.


Rick Hansen's legacy hanging in the balance; he needs to address it ASAP

It has been five days now since the Vancouver Sun ran an investigative story on the Rick Hansen Foundation. (I have a link to it at the end of the post.) I feel I should write something … that I should have an opinion of what has been said. Because I consider him a friend: we met in 1979 when he was playing wheelchair basketball and I was a rookie reporter, and then I covered the Man in Motion World Tour for a total of three months for the Edmonton Journal.  Still, I don’t know what to say.
Hansen in Edmonton last March // PHOTO: Bruce Edwards, Edmonton Journal

Hansen is a Canadian hero. His tour, which began on a shoestring budget in 1985, created a multi-million dollar corporation. And that’s where the story is. Vancouver Sun reporter David Baines is known for his investigative work. Some say he’s the best investigative reporter in Vancouver. So for him to take on Hansen in a 4,100 word piece is, by itself, a statement. Haines allegations are quite alarming — even to me.

David Baines,  Vancouver Sun

I have always known Hansen as a man who faces challenges head on. It’s surprising to me he declined to be interviewed for the story. There was an e-mail exchange but, according to Haines answers were not short, or not answered at all. I cannot even begin to wonder why that is. But I know this: he has to respond to the story. And, soon. Because if he doesn’t, public perception will run rampant and the assumptions will start. Hansen’s legacy is in peril right now. Only he can change that. I guess a hero’s work is never done.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The once soothing sound of rain is a subtle reminder how life can change

The sound of rain has always soothed my soul. I think of those summer nights when I was a kid at our family cabin in beautiful downtown Meota, Sask. Cabin, perhaps, is overstating the situation: it was a two-bedroom hose built in 1911 with a very thin roof on the bedroom. Hearing raindrops late at night before was a wonderful way to fall asleep.

But as we make our way through life, experiences change the way we see things, and how we hear things. The window in my den is open and it’s after 3 p.m. For the majority of the day I have been listening to the steady stream of raindrops landing outside. My first thoughts were how relaxing it is. But then I thought of our friends in southern Alberta and how heavy rains turned into floods — which turned into states of emergencies for many communities.

I think of so many people who lost everything. I think of the journey so many must face now to start over. I think of how many people will have to put their lives on hold for, maybe, months to get back to some type of normal. I think of the thousands of generous folks who continue to help in so many ways.

The soothing sound of rain I once loved so much now reminds me life can change in a second … and how we can’t take anything for granted.

New home care contract could spell trouble for travel times

Donna loves her job as a health care aide, but she is concerned she is being literally driven out of her job. Six years ago Donna, not her real name, was inspired watching health care aids working with her mother, who became a paraplgegic. Donna quit her job as  to become a health care aide. For the last five years she has worked for We Care, a for profit company. We Care health care aides travel to work with clients in  ) in Leduc, Sherwood Park, Leduc County, Strathcona County and Bonnie Doon. “I love my job.”

But Donna is worried about the future with new changes from Alberta Health Services to We Care contract.. “Our industry is in turmoil,” she says of the pay structure changing for caregivers Aug. 1. “Previously we were paid for time in between clients if they could not book us back to back shifts and we were also paid mileage for driving to and from clients homes. The new contract that We Care has signed does not provide for call-out fees or for mileage. We are expected to work for only the time the client has on their care plan plus a small amount of travel time.”

What does that mean? Donna says: “The travel time we will be compensated for is up to the discretion of each client's case manager and is determined by distance from the closet home care office, she says. “The most troubling thing of the travel time is that this time comes out of the clients care time.”

An internal We Care memo Donna shared with Tait Talk says: “If you are allocated 45 minutes for a bath assist, 35 minutes will now be for the bath and related travel care and 10 minutes for travel.” Donna says it is impossible to do a bath assist in 35 minutes as was the example provided by We Care.

“Not only that we have now been told that client will no longer have any choices for specific caregivers, times of care, and care provided,” she says. “Whoever is available will be sent and whatever times that caregiver have available will be the time given for care. So for my mother that needs help to go to the washroom, she will have to wait for her morning care and wear Depends until the caregiver can fit her in the schedule. Unacceptable.”

Donna doesn’t fault We Care for this and thinks it is an AHS issue.

Coming up soon: what the loss of paid mileage means to We Care employees. 

Monday, 24 June 2013

Home care and PDD as different as Edson and Lloydminster

Somewhere, long ago, a new friend — no more than minutes old — asked me if I knew his cousin who had Downs syndrome. When I said I did not he seemed a little miffed. He said, after all, I had cerebral palsy, and I should know every person with a disability in Edmonton and surrounding area. I explained people with disabilities have individual and unique lives.

For years people with disabilities have had to struggle in creating public awareness for our own disability. That has become very evident in the last two weeks. The provincial government is making changes to the way it is delivering services to persons with developmental disabilities, known as PDD. Changes are also coming for the way home care is being operated. But PDD and home care are not the same thing. Yet, some folks are thinking home care clients get PDD, and Albertans with developmental disabilities get home care.

Someone with a developmental disability may live in a group home. Someone with a physically disability may also live in a group home. But the support they get is as different as their disabilities: developmental disabilities are just that; physical disabilities are … just that. PDD and home care are two separate programs with very different needs.

And the battles, in both areas, are not over. Far from it. But there might be more public empathy if Albertans realize people with disabilities are unique and different … just like Edmontonians, Calgarians and all points in between.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Tait's Eight: 8 ways Edmonton can help Calgary

We need to help our neighbors in Calgary and the surrounding area after the recent flooding. But how? Here are eight possible ideas, including one from you. If you have any suggestions on how to make some of these ideas work please let me know. All funds raised will be sent to the Red Cross.

1.   Alumni hockey game between Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames held at Rexall Place
2.   Local businesses contribute 50 per cent of all sales from a specific day
3.   A concert at Telus Field with Alberta performers like k.d. lang, Ian Tyson, Brett Kissel, Tommy Banks, Paul Brandt and others
4.   A 24-hour production from all Edmonton television stations broadcasting at the same time
5.   Benefit concerts at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium and the Winspear Centre: the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at one venue and the Calgary Symphony Orchestra at the other, followed by Alberta’s biggest marshmallow roast at Hawerlak Park
6.   Fill every pothole in Edmonton roads with loonies and deliver the grand total to Calgary
7.   Every Edmontonian donate a day’s pay

Friday, 21 June 2013

Hope, however small, is in southern Alberta

Dave Hancock sat in his office several years ago when he was education minister and made a profound statement over an early morning cup of black coffee. “I am in the business of providing hope,” he said — not only of the his specific role, but provincial government’s position in every day life. Hancock’s creed echoed throughout the province Friday as southern Alberta remains in a state of emergency after Mother Nature unleashed punishing blows.

Heavy rains cause unimaginable flooding from Canmore to Lethbridge, stopping in Calgary where, perhaps, damaged is felt the most. News reports Friday afternoon estimates 100,000 Calgarians are without homes. That number grows because many people in the surrounding areas are also at danger. It is horrible. The damage and repairs to southern Alberta will take decades.

Hope, though, is on the way.

Alberta premier Allison Redford and prime minister Stephen Harper — both with strong Calgary ties — toured the damage in a helicopter Friday. They promised both governments will provide financial assistance, and more importantly, moral support for the people who need it the most. It could very well be impossible for people to even think about the future when they have lost so much. We understand that, absolutely.  But we all need to be reminded people care and want to help. Nobody is going through this journey alone. Family, friends and total strangers will help. Two levels of government — governments who are criticized all the time — are providing a small glimmer of hope when it’s needed the most. And so Dave Hancock’s statement has a new meaning this weekend.

Photo via Twitter from Neal Barton from the premier's office taken from a government aircraft late Friday

Giving pets dignity at that sad time


One of the best parts of my day happens seconds after I set my head on my pillow, just before 11 p.m. My wife Joan puts our dog Thomas on our bed beside me. Thomas, a Chihuahu-Yorkie, scampers his way up to my pillow and gets comfortable for a 10-minute chat. Darn, he’s a good listener. Then, he walks down and retires for the evening at my feet. Thomas is my buddy and, sadly, I have thought about the day down the road when he will jump into Doggie Heaven: I know he had many years ahead of him.

But when that time comes I am comforted knowing there is a place where Thomas can be remembered in dignity. Because for years I have been troubled hearing people say “I took my pet into the vet today to have it put to sleep.” I imagined how terrible the car ride home must be.

It doesn’t have to be that way, anymore. Part of The Family Pet Memorial allows family pets to me remembered with one word: dignity. They offer the same funeral services as for human beings. There’s even a viewing room and a chapel for a memorial service. On Saturday, Part of The Family is having an open house from 1 til 5:30 p.m. for folks to learn more at 11904 - 113 Ave.

We all love our pets. And maybe the biggest thing Part of the Family does is soften that rough ride home after we say our farewells. It’s late, now — so I have to cut this short. Thomas is calling for me. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

"We both won, Papa": my grandson

 It’s just after 5 p.m. on Tuesday night when I wheel through the front door of my condo unit. There he is, our 10-year-old grandson Nicholas: hockey stick in hand, stick handling his plastic green puck on our kitchen floor. I can’t wait to tell him about the telephone call I got from Alison Redford’s office 4 ½ hours earlier, sharing news about the Alberta Health Services reversing the decision about home care contracts. I have cerebral palsy, use a wheelchair and have home care services in our condo — something AHS wanted to farm out to a new provider July 31, which could have meant dire changes. But after Thursday’s decision we can carry on with our user-driven program.

“We won, Nick,” I said. He smiled and then said: “I won, too, Papa. I went outside today at school and we had a paper airplane contest. So I built one and threw it. And it went all the way across the parking lot and it was the farthest anyone threw. I won, Papa.”

I hugged Nic, perhaps tighter than I usually do. I thought how precious that story was and how he told me as soon as I got in the door. I thought how, without AHS’ reversal, I could have had to move into a nursing home. I thought of Nic coming to visit me in a hospital-like room after supper, several hours removed from that paper airplane toss, and how some of the excitement would be gone. I thought of how lucky I am to be able to stay in my own home and have the honor of babysitting Nic, who lost his mother in March to cancer.

After our hug, I gave Nic our traditional fist pump. “We both won today, Nic,” I said.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Today's timely tune: AHS reverses decision

Two weeks after Creekside Support Services, ArtSpace and Abby Road were told their self-directed home care contracts were cancelled by Alberta Health Services, the decision was reversed.

Here's the story

And the tune

Part 2: No more 24 hour care at Abby Road

SHAWN McCLOSKEY // PHOTO: John Lucas, The Journal

Shawn McCloskey is one of 14 residents with a disability at Abby Road Co-Op. After administrating their own home care for over 20 years, Alberta Health Services informed the residents several weeks ago their contract would not be renewed, and Revera would be their new provider. And this is where it gets downright scary. We’ll let McCloskey explain in his own words.

“As of right now, we have not been guaranteed 24-hour care (with Revera). There are multiple ways in which this has not been guaranteed as well. Right now, people at Abby Road who need home care services have a schedule when staff show up to do those services. In between those scheduled services, which can be multiple hours apart, people can need non-emergency help for a number of reasons. Dropping keys on the floor, putting on jackets, getting a glass of water, closing and opening windows. Abby Road users refers to these requests for help as "on calls" .

“We call the support service office, leave a message and wait for a staff member to come to our suite. We rarely wait long than 30 minutes. The staff is able to accommodate these "on calls" due to being let out of scheduled services early, or by having small gaps in their schedule between services.

“Revera has told us since these "on call" services are not scheduled by AHS, they cannot provide them. Revera gets paid on a pay-per-service basis and our "on calls" don't fit into that kind of model. Our block-funded model does however, quite well. What this will do is deny us the flexibility to go to work, school, community events. It hamstrings us to the point where we cannot effectively participate in society.

“More troubling is what this means for us and overnight care. Currently, we have two staff members working at night 7 days a week. And we desperately need two people working at night. The staff, at night, are largely just turning people over in bed who cannot turn themselves over, but it is back-to-back: one service right after the other. And then, when you add in "on calls", it is very busy. The problem is that there is lull in services between 2 and 5 A.M and Revera does not consider "on calls" at all, so it appears on paper as if our staff have less to do. That makes no business sense for Revera, so they won't pay for two staff members at Abby Road overnight. And the reality of that is if there is not enough help here at night for people who really need it, they cannot live here. At Abby Road, we have 14 residents with high level needs. If there is no overnight care or the flexibility of "on calls" at Abby Road, we (I am one of the 14) will be forced from our homes into long-term care facilities … essentially a hospital room."

New home care provider won't cook meals: user

Fourteen residents residents with physical disabilities of  Abby Road Co-Op in Edmonton are very tense as they prepare for a new home care provider. Their concerns range from Revera, the new care provider, not cooking meals to not providing 24-hour care to people with high needs. Resident Shawn McCloskey emailed Tait Talk with his concerns.

McCloskey says Revera has already made it clear they would warm up frozen or microwavable dinners. But not cook for residents, Revera says it’s “industry standards” and their staff is not trained to know temperatures. If Revera staff cooks something and a resident gets sick the are liable. But McCloskey says that’s only one issue. By only heating up meals, who will prepare them in the first place? Family members? What if a resident doesn’t have a family member in Edmonton. “What if we eat food that needs to be prepared but not warmed up - particularly at breakfast and lunch? Do we go without food? Ultimately what this will do is make us more dependent on other people.”

McCloskey goes on to say Revera is “implicitly acknowledging that the members of Abby Road are losing the right to control their home care and thereby their own lives. “As it stands, I am perfectly capable of knowing when my burgers are grilled enough, my potatoes baked enough and my vegetables steamed enough,” he says. But the mistake Alberta Health Services made by giving the home care contract to Revera, says McCloskey, is this: “Givng away my right to decide these things. This is not about food exactly. The larger issue here is that, with Revera, we are unable to determine what is best for ourselves.”


Monday, 17 June 2013

Redford meets us for coffee; home care discussed

Alberta premier Alison Redford accepted our invitation (CLICK HERE TO READ OUR REQUEST) for coffee Sunday morning to discuss changes in the delivery of home care across the province. Three of us from Creekside Support Services — Larry Pempeit, Heidi Janz and myself — met with Ms. Redford for 30 minutes in a second floor meeting room at the Alberta legislature. Human Services minister Dave Hancock was also in the discussion who said he was going to relay the information to health minister Fred Horne.

We shared out concerns about how Alberta Health Services came into the condo building we all live in and tried to implement a new home care provider without even consulting with us. Ms. Redford was especially interested in how this was handled. “I want to make sure I understand this,” she said several times while her aides were busy making notes. She said she was unaware of how things were handled, especially when CSS users have direct input in the care we get. We told her we plan to fight the battle to the end, when our contract runs out July 31.

Ms. Redford said she will look into the Creeskide situation as well as Abby Road and Art Space in Edmonton. “We have work to do,” she said near the end of the meeting. We couldn’t help but feeling a new sense of hope for our situation — and the willingness of Ms. Redford to have an open discussion on the matter.

We would like to thank Neala Barton, Director of Media Relations and Spokesperson in the premier’s office, for responding to our request the day after it was on the Talk Talk blog. Heidi also sent it out to the premier’s office and Mr. Horne.