Michener saved family from tragedy
An open letter to Premier Alison Redford:
I realize you have your hands full with the disaster in Southern Alberta (I know, I live in Okotoks), but I wanted to appeal to you one last time about keeping Michener Centre open in some capacity — at least the south side and its valuable amenities already in place for our severely disabled residents.
My sister Jody is one of those remaining residents. She has lived at Michener for 41 years. I wanted to share her and my mother’s story with you, so that you might see how very valuable Michener is and has been — a lifesaver to say the least.
My sister is one of five siblings. She is severely disabled, and as a child suffered from extreme seizures and was prone to impulsive behaviour that made her already difficult life even more precarious. My parents, who could not meet the complex special needs that my sister required, made that difficult decision to move my sister into Michener as a child.
At the time, Michener was indeed an institution in every sense that the word implies, not a choice made easily by my parents but a choice made out of no other options. They could not care for her medical needs, nor could they keep her safe in a community that could not be modified enough for my sister’s impulsiveness. She did and does require 24/7 care. Exhausting for my parents on many levels; they simply could not cope.
Two years before my mother died, she told me that if not for my older sister and I that she would have taken her life along with my sister Jody’s. So mentally/physically/emotionally draining is the care of someone who is severely disabled, that no doubt my mother knew what she was facing — a life sentence that allowed for little life and no hope and/or change due to the severity of my sister’s developmental delays.
My sister was and will always have the equivalence of a three-year-old, with no chance of developing beyond her mental capabilities, regardless of community inclusion or not. My mother knew this inherently in her long days with my sister and short, sleepless nights, and not temporarily, but facing an entire lifetime of care that my mother knew she could not keep up.
Regardless of what Michener was in those early dim days of institutionalization, I am grateful that option was there for my mother and my sister and, in turn, me, who has the beauty of my sister still here, still alive and thriving at the safe, caring Michener Centre that has evolved and gone above and beyond the call of care for my sister.
Even more so today, Michener remains a relevant choice for aging parents struggling to meet the needs of their disabled adult children. Every parents’ worst fear: who will look after their child if they can’t look after them themselves? This is where Michener fits in.
I fear for my sister’s life if she is forced to leave Michener. She spent eight years out in community care and did not do well for a number of reasons, the biggest one being that the community cannot be safeguarded enough to allow my sister the small, simple freedoms that Michener gives her (i.e. secure grounds, access to her peers and roommates, the community and programs that Michener has built both within and without). And with the severe cuts facing the PDD (Persons with Developmental Disabilities program), I know what that means to the clients in the community.
I am asking, no begging you, with all respect given to your difficult position as premier and caregiver to all Albertans, not just the 125 individuals that remain at Michener, please allow my sister and her peers to live out their lives in the only place they have known as home — the Michener Centre.