Don’t let it be said her life is boring

Columnist Claudette Sandecki doesn't let repetitive tasks get the best of her

Cutine repetitive tasks never bore me. As a kid I spent hours ironing, washing dishes, or my favourite, shivering in the chilly root cellar cutting shrivelled potatoes into bite size pieces for the cows, filling several five gallon pails every afternoon until the bin was empty. Random enlivening thoughts flit through my mind like a CNN crawl. I may review the day’s news, even ponder criminals’ baffling behaviours such as the Alberta thief who made off across frozen fields on a monster John Deere tractor pursued by a Mountie hitching a ride on a snowmobile until he tipped the tractor over on a hillside.

This morning for 20 minutes I threw heavy blocks of firewood into the basement. Twenty minutes at a time is my limit. On a job rife with so many physical hazards I try to focus my attention on the work at hand.

I must remember – don’t step back and trip over the pup who sits Sphinx-like at my heels waiting for me to play with her; don’t mash my hands between an off-target wood block and the concrete foundation; don’t drop or dislodge a chunk on a toe or finger.

For all my concentration, in the back of my mind topics skitter: Oscar Pistorius testifying for the second day in his own defence. Why would he have a lock on his toilet door? My understanding is his toilet is a cubby separate from the main bathroom. Not the way the average Canadian bathroom is built. Perhaps Pistorius is extra shy, doesn’t want even the woman he is sleeping with to catch him with his pants down.

I move to the 94-year-old Toronto woman who was defrauded out of her $25,000 life savings by a housekeeper who gradually encroached on her life from cleaning, to cooking, to handling her accounts, until one day the young woman invited herself to move in with her husband and two kids. They allegedly stole her jewellery, disposed of most of her furniture, and confined her to a small bedroom until a pharmacy delivery man who had been dropping off her prescription medicine for 10 years felt something was amiss when the husband – not the senior – opened the door.

He asked to see the senior. She acted strange, wouldn’t look at him. He reported his suspicions to the pharmacist who called police. The couple was arrested. Strangers donated $70,000 to replace the senior’s life savings.

Common indicators of abuse include: helplessness, depression, hesitation to talk openly, fear, denial and agitation.

The 94-year-old has only one living relative, a sister in Montreal. But relatives, too, can be abusers.

Mickey Rooney, the 93-year-old Hollywood movie star who died April 6, testified last year before a U.S. congressional committee on ageing that he had been emotionally and financially abused by relatives. Rooney revealed a stepson had deprived him of food and medicine, prevented him from leaving the house, and meddled in his financial affairs. Rooney won a lawsuit against his stepson for return of $2.8 million … which he may never collect. The stepson is bankrupt. His insurance company refuses to pay.

Two other cases of elder abuse – both by doctors – niggle my mind. One Edmonton senior sought help from her family doctor for her emotional problems. He told her all she needed was a man. And an Alberta surgeon, upset that the surgical procedure had taken four hours longer than he had allotted, blamed his patient for the operation running into overtime.

The unprofessional behaviour of both doctors is disturbing. If I had learned of these two incidents from a less reliable source, I wouldn’t believe any qualified medical practitioner might behave this way.

Bored by repetitive tasks? Not me.