When the phone calls started in the middle of the night, Kathy didn’t know what to think. Her 87-year-old father still lived independently, drove, and did his own grocery shopping. He and his wife even had date nights every Friday evening. He had never showed any signs of dementia or anxiety. But he kept calling in the middle of the night, scared that he was having a heart attack. Kathy now understands that his symptoms – accelerated heart rate and shortness of breath – were a result of recurring anxiety attacks. When he threatened suicide, she knew he needed help.
After an overnight stay in our Emergency Department, he was admitted into the Adult Mental Health Inpatient Unit. This was Kathy’s first experience with mental illness in her family and she had no idea what to expect.
“He hated the space. He was sharing a room with no telephone, no shower for him to wash and shave. He couldn’t have his cane with him. They’re small things, but it made him really agitated when his routine was taken away from him. And it wasn’t just him – when we visited, four of us were crammed in a tiny drab room with no windows, trying to comfort Dad, who was sobbing. He just wanted to go home.”
The three days that Kathy’s father spent there made a lasting impression on her. She got involved as a member of Southlake’s Patient and Family Advisory Program, providing advice from the family perspective to help identify and implement changes at Southlake. Through her volunteer role, she has been involved in consultations on changes to the space. Her first-hand insights helped shape this capital expansion project and will ensure Southlake patients will receive the mental health care in the physical space they deserve.