With mom in palliative care, Stratford family hopes for final reunion

A man providing end-of-life care for his mother in Stratford, Ont., is grateful the family has receive an exemption to rules that require a three-day hotel quarantine. The decision has made it possible for his sister in England to have a final reunion with their mother.

COVID-19 restrictions required daughter from England to get special permission

Mike Morley with his mother Lina Mieczkowski, 91, who is now receiving palliative care at home in Stratford, Ont. Morley's sister plans to travel from England to be with her mother in what are likely her final days, after she was exempt from hotel quarantining after entering Canada. (Submitted by Mike Morley)

Anyone who's helped a parent through end-of-life care has a pretty clear idea of what Mike Morley and his family are facing now and in the days ahead. 

Now near the end of a long and well-lived life, Morley's 91-year-old mother, Lina Mieczkowski, is receiving palliative care at her home in Stratford, Ont.

She is struggling with Type II diabetes and other ailments that have affected her mobility. There are some good days and other not-so-good ones. 

"We don't know when or how long, but it's likely soon," said Morley. 

The retired IT professional left his home in Toronto last year to help care for his mother as COVID-19 made life more difficult and complicated for everyone, seniors in particular. He's been at his mother's house in Stratford to help as her health declined and care needs grew. 

Morley said some days his mother feels strong and chatty, while at other times, her decline is more evident. 

"Those surges are followed by crashes and it's those crashes where you could lose her," he said. 

'A real pioneer'

Morley's mother moved to Stratford in the early 1980s to run a bed and breakfast as the Stratford Festival gained the kind of popularity that draws travellers from all over the globe.

"She was a real pioneer," he said.

Before that, she was a survivor of the Second World War and still has clear memories of skies darkened by German bombers during the Blitz when she lived in England.

With Lina's health in decline, the family has had to overcome a new challenge: Getting Morley's sister, Suzanne Mieczkowska (who spells her last name slightly differently from her mother), to Ontario in time for a final reunion with her mother. 

On Feb. 22, the federal government mandated that air passengers entering Canada must take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and spend up to three days quarantining at a government-approved hotel to wait for their test results.

Lina moved to Stratford in the early 1980s to run a bed and breakfast as the Stratford Festival gained popularity. (David Morley)

That requirement posed a problem for Suzanne, who's eager to get to Stratford quickly given her mother's failing health. The family worries she could be stuck in a hotel and miss a chance to see her mother.

Fortunately, the government allows exemptions to the quarantine entry rules for compassionate reasons, among them providing care for a dying relative. 

The family applied for an exemption for Suzanne on May 12 after submitting a doctor's letter about Lina's condition. The exemption means Suzanne can quarantine at her mother's residence after arriving in Toronto instead of at a hotel. 

For now, Suzanne has tentative plans to fly to Toronto on Saturday. 

Gratitude for health-care team

Mike Morley says this news has raised his mother's spirits at a difficult time. 

"She is resolved to hang on for it and the nurses say she has a good chance of making it," he said in a text message to CBC News. 

Morley said he's grateful the exemption was an option, though he wished the process could be fast-tracked in cases like this.. 

For now, he's happy his sister has a chance to be with her mother and brother at a trying time, despite the challenges posed by a global pandemic. 

He's also grateful for the nurses, doctors and personal support workers (PSWs) who've provided outstanding care for his mother, who has chosen to receive end-of-life care at home. 

"Having seen what PSWs do and how cheerful and dedicated they are about it, they now also have my greatest respect," he said. "I've never met a more selfless and giving group of people."


Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.