Friday, 20 April 2018

Daily Check Ins

There was an article this week about an unfortunate event that happened a year ago. Presumably, it took so long for people to hear about it becuase the family could not get the answers they wanted by dealing with the home directly, so they went to the press. An elderly man who resided in an independent retirement home died of natural causes in his room but, he wasn't found by the home for several days and only after a concerned resident alerted them to the fact that she hadn't seen him in a while. The issue wasn't that he died, as sad as that was for his family; it was that no one noticed he hadn't been at his meals for days.
One of the reasons people move to retirement homes is for the peace-of-mind that something like this doesn't happen, especially if all meals are included in your package. That no one noticed that this man was missing is very concerning. While independent people do go to retirement home settings, one would hope that there is a system in place to ensure something like this doesn't happen. We can only hope that learning from this experience will ensure no other resident or family has to go through this sort of thing again.
For families and potential residents of retirement homes, when you tour a home ask if there is a system to check on residents if they miss a meal. Is there a "buddy system" so residents check in with one other person daily? I recently read about a home for independent residents that has a door knob notification system; residents put a card on their door knobs when they go to bed and remove it in the morning. If someone spots a card when there isn't supposed to be one, they alert staff. Ask about the call bell system - if they wear a pendant there is less of a chance that they won't be able to alert someone if they are feeling ill. If there are not call bells in the room or if meals are not included in the home you go to, can you purchase a call bell pendant system privately on your own? Can you and other family members arrange to check in with your loved one daily? I know of seniors who live alone who have set up their own call system with friends in the same situation; one phone call or phone signal of so many rings at a certain time every day alerts  their friend that they are okay. Not getting that call at the same time one day, is cause for alarm and leads to a chain of events to ensure the person is fine.
For retirement homes that do not have a system in place to ensure people are okay daily, it's time to create one. I know years ago there was a home that created a card swiping system; a bit like what they have on cruise ships actually. When people went to a meal, their card was swiped at the door. If they didn't make it to a meal, the computer system alerted the staff of this and someone went to check on the person. A great system as long as residents are cognitively alert and able to remember their cards every time they go down to the dining room. While this is proably an elaborate and costly system that would not work for many settings or residents,  I'm sure there are other effective ways to monitor residents' safety that homes can consider, enabiling them to ensure that the people they are meant to look after, are indeed connected to the staff and/or other residents.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Holiday Worries

This weekend, many family members will get together to celebrate Easter or Passover. Some will travel great distances to see parents and loved ones who they may not have seen in months or longer. Often, in addition to sharing a meal, conversation and memories, concern may arise if there is a seemingly sudden change in a loved one since a last visit. Often, right after significant holidays, websites like www.senioropolis.com, see a bump in searches and inquiries as worry about the future sets in for the children of elderly people who don't seem to be managing well.
While we always recommend that planning ahead is ideal and creates more opportunities for choice and adjustment, for those who haven't had that opportunity, the sooner you can begin your research, the better. Keep in mind that for any kind of assistance or relocation to work, as long as your loved one is mentally competent, you must have their agreement and cooperation.
There are signs you can be looking for when you visit, that may point to the need to begin discussions; things like kitchen safety issues, a noticeable weight loss or even substantial gain, changes in habits, behaviors or personality, evident difficulty with personal care or cognitive tasks, difficulty managing in general in the home or unexplained physical injury all may be cues to caregivers to start talking about options with your loved one.
There is really no 'best time' to have this conversation, but there are better ways to approach it and deal with it. Timing is important - so not at the holiday dinner table. Know your facts. Speak to other family members that may have more frequent contact about your concerns and find out their observations. Listen to your loved one. Don't attack or bombard. Tell them what you see and why you are concerned. Be supportive. Create a plan that starts with the least intrusive assistance and do some research about options available moving forward. Make it about problem solving and not about forcing them into something they don't want or understand a need for (we have an extensive article about this in our book and in the PDF download on Care Options for Seniors in Ontario https://www.senioropolis.com/BookInfo.asp).

Friday, 9 March 2018

GUEST POST - Seniors Can Learn New Skills from Home


Learning is nutrition for the body and mind. The mind is designed to investigate, discover and expand. The advent of the internet has completely revolutionized the way people learn. Seniors now have the opportunity to engage and participate in the world like never before by learning new skills, joining communities and finding learning opportunities. 

According to Wired magazine the learning revolution is taking place at home. People are participating in self-teaching and connecting with the world in a more individualized way. An entire industry of online schools, academies and entertainment sites has made it more accessible for people to acquire information and knowledge. For senior citizens, this has given them an opportunity to continue learning and finding new activities.

Learning Opportunities

There is a plethora of online learning courses and activities that teach people new subjects and skills. Some popular learning ventures for seniors include:

Art/Photography courses. These can be a great way for seniors to engage with their creative side and learn new skills of the trade. Courses, such as photography, teach people new ideas while encouraging them to go out into the world. Painting courses and tutorials also encourage hands on practice. Many host painting parties that invite people to engage creatively and share their projects.

Arts and crafts. For seniors that like to work with their hands, arts and crafts are a great way to satisfy that urge. You can learn anything from making jewelry, fabric and needle crafts and other small projects.

Music lessons. The Guardian newspaper reports that learning a musical instrument has documented neurological benefits that keep the mind sharp as people get older. Many online music schools will teach people to pick up an instrument and learn to play through step-by-step instructions and instructional videos.

Dancing. Seniors can also engage in learning new activities through the internet sources or local classes. One of the best benefits of dancing is that you can do it in the privacy of your own home or in a classroom setting, which can help you socialize. It’s also a great way to get in shape and learn about your own body’s abilities and limits in a healthy way. Seniors should partake of at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, and dancing is a fun and great way to do it.

Book clubs. For seniors that like to read, joining a book club is a great way to communicate with others and engage in conversations. There are many local or online book clubs where people socialize or communicate through discussions.

The Benefits

The learning revolution has given seniors a connection to the world around them. The benefits of this type of self-teaching are plentiful.

Convenience. As people get older, it becomes more difficult to move around town. With many of these online activities, seniors can do the bulk of the learning from the comfort and safety of their own living rooms. As the New York Times reported, even colleges have taken to offering online courses for retirees and seniors.

Health & healing. Participating in physical activity like dancing is a great way to improve mental and physical health. Finding a new hobby and finding passion for learning new skills will help seniors who are recovering from addiction. Expanding and challenging the mind will do wonders for self-healing and leaving behind destructive behaviors.

Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford’s famous quote, “Anyone who keeps learning stays young” is applicable today. This is an exciting time in history, when knowledge is available and open to everyone. Seniors have an opportunity to use the modern world to their advantage. Learning and staying active from home has never been easier or more fun.

Contributed by: Marie Villeza, ElderImpact. 


Marie Villeza is passionate about connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. So she developed ElderImpact to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Senior Isolation

With our increasing aging population, there is significant talk about 'active and engaged' seniors. There are 'action plans for seniors', talk of resource connection and development and seniors working well into their retirement years. Yet, there is a whole group of seniors that we hear little about - those who are socially isolated. There are several risk factors to becoming socially isolated including "older age (being aged 80+), living alone, having no children or contact with family, having a chronic illness or disability, loss of vision or hearing, mobility issues, lack of access to transportation, living with a low income, membership in a vulnerable group, language (non-English speaking) and location (rural, unsafe or inaccessible)" (from: www.cbc.ca/news/
canada/hamilton/hamilton-senior-isolation-1.4464883). Humans are social beings; having regular contact with others can make the difference between health and wellness. These are the people that most need an 'action plan' yet more than likely they are the ones who fall between the cracks. With isolation, one can become depressed, develop mental health issues and experience a health decline. Often, this can go unnoticed, until perhaps a family doctor or some other resources identifies the issue and tries to connect the person to supports. For some, by the time this happens it might be too late to reverse the presenting issues and a downward spiral ensues. 
So what can we do to fix this problem? In Hamilton, Ontario there is a 3 year program developed by 7 organizations, called HSIIP - the Hamilton Seniors Isolation Impact Plan (http://socialisolation.ca/) whose aim is to reduce isolation among seniors. As well, a study to be conducted by a PhD candidate at McMaster University in the spring will explore the issue of isolation in senior women in downtown Hamilton. Hopefully the findings of both the HSIIP program and this study will help to create change for other communities in the future. 
Beyond this, we as individuals can make a difference as well. Are you concerned that a senior you know might be isolated and/or need some support? Start a conversation. If they are interested in getting out a bit, contact your local seniors organization and ask for information on programs that you can pass along. If they are well enough and willing to engage in a conversation about things they can do to get out, suggest they volunteer or take a class. If you are able to, reach out. Invite them for tea or offer to take them out somewhere. Sometimes, simply letting someone know that you care, can go a long way.

Monday, 29 January 2018

The Future Planning Talk

When I first started working as a hospital social worker many moons ago, it was not uncommon for people to ask that we complete nursing home papers for a loved one without their knowledge. It seemed as if there was a role reversal in play - the child had suddenly become the parent and thought they knew what was best. They believed that if they raised the issue of moving to a long-term care home with their parent, there would be disagreement and a negative reaction. This was a very short-sighted request and I have no idea how they expected to deal with a move to long-term care if it came as a surprise to their loved one. For those who are wondering, unless the person was incompetent, this was not something I would ever do or suggest to a client.
When CCAC created a standardized form, it became easier to deny this request - if someone was competent, they would have to sign the form and accept the bed. While there was 'push back' from many families, there was nothing they could do about it.
In all my years at the hospital, I don't think there was ever a situation where a senior or their loved one told me they had discussed future planning with each other.
Years later when I left the hospital setting and began giving workshops and lectures, I came to understand that healthy seniors often did want to talk about future planning with their kids but felt a resistance from the kids - the same resistance the adult children would tell me they faced. I developed a theory that most families considered that very difficult conversation taboo, and both sides were afraid to discuss it yet, if they did, they would see how freeing it was and made things so much easier when decisions did needed to be made.
This weekend I read an article that reminded me of all of this. Essentially, the article was about dictating lifestyle changes, like diet, for seniors in the interest of better health and living longer. Let's be honest here - how many 80 year old's are willing and able to change their diet when they have been eating a certain way for all their lives? Is it really something we can force anyone to do, regardless of their age? Ultimately, the answer to this question and the one so many children of seniors asked me so long ago is this - people have the right to live the way they want, even if it's in a situation we deem 'risky' as long as they are mentally competent. Present the information and then listen to what they want. I know when I am 90, I don't want my kids to decide anything for me if I am still able to decide for myself. What's important is that we have the difficult conversations before crisis hits; talk over time, when the person is healthy, about what they want. When the time comes, it's far easier to make a decision when you have talked about it, and perhaps even planned for it.

Friday, 19 January 2018

GUEST POST - Motivational Tips for Senior Wellness

If it’s true that age is just a number, someone should inform the wrinkles. In fact, physical appearance and gray hair are not the only lovely attributes that broadcast the effects of age. As time ticks forward, our whole body gets a makeover one grueling second at a time. We suddenly experience pain in parts of the body we didn’t know existed, and naps feel like mini vacations. We can’t always remember what we had for dinner last night, and wonder if our hearing is going or if the kids are creating the next slang word. Don’t you wish there was a cure for the inevitable aging process?

While no one has perfected an anti-aging solution, there are plenty of ideas surrounding the concept of maintaining physical and mental wellness as we grow older. Some effects of our age are unavoidable, but most of the extenuating issues like disease, illnesses, and muscle weakness can be prevented, if we learn how and why to take care of ourselves. It’s as simple as maintaining a little self-discipline and setting a few healthy goals. At the end of the day, your overall health depends on how well you manage it. You may want to research some inspirational tips to keep you motivated. In fact, here are just a few to get you started:

Your limitations don’t have to determine your health.
Your mind and your physical limitations do not have to dictate your overall health. Sure, there may be a few extenuating circumstances, and cautionary tips from you primary care doctor. Those are important things to consider, but don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can do. Try to accomplish a weekly activity that still challenges you to become healthier, without risking your wellness. Your goal might simply be to walk down the street in your neighborhood twice a week. Or to work out at home with a treadmill, exercise ball, modified strength training exercises such as push-ups or wall sits, or even light cleaning activities that get your heart rate up. Those are all really great in-home exercise routines that don’t have to cause serious strain to your muscles. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us we are capable to fulfill the goals we have set for ourselves. If that applies to you, you can do this!

Start chasing your passion now.
How does passion relate to total wellness? A study was conducted regarding the effects of intentional activities on psychological wellness. It revealed that those who participated in activities they enjoyed, or ones that peaked their interest, had a healthier overall well-being. It might sound obvious, but if you chase after your passions (no matter your age), you will likely improve your well-being. Mentally, you will be challenged. Emotionally, you will feel satisfied in your accomplishments. And physically, you will increase your level of activity, while you chase your dreams. And, you avoid many potential pitfalls that other seniors are facing: the rate of addiction, suicide and depression is up among seniors - by making good choices for your mental health, you put yourself in the best possible position to avoid such negative issues and enjoy only positive ones.

It's never too late to begin a healthier lifestyle.
It's true that as we age, it becomes more difficult to lose weight or see significant physical gains from exercise, but that shouldn’t stop you from living healthier. The purpose of healthy living is to improve your quality of life. It’s been proven that people who exercise more and eat healthier, actually live longer. Today is the best day to begin managing your physical activities, diet plan, and sleep schedule. No matter your age, you can still benefit from new healthy choices.


What can you do to maintain a thriving lifestyle? You are always one healthy decision away from enjoying a life of improved wellness. Choose today to change an aspect of your life that will positively affect your well-being tomorrow. 

Contributed by: Marie Villeza, ElderImpact. 

Marie Villeza is passionate about connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. So she developed ElderImpact to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.

Friday, 5 January 2018

GUEST POST - The Wonderful Benefits of Aging in Place


The decision to age in place or enter a care facility is a deeply personal one, and a decision most seniors would prefer not to make. Unfortunately, a lack of preparation leads many elderly people to end up in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or continuing care retirement home when they become ill or injured. However, with some planning, many seniors can remain in their homes and enjoy the multitude of benefits that aging in place can bring.

Big Savings


The cost of living in a nursing home is high and rising. In 2013, a private room averaged $1,995 per month, or more than $23,000 annually; if you are in a larger city such as Ontario, you can expect to pay a minimum of  $1,819.53 per month (for basic accommodation), or close to $22,000 annually (based on rates as of July 2017). The current ceiling cost for a private bed in a newer long-term care home is $2,599.11 per month or close to $32,000.00 per year. Pair the cost with the fact that seniors now outnumber children, and the reality is that demand increasing at a much larger rate than supply. With some seniors remaining on waiting lists for years or more, the option to age in place becomes one that should be seriously considered in order to provide seniors with the immediate care they need.

Retained Independence


Staying independent is a big motivator for many seniors who wish to age in place. A senior who is accustomed to following her own schedule may experience significant emotional blowback when forced into the regimented meal times and social activities of a care facility. Maintaining a sense of autonomy can keep the elderly active and energized well into their twilight years.

A Familiar Environment


Seniors who have to move into a care facility must part with most of their possessions in order to adapt to a smaller living space. This can be upsetting for older people who have spent many years in their home, and may disorient seniors experiencing cognitive decline.

Community Connections


One of the greatest benefits of aging in place is being able to stay in a beloved community. Social isolation is one of the biggest threats to senior well-being, and has been correlated with  depression, cognitive decline, and repeated hospitalizations. When senior citizens age within their community, they retain access to existing social networks and support systems.


Aging at home also means that seniors are free to have visitors at their own discretion. Care facilities, on the other hand, often limit the hours that residents can have visitors as well as how long visitors can stay.

Cherished Companions


Pets offer valuable companionship to seniors, especially those who live alone, as they help keep them active and can even reduce depression. While some assisted living and continuing care retirement communities may allow small pets, most nursing homes do not. Having to part with a cherished pet can be emotionally devastating for older people and contribute to isolation and depression.

Reduced Illness Risk


Care facilities inevitably expose seniors to germs and illnesses not encountered at home. And since immune systems weaken with age, the elderly are more likely to face permanent disability or death from an infection or illness. While care facilities have on-site staff to deal with sickness, staff members may not necessarily be licensed nurses, and low staffing levels can lead to inadequate care. When a senior ages in place, home health aides can be brought into the home to provide one-on-one assistance in times of illness or disability.


While aging comes with a number of challenges, losing independence doesn’t have to be one of them. Many nursing home residents could be aging in place if only they had adequate supports at home and in the community. With proper planning, an accessible home, and health and social support networks, seniors can stay safe and comfortable in their homes longer than ever.

Post submitted by: Marie Villeza, Elderimpact.org
Marie Villeza is passionate about connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. So she developed ElderImpact to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.