Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Having the Talk - Part 2

Now that you have identified that you need to have a conversation with your loved one, how do you actually sit down and have it? I suppose we should go back one step first though. Before you have this talk, be prepared to listen, be non-judgmental, be supportive, be prepared for the emotions everyone involved might experience and be prepared. If you can, do your homework in advance so you have some answers - know possible resources/options and costs. If you are pulling in other family members, ensure you are all going to be on the same page when you meet and not work at cross purposes.

The meeting location should be comfortable for everyone with limited distractions. If there is an agenda of sorts you can use it to stay on topic. Ensure you work in time for everyone to have a chance to talk and do your best to ensure that the person you are talking about has a chance to speak and is given every opportunity to stay in their own home for as long as possible, as long as it is safe, with supports in the home if necessary. Be careful not to argue, criticize or make it about the others in the room. The focus is and should only be the 'senior', why there are concerns, and solutions to fix them. Use observation and facts only. Don't demand or force anything. Focus on positive things and what can be done to help. Prioritize the things that are most important first and if you can devise a 'team plan' so responsibility is shared for the tasks required, things will be far easier for all involved. Set up a 'task list' for everyone. Keep in mind that this might be the first meeting of several and things may need to be monitored and tweaked as time passes. Sometimes if people see that all efforts have been made to keep the person in their own home, if relocation is ultimately required, it is far easier to accept and get 'buy in'.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Getting through the hard stuff - discussing care and relocation

 How do you discuss care and relocation with someone you love? How do you convince them that giving up some independence may actually keep them independent for longer?

I think this ranks among one of the more difficult discussions anyone can have. And sometimes, it takes many tries and some added help before the other person truly understands the concerns. I think often people get into a groove of functioning in a certain way and as long as nothing major happens (and sometimes this is because there is someone else in the house with them which may allow them to function in a co-dependent fashion) they don't realize the potential dangers or issues that others outside their setting see. Sometimes when that second person is gone, things fall apart and then reality sets in. I think the trick, is getting the supports in before this happens. So how do we do this? For the 'caregiver'/family, I think you need patience and you need to be able to open the lines of communication. Often both are very difficult to do. It might be easier though, if you start talking early on. Before anyone is sick, or in need of help or things hit a crisis point.

I know when I have done lectures separately for seniors and children of seniors, there is a common theme. They are both worried about what the future holds, but they are also both afraid to talk about it to the other person. Everyone is waiting for the 'best time' to talk about it when there really isn't one. But, being 'afraid' doesn't make anything better or anything go away. Talking about it may actually  be the thing that makes things better - it will give you an understanding of where the other person stands, what they want and what makes sense in terms of their financial situation and other factors. And talking about it early on allows you both to plan. The longer you leave a discussion like this, the less likely you will have much choice when the time comes.

Sometimes it's easier to start talking when you make it about someone else. For example, talk about a friend both of you know, who didn't plan ahead and who had a crisis that created a major problem for all parties. Use it as a way to broach the subject as it relates to them and what they would want. If the person refuses to have the conversation, you may have to wait a bit to raise it again or bring in others to aid you like a trusted clergy or doctor. Unfortunately, there are situations where people do live at risk and there is nothing anyone can do about it. In these situations, sometimes things do have to get worse or a crisis has to happen, before any intervention can happen. Bottom line - if someone is competent, you can't force anything nor can you make decisions for them without their consent.

Next time.... Having the Talk...........

Friday, 21 February 2014

Tax Credit for Home Renovations

Since tax time is around the corner, I thought some of our readers might benefit from knowing about a fairly new tax credit that Ontario has created. there is now something called the "Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit" which is for those 65+ years old (or those living with someone of that age) who are doing or have done renovations to their home in order to make it safer and/or more accessible for them. There is a list of all renovations that are eligible for the credit including small things like grab bars to larger things like ramps for wheelchairs,kitchen renovations to assist with safety and access etc. Before doing renovations you might want to check the list online to see what qualifies or if you have recently done a reno you can check to see if it meets the criteria to claim it at With the tax credit you can claim up to $10,000 worth of improvements on your tax return. For information on this tax credit or to use their online 'credit calculator' you can visit

Tuesday, 18 February 2014


I think the role of 'caregiver' in a family can be one of the most difficult to have. Often people go from being the 'child' of their parent to seemingly suddenly, becoming their 'parent'. The role reversal in itself is a huge thing to come to terms with for so many. For many, its a role that a person is 'thrust' into rather than knowingly eased into. Often there is no time to look for an 'instruction manual' on how to do this right. It's easy to become overwhelmed and over time experience burnout and in extreme cases, the caregiver themselves can experience physical and mental health issues.

Over the years, working with caregivers, there are a few things I have come to observe which might assist caregivers/future caregivers who are reading this blog. Firstly, communication is key. Caregivers need to be good at communicating to medical staff, support workers, family and friends. You need to be able to ask questions and let people know what is happening with you and your loved one. For some it takes the form of phone or in person contact, for others, a communication book works, especially when there are other caregivers who you may not see daily. Secondly, education is important. You need to ensure you know everything you can on the particular issues and illnesses impacting your loved one & the resources out there to assist you. Someone once told me that fear comes from not knowing. An incredible relief can be had when you know exactly what you are dealing with. Thirdly, when you take this on, you have to be prepared to share the responsibility in caring for that person with others - be it family members, friends or paid support workers. To ensure that burnout doesn't happen you have to learn to prioritize, stress manage and look after yourself. If you need help for yourself, ask for it. If you need a break, take it. In order to give care to someone else, you have to remain healthy and give care to yourself.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Emergency File

So who of our readers has an Emergency File? I’d bet most of you don’t. Have you even thought about creating one? I suppose I should explain what an Emergency File is first……. An Emergency File is a nice little folder where you keep all of your important documents, phone numbers, bank accounts, powers of attorney, Will – really anything that someone would need should you become ill or incapacitated. While some may think this would be best for some older folks, the reality is none of us knows what tomorrow will bring for us. If something happens to you would your loved ones know where important papers were that would assist them in making decisions for you? Or would help them look after immediate financial needs for you? It occurred to me years ago that a file containing all of these important documents, would be a great idea. I find an accordion file works well because you can organize your documents easily. Photocopies are all that should be in there and it should be updated as needed. The person who you are leaving in charge of things if something should happen, should know where you have put this file and if possible, should know what you want if you are unable to make decisions for yourself at some point…

For a more detailed article on this see How important are your documents?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Senior Drivers in Ontario

When we find out new information for seniors we like to post it so we can help spread the word...........

Ontario drivers that are 80 years old and older must renew their licences every two years.

As of April 21, 2014 the process will change.  Seniors (80 and over) will no longer have to complete a written knowledge test to obtain their drivers licence renewal. The new renewal program will include a driver record review, a vision test, two screening exercises and an in-class group education session. The screening exercises are simple tasks to identify drivers who may need a road test or medical review.

We understand that the cost of the renewal will stay at $32.00 and should take approximately 90 minutes to complete.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Sunday Talk

Yesterday, Sunday February 2, 2014, I was a guest caller on CBC Radio's Cross Country Check Up with Rex Murphy. The tragedy in Quebec last month was the basis of the topic, "Are Seniors in Canada getting the standard of Care they Need?". The entire show can be heard in the podcast at . In preparing for this interview, I was struck by several questions and not nearly enough answers. How can we prevent this tragedy from happening again? Where else are there gaps in protecting seniors? Are current regulations enough to keep people in this vulnerable segment of society safe? There are most definitely gaps and areas for improvement but the question of where we need to do better rests with an "it depends" statement. It depends, where in Canada you live, what you need and how much money you have. Because we lack a National Policy on Seniors Care in Canada, every province makes their own decisions on how much regulation is necessary. Even when it comes to sprinklers apparently, provinces decide despite a fairly loose national policy. Regulation for retirement homes is not mandatory across Canada and there is a huge gap in our system where the private sector 'picks up the slack' so people who can afford extra service and care can receive it. For those who cannot, we watch and worry. Or, do we simply close our eyes so we won't see? Do we even know how many people we are talking about? Or how many more we will have that will 'fall between the cracks' as the years pass? Yes, there is more that can be done. We need more funding for homecare so people can remain in their own homes as long as they wish, perhaps we need more long-term care homes, so less people sit in hospital waiting for care they need, we need a better, workable Aging in Place Strategy, we need more education on options and better organization of information on existing supports, we need more support for caregivers, we need government funded retirement homes, we need to raise pension rates so seniors are not forced to live on under $13,000/year. We need to learn from tragedies like L'Isle-Verte and ensure that seniors do not die horrible deaths from preventable events.