Thursday, 25 June 2015

Senior Drivers

The other day I was driving on the highway when the car in front of me slowed down to a dangerously low speed. Fortunately, I saw his brake light a fair distance away and was able to slow my pace and overtake him, averting an accident. As I turned to see who was driving - as we so often do when we are ticked at the driver beside us - I noticed a very elderly man in the drivers' seat. It got me thinking about older drivers who may not realize that they are unsafe on the road. On the one hand I completely understand a senior or anyone really, who does not want to give up that aspect of their independence - especially if it is their lifeline to getting out of the house and doing things for themselves. On the other hand, I worry about the lives that are put at risk by people who may not recognize what a lethal weapon a car is....

I do believe that when a person - senior or otherwise - is unsafe on the road and doesn't recognize or acknowledge it - the responsibility to correct the problem lies with family and/or the family doctor. That being said, as with so many issues around care and diminishing independence, children often have tremendous difficulty broaching the subject fearing a negative reaction. However, not talking about it does not make the problem go away. The risks of not dealing with it far outweigh any concerns one should have with addressing it. There are ways one can approach it that make it easier for the senior to acknowledge.

As with conversations children have to have with their parents about needing care, I think that doing your homework before the discussion is invaluable. Find out the process for getting the person tested, speak with the family doctor about concerns and find out options for public transport or community resources for driving and shopping for seniors in the area. If you can organize others to take them on their errands, it might ease some of their concerns about losing their independence. There is no easy way to tell someone you want to take away their car keys but, there are ways to help them understand that it is necessary for their safety and that of other drivers on the road.

Friday, 12 June 2015

How does your nursing home or hospital compare?

Do you ever wonder how your local hospital or nursing home, compares to others in your province or even in Canada? When people complain about our health care system, whether it's a hospital or other institution, do you wonder if their experience is the norm or a unique incident? There is some interesting news this week which will shed some light on this. The Canadian Institute for Health Information  has launched an online tool allowing people to type in a nursing home name or hospital and see how it compares in terms of safety and the quality of care to others (currently, not all provinces have nursing homes listed). Until now, the only thing one could review was inspection reports done by the province.

This is new transparency as the data was never something the public had such easy access to. If anything, it may make these institutions feel a bit more accountable to the general public and be aware of how their actions or inactions can directly impact patient satisfaction and choice. That being said, there are more situations than one would realize, where choice or significant choice, is not an option. Often people end up in a hospital because that is where an ambulance takes you or where your doctor has privileges. And, one may get to choose a list of nursing homes however, that may be limited by where your family lives or other factors. As well, if you are waiting in a hospital for a bed, you may have to accept a place that is not your first, second or even third choice.

However, while there are clearly limits to how this tool can help, at the outset I can see only positives, from the perspective of families and patients. This will clearly give people more information to work with. The more information you have, the better questions you can ask and the more prepared people will be if they do need a specific sort of care. That being said, there are limits to what an online tool can do and there may be variations and exceptions based on the population in a certain setting. Web tools should never replace a personal visit and tour and an opportunity to ask relevant questions and observe an environment and other residents. The tool is new and no doubt, will expand over time but should only be viewed as a piece of a puzzle; a tool to help in your research. Especially in terms of nursing home care, research is so very necessary and important to ensure good care for those who may be too frail to choose or advocate for themselves.

To find how your hospital or nursing home rates visit:

To view inspection reports of Ontario nursing homes visit:

Monday, 1 June 2015

Happy Seniors' Month!

June is Seniors' Month in Ontario. Every year Ontario's Seniors' Secretariat unveils a theme for the month - this year's is 'Vibrant Seniors, Vibrant Communities'. There are events being held across the province celebrating seniors and their contribution to our country. With the rise in the use of social media, the opportunity to promote events has increased significantly. Still, I am sure there are people who are unaware of this month's significance and the celebrations being held. If you are a senior or know one who would like to attend an event, you might want to have a look at the website for the Ontario Seniors Secretariat or check with your local seniors agency to find out what they are planning.