Friday, 22 December 2017

Staying Together

Many years ago, as a new social worker in a large hospital, an elderly couple came in together with two different issues and were admitted to my floor. They had been married well over 60 years and had never spent time apart. The husband had dementia but knew his wife. In the day they found each other but they were in separate rooms and the staff were faced with a problem every night when he would wander the halls and climb into bed with other female patients. We realized that he was looking for his wife at bedtime. I began to advocate to allow them to share a room and was faced with opposition as this was not something the hospital had ever done or entertained. Unfortunately, they each had different medical issues and could not return home.
I was reminded of this story this week when I read of the New Brunswick couple, separated after 69 years of marriage because his dementia had worsened and he was deemed to need a level of care not offered in the home he and his wife lived in. 
My story had a bittersweet ending - after many calls and much advocacy, I found a place that would take our couple on the same day. They would be in different areas of the residence but staff would do their best to bring them together as often as possible so they could visit. Not ideal but at least an understanding that for whatever time they had left, they needed to be together as much as possible. 
For the New Brunswick couple, this understanding was clearly not there. Separated this week, the family resorted to calling the press to share their story. 
I am sad that this many years later, with more couples aging together, we don't have a proper mechanism in place to ensure that at this last stage of their lives, they remain under the same roof regardless of differing care needs. As our health care system continues to evolve, this is definitely something that should be added to the list of 'must haves'. We need to find ways to allow couples at different levels of care to stay together and live out the remainder of their days in each other's company. 

Friday, 8 December 2017

Hiring Help

For most people 'there is no place like home' and so, for many who have difficulty managing at home, prior to considering relocation, they consider/investigate hiring extra help in the home. For some, adequate help can be found through their local LHIN where costs are covered by OHIP. For others, if funds permit and the care available through the LHIN is not enough for them to feel safe, they investigate hiring through a private agency. As with any private care service for a vulnerable population, one is wise to do their homework prior to hiring anyone. Senior care is the new up and coming field with many new companies who may or may not have adequate training and experience. One needs to ensure that whomever they hire is reliable, trustworthy and able to provide exactly what they promise. As with any private service it is always best to contact more than one company and interview both the agency and the care providers before they begin working for you. It would be best if you have a written list of questions to ask each company/provider prior to speaking with them. As well, ask to see a copy of the client contract in advance and ask if they can provide references.
Some suggested questions to consider when interviewing an agency to purchase services from include:
• How long have they been in business?
• What sort of memberships/licenses/accreditation do they have?
• What qualifications do employees have?
• Do they do background/criminal checks and reference checks for all new staff?
• Are staff trained to manage cognitive impairment, behavioral issues, vision issues and hearing issues?
• How do they monitor their staff & track hours?
• Are there surprise visits by a supervisor?
• Are staff licensed, insured and bonded?
• Will the same staff person visit your loved one every time or will there be different people providing service?
• What is the cost of services required?
• Is there a minimum number of hours required for a client to commit to?
• How often do they increase fees & how much notice do they give you before an increase?
• Are staff protected by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)?
• What is the procedure if a caregiver is sick?
If there are specific needs your loved one has, do include that in your list of questions as well as anything else you think is important to know when you hire someone to provide care. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

Aging with Confidence: Ontario's Action Plan for Seniors

A couple of weeks ago the Ontario government announced a new document and with it, their commitment, to helping seniors age well. Entitled Aging with Confidence: Ontario's Action Plan for Seniors the document outlines "Ontario's vision [to] help seniors remain independent, healthy and active, safe and socially connected." Using different sources of a data as well as a survey of seniors, the government has created a plan aimed at encompassing the changing needs of seniors as the population become more diverse and lives longer. There are several "guiding principles" at the report's core - Inclusion, Diversity, Choice and Self-Determination & Safety and Security.
With this goal, the province hopes to support seniors regardless of their age or stage, health or income, and physical needs.

An all-encompassing website for seniors has been created at Ontario.ca/AgingWell. It has information on health, transportation, housing, activities and financial assistance. While many of the initiatives are encouraging to consider (education, consumer protection, helping with technology, etc.) what is most interesting from my perspective, given the issues I hear about most, are those related to housing.... I do want to see more age-friendly communities, I do want to know that seniors will get more home support to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible, I want to read about more naturally occurring communities where there are many seniors and supports are sufficient, I want to know that there is more supportive housing for those on limited incomes, and I want to know about better long-term care - less wait times, more support, more staff, more innovation, more protections, more homes for those with cultural needs and more modern homes. Ultimately, I want to see the end to the big black hole in senior care - I want to be able to help people like the man who called me today who is on a limited income but needs a retirement home. I want to be able to tell him that our government has a solution for his situation.

The vision is a good one. The initiatives are encouraging. I hope getting to the reality is not too many years in the making. 

For more information on the Aging With Confidence document visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/aging-confidence-ontario-action-plan-seniors

Thursday, 9 November 2017

GUEST POST - The Importance of Staying Active in Your Golden Years

So you haven’t exactly found hitting the big 6-0 to be motivation for improved fitness. The good news is, there’s still time. If you haven’t been practicing healthy eating and living a healthy active lifestyle, you can still improve your health by starting now.

The science of aging works a bit against us in our golden years. As we age the correlation between our body fat and our lean body mass changes, and it isn’t for the better. So, instead of muscle working to raise our metabolism and burn fat, there’s far less muscle to do the job. This means as we age we must work hard to follow a low calorie diet, and harder at following an exercise plan to go with it.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, several population studies among the older generation (65+) found that following a healthy nutrition plan, along with a healthy lifestyle plan: 1) reduces the risk of cancer by one third, and 2) decreases the risk of cardiac events by as much as 45%.

In addition to decreasing physical health, the older population also faces significant mental health issues. The World Health Organization reports that 20% of world’s elderly population, 60 and over, suffers from a mental or neurological disorder. They further recommend “optimizing physical health” as one of the most important components of intervention.

It’s time to get motivated with these easy tip.

Strength Training. To build more muscle mass as you age, start with strength training. Stronger muscles make day-to-day activities much easier. A study by The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes found that, “muscle mass can be increased through training at an intensity corresponding to 60% to 85% of the individual maximum voluntary strength.”

If the idea of strength training at a gym is intimidating, consider creating your own home gym with a few select pieces of equipment. Read about proper form to avoid injury and find a free online weight training program that’s best for you and that can be done from the comfort of your own home. Remember: doing something is better than nothing, so allow yourself to ease into it and work your way up when you’re ready.

Get Moving. Like strength training, a good walk can increase muscle mass, but walking also has so many other benefits:

·        Weight control
·        Improve balance and coordination
·        Keeping joints flexible
·        Lowers your risk for heart disease
·        Improves your energy
·        Decreases depression and anxiety

Consider purchasing a Fitbit. The Fitbit, worn around your wrist most commonly, tracks your daily steps via a pedometer. Keeping yourself accountable for moving so much each day, and increasing your efforts, will motivate you to move more. Consider competing with a friend for most steps in a day. The American Heart Association recommends 10,000 steps a day as a goal for improving health and lowering your chances of heart disease. As always, start with a small goal and work your way up.

Try Yoga. Numerous studies have shown that yoga has many health benefits, particularly in the 50-plus age group. Here’s a few of them:

·        AARP published a study suggesting that the slow, controlled breathing required for yoga leads to a decrease in hypertension and stress, and may lead to a decrease in medication use.
·        The American Osteopathic Association reports that yoga “creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration.”

Head to your local retailer, and purchase a yoga mat for as little as $15. These mats can be used for yoga, as well as for your home strength training.

Easy home exercises. Start working on easy home exercises that will help you build your strength and coordination.

Remember, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to numerous diseases of the mind and the body. Find fun ways to incorporate daily exercise into your life, and sooner than you know it, the ole 5-0 will feel more like the younger 3-0. 


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.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Who decides when you can’t?

Personal Choice. Self-determination.  Your right to decide about your own care; where you want to live; what you want to eat; who you want to look after you; where to spend your money – these choices and our ability to make them for ourselves, allow us to feel in control of our own life. They are the things most people take for granted; the things we think we will always be able to do for ourselves. But, what if one day you can’t? What if either because of an illness that gradually robs you of the ability to do these things or, an injury that does so suddenly, this is taken away from you? Who will make these decisions for you? While this is not something anyone likes to talk about, the reality is, it is a very important thing to raise and discuss this with people you care about, regardless of age or situation because none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. Planning for what you would like to happen, in the event that you need someone else to make decisions for you in the future is called “Advance Care Planning” and the legal documents that support this in Ontario are a Power of Attorney for Personal Care and a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property. Every person over 18 should have both.
A Power of Attorney for Personal Care is a legal document that appoints one or more people the right to make decisions on your behalf that specifically relate to your care or treatment if you are deemed incapable of making those decisions for yourself. Your “attorney” should be the person or persons you trust and they are your “substitute decision maker(s)”. They should be someone who knows you and what you would want in most situations.  While they may not share your values and beliefs, they should understand them and be willing and able to uphold them, in the event that they are asked to make a decision on your behalf. It would be best if you had conversations with that person (or persons) about your wishes in the event that you require care/medical intervention in the future.
A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property is a legal document that allows at least one person to act on your behalf if you become incapable of managing your financial affairs. This person can be but does not have to be, the same person as your substitute decision maker. You should trust that the person (or persons) can properly manage your financial affairs as they will have full authority to manage your money and property.
You do not need a lawyer to draft your Powers of Attorney though, it would be wise to consult one and have him/her prepare the necessary documents. There are some basic components all Powers of Attorney need to have in order to be valid, so if you choose not to have a lawyer create one for you, you may download a basic form from the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/pgt/poa.pdf  that can be completed on your own.
Once you have completed your Powers of Attorney, keep the originals in a safe place and make sure that you have at least one copy that is easily accessible. Ensure those you have asked to be your attorney(s) are aware of their potential responsibilities and tell them of the whereabouts of the original documents.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Thoughts on Downsizing

Downsizing. Whether it's when the kids leave home, when we need to relocate because of health issues or any time in between, just about everyone at some point or another in their lives will have to consider how best to decrease their possessions. The task can be daunting, especially for those who have lived in the same house for a lifetime. So what is the best way to dispose of things you no longer, need, want or have space for? It would be ideal if one starts cleaning out rooms, drawers and closets over time rather than waiting until just before you must move. It's easier to gradually pare down what you own when you are not rushed or under pressure.

If  have seniors in your life that you suspect will need to downsize soon, it makes sense to help them identify what they need, what the want, and what they would like to give away. Encourage them to give their valuable, special or memorable items to family members and perhaps even let them choose what they would like. Gifting special items to loved ones provides an ideal opportunity to reminisce and share stories about the past which in turn preserves the family history. Keep in mind though that not everyone may want items that you consider special and conversely, there may be things that are not overly meaningful to you but hold special memories for a younger loved one.

If there are things that no one wants but you believe to be valuable, have them appraised so you can determine if you are best off selling them or giving them away. Consider donating items that are not valuable but still useful. So organizations may be willing to provide a tax receipt for donations which may be more beneficial than the money you can make from selling them. Many things that you think are valuable may not be and may not be worth the effort to try to sell. For large items or a large volume of items that you want to throw out, you may want to contact a junk removal company to dispose of them.  Ensure that you check all drawers in furniture and pockets in clothing that you are getting rid of to ensure you haven't put something in a 'safe' place and simply forgotten about it.

If there are family photos and mementos, entrust someone in the family to be the 'keeper of the memories'. Consider making a digital album that can be shared by everyone and perhaps even incorporate stories about the content that your elder loved ones have shared.

As difficult as downsizing can be, taking it slowly, involving your loved ones in decision making and respecting their wishes can make the task easier and far less stressful.

Friday, 1 September 2017

HomeSharing

Always looking for innovative senior housing options, I came across something interesting recently. A couple of areas are testing out HomeSharing projects. With this model, younger seniors in need of accommodation are being matched with older seniors living alone who need basic assistance or simply companionship. The younger senior helps out in exchange for reduced rent, and the older senior shares their home and has a someone to keep them company and help out around the house. As long as the two are matched well and get along, this concept seems like a wonderful idea with many benefits for all involved. 

This project,  in its infancy in both Northumberland County and the Halton Region would be worth following to see how successful it is and if it is adopted by other regions. A bit like the co-housing model but on a smaller scale, this does have potential as something communities can build on and eventually create groupings (of HomeSharing units where there are many seniors) that can also share care and assistance among them. It can be a good solution for well seniors who need a bit of assistance to remain independent but don't want to move into a retirement home setting or for those who live in smaller communities where there are not available retirement living options. 

As our senior population grows, we will be forced to look at more and more innovative ways to house them  in settings that allow for independence while providing them with a bit of assistance. This is one example of how we can do this and I look forward to following its progress.

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Gift of Music

My home is always filled with music. My eldest son is a musician. When he is home, it is rare not to hear him playing one of his many instruments. He understands a language that is foreign to me, yet he speaks a universal one. Since he chose his path, I have come to understand the gift that music truly is and how fortunate I am to be able to experience my 'private concerts'.
When I visit retirement homes and am able to witness a concert by a visiting musician, I watch the way the residents interact with the music, listen intently and allow it to fill their souls. Some move to it, others sing along or hum a familiar tune, and  still others just seem to absorb the atmosphere quietly, while feeling like an active participant in something wonderful. Music has the ability to draw people in regardless of the setting and regardless of their age.
And so, with this preamble, you will understand why I am so excited to hear of a new program in London, Ontario. Oakcrossing Retirement Living, a new retirement community, will offer an opportunity for a few music students from Western University's music program, to live in the home for free with the proviso that they spend 12 hours a week with the residents of the home. What an amazing inter-generational opportunity for both young and old!!!! I have visions of the students filling the home with music, impromptu concerts and practice sessions, perhaps even bringing classmates along to add other instruments to the mix, all while learning valuable life lessons from their neighbours, receiving guidance and support. While it is starting small scale, I can see it growing over time and perhaps even being used as a community others can learn from. I have no doubt it will be successful, I look forward to watching its progress and I applaud Oakcrossing for this innovative project which will most definitely enhance the lives of everyone living there.


Monday, 24 July 2017

Isolation

It's not uncommon to hear stories of seniors who are 'shut ins' - those who are isolated and do not leave their homes. It may happen because of physical issues and disabilities, mental health issues like depression or perhaps, a bit of both. Regardless of the cause, the outcome is never good. Isolated seniors are more at risk for both physical and mental health issues regardless of the underlying factor. It makes complete sense - human beings are social beings and need to connect with others. Without human interaction mental stimulation is diminished and so too is mental health.

So, how can one help a senior who seems to be socially isolated?  As a first step, it seems logical to address the reason for isolation especially if it is new behavior for the person. Is it because of  new physical issues for example, vision or hearing loss, incontinence, a feeling of sadness, a recent significant loss of someone close? If it is a physical issue, are there any adaptive technologies that can assist? If it's related to loss or depression, would the person be willing to speak with a doctor, clergy or therapist? If they won't are there family members or friends who can assist and speak with the person or visit more often to encourage them to go out and do things?

When we feel a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning, we are more inclined to be less isolated. This can be anything from caring for someone or something else, volunteering, meeting friends or even having a hobby. Joining a seniors club where there are regular activities, perhaps congregate dining, and a place to meet others, may meet the needs of some. For others, getting a pet (as long as they are mentally competent) may ease some loneliness and in the case of a dog, may get the person outside for walks and opportunities to interact with others.

Although not as ideal as actually getting outside and meeting people in person, for those with physical issues that prevent them from leaving the house often, technology may assist with allowing them to interact with others through social media, email and phone/video type programs such as Skype.This is especially helpful if loved ones live far away and cannot visit often.

If you are concerned about a senior for whatever reason, do contact professionals involved with the person, a family doctor or a seniors support organization for suggestions and assistance.

Friday, 30 June 2017

National Dementia Strategy

Last week Canada passed "Bill C-233, An Act respecting a national strategy for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias" (Alzheimer Society of Canada Press Release http://alz.to/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Bill_C233_PR_EN.pdf). It is projected that by the year 2031, 1.4 million people will be effected by dementia which will translate into tremendous family stress, emotional drain, lost wages, financial burden and health care spending (http://www.alzheimer.ca/~/media/Files/national/Advocacy/SOCI_6thReport_DementiaInCanada-WEB_e.pdf).

Having personally witnessed the loss of a loved one to dementia, I can attest to the impact this disease has on families, support systems and the health care system. It is unimaginable to think that in just over a dozen years, 1.4 billion people will impacted by this horrible disease that robs the essence of a person from the body we associate with them.

Canada is the 30th country to adopt a national strategy of this sort. One would hope that the strategy will be all encompassing including, funding for research to delay, treat and one day prevent the disease, increase training and people who can provide care, support for family and unpaid caregivers, improved health care and social supports, and housing options catering to the needs of the population.

It seems that it would be both cost effective and prudent as with other aspects of senior care, that we look at what others are doing around the world. Since 29 countries have gone before us, it is not a new concept at all, and I venture to guess that we can learn a lot from the mistakes and triumphs of the other 29. There are countries with care and housing models that are innovative and work very well. There are model communities for those with dementia, caregiving communities, innovative technologies... the list goes on.

We have started the process by committing to creating a strategy; I look forward to seeing what we do with it and how Canada will build on the successes of those that have gone before us.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Buurtzorg

Regular followers of our blog will know that I often write about the need for innovative care options for seniors as our aging population increases. I recently came across an article on one such idea that is taking hold in a big way in many European and Asian countries. Buurtzorg is a Dutch model of care that has been shown to not only offer quality care that encourages independence, but also save money. 

The idea was the brain child of a nurse names Jos de Blok about 10 years ago. Teams of nurses are sent out to areas with many seniors and each team is responsible for between 40 and 60 people. A team can be up to 12 nurses and they are supported by administrators and trainers. The nurses not only assist with care but also help seniors and their families understand the importance of illness prevention.

The model is very much a 'neighbourhood care' one with latitude and independence given to the nursing teams to provide care that is necessary within a given structure. It can be adapted to different health care systems and situations as different countries do have different ways that health care is delivered and paid for. 

Its an interesting concept and one that may indeed make sense in Canada especially with the costs of current care and the limited number of nursing home beds in our system. An ongoing concern is that while there are many retirement homes in existence, the cost is often higher than basic pensions and so there are many who could benefit from the care but cannot afford it. This concept, along with perhaps co-housing models, and inter-generational housing, with a mix of funding for retirement home living, may allow us to assist people who with our current system, are not able to get the care they need because of financial limitations. 

Concerns about caring for our increasing aging population may not be so difficult to resolve if we step outside the box and take the time and initiative to look to models in other countries that are both innovative and well researched. 

To find out more about Buurtzorg visit http://www.buurtzorgusa.org

Information for this blog obtained from: https://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2017/may/09/buurtzorg-dutch-model-neighbourhood-care 

Friday, 2 June 2017

Happy Seniors' Month!

June is Seniors' Month. For the past 33 years, every June, the province seeks to encourage communities to highlight the contributions of  the 2.2 million seniors in Ontario; an opportunity to celebrate and honour their contributions to the world we live in.

Every year there is a theme to the month and 2017 is no different. Our theme this year is 'Living Your Best Life'. Seems that this should be a theme for all of us - young and old.

There are events all across Ontario with opportunities to celebrate. Most community centres/senior centres have several events ranging from entertainment to seminars to fairs.  Additionally, there are two provincial senior award programs - The Ontario Senior Achievement Award (deadline June 15, award is presented in the fall) and The Ontario Senior of the Year Award (deadline April 30 however award is presented during Seniors' Month).

To find out more about these awards visit the website https://www.ontario.ca/page/honours-and-awards-community#section-1. To find out more about Seniors' Month visit the website for the Ministry of Seniors Affairs at www.seniors.gov.on.ca. To find out about events in your community one only needs to search the internet or drop by a local seniors' centre.

Do take the time to celebrate and thank the seniors in your life this month.

Friday, 19 May 2017

The Cost of Care

A recent study by CIBC has found that caring for aging relatives in Canada costs billions - actually $33 billion annually - between personal expenses and time off work (either in the form of unpaid leave or paid vacation). It is projected that that figure will increase significantly in the next 10 years as the number of seniors grows.
Added to this is the physical and emotional toll of caregiving that you cannot put a price tag on. So, while caregiving for a loved one can be very rewarding, one must also keep in mind the harder aspects of this very necessary and important role.
While there is no easy solution to the financial cost of care beyond government funding and devising innovative ways to care for seniors in communities (which is something that will likely take years and many dollars to figure out), there are ways to reduce the physical and mental toll caring for someone else can cause.
It is of paramount importance that caregivers take the time to 'care' for themselves. Seek out support, and assistance to allow yourself time to meet your own needs. Don't be afraid to ask for help and accept it when it is offered. It is always beneficial if there is someone you can share responsibilities and decision making with.
Communicate openly with medical personnel, family, friends and employers. Find out about any available support groups or Employee Assistance Programs you may have access to. Educate yourself about the medical aspects and available resources - both paid and unpaid, available to your loved one. Do what you can to plan ahead in light of their medical issues and projected prognosis, if possible.
Stress management is important so take some time to understand the signs of stress, how your body reacts to it and what you need to do to relieve it. Keep in mind that while you may not be able to control a situation, you can control your reaction to it and how you deal with it. Ensure a balance in your life and prioritize tasks. Be realistic and don't allow others to guilt you into taking on more than you can cope with. It really is okay to say 'no'.
It is only if you care for yourself, that you can provide care to someone else.


Thursday, 4 May 2017

Seniors in the News

Seniors have been in the news this week a fair bit. Apparently the census results are in and Canada officially has more seniors than children. And the fastest growing age group are centenarians (those 100 and up). So we are living longer. Presumably we are living healthier. But, the older people get, the more likely they are to end up requiring care and ending up in a nursing home. As the number of seniors increase, so will our need for more organized and innovative care and housing.

Recent reports have alluded to the fact that our hospitals, with less beds than 2 decades ago, are over crowded with people waiting in hallways for beds in the acute care sections of the hospital. The Ontario government, in an attempt to ease this problem, is embarking on a pilot project with the retirement home sector to see if they can alleviate the overcrowding. They are testing a program of offering 'vouchers' for people to go to retirement homes  temporarily. The target group are those who are unable to return home directly because of incapacity/dependence and a need for either long-term care or home care. The cost of paying for a short term retirement stay for medically stable people, is far less than the cost of keeping them in an acute care bed. While the program is termed 'innovative' it is only meant as a short term measure until alternate arrangements like long-term care placement or returning home with assistance, can be arranged.

Using retirement homes for short term stays, is not new. However, it has been something out-of-reach to those on a limited basic pension. So, while it's a great step that the government is taking, utilizing the private sector for convalescent care, especially when it is far cheaper to house people in retirement homes than in acute care hospitals, this step will only solve a small piece of a much larger problem. There is a black hole out there that is only getting bigger. We have seniors who need retirement level care that they simply can't afford. Because retirement homes are private and cost more than basic government pensions, they are not accessible to everyone.  For those who need it but are on a limited income, they end up waiting until they are long-term care level often living in poor conditions and declining simply because they can't afford adequate help or support. In fact, if people go to a retirement home early enough, they may be able to completely avoid long-term care or at the very least defer it. With proper nutrition, medication monitoring and socialization, people do live healthier longer. And with the often long wait for long-term care homes, there are many waiting in hospitals or in their homes at a substantial expense to the government. It seems the the true 'solution' is to provide funding, subsidies or vouchers, on more than just a short-term temporary basis.

The writing is clearly on the wall - we have a few years to find better and more economical ways to care for our seniors. We may be heading on the right track but we still have a ways to go.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Downsizing Dilemma

A recent article in my local newspaper caught my eye - it spoke of the high number of 'unused bedrooms' which are contributing to the increased housing prices and lack of affordable housing for young people. As children grow up and leave home, couples are left with large homes that are quite empty. When faced with a choice of move or stay, many are opting to stay simply because the cost of moving is too great and the options are limited. For many, staying in their mortgage free home, is far cheaper than moving to a condo where expenses far exceed what they are currently paying to run a home. Most have their homes as their greatest asset for retirement and want to save the funds they have for their older years rather than deplete it on unnecessary living expenses. Additionally, the offerings that do exist are often too small for those moving from a house, to consider. Just as there are no inexpensive options for young people, the same is true for those at the other end of the age spectrum. And so, downsizing becomes something many choose not to consider until they are forced by circumstance.

Those living in smaller and more isolated communities face additional challenges as they age because of the lack of resources in many areas which they may not feel until they become less mobile. While living out of the city is attractive when one is young, independent and raising a family, it can be problematic as one ages. Older seniors who stay in their homes which are a distance from amenities like healthcare and shopping may become increasingly isolated and may have difficulty organizing adequate in home supports, as they age.

Housing options, affordability and, for seniors, resources and care are key issues many are faced with. It seems that we need to start looking for innovative housing options for both the young and old. Just as I worry that our young adults of today will never be able to afford to own a home, I am concerned that our seniors of tomorrow will find the cost of retirement living prohibitive and/or will not be able to afford the care they require. So many are already in this predicament; unless we make changes to the way housing and care are offered to our seniors, even less people will be able to cope with the challenges of aging they may someday face.

This is indeed a huge issue that will take years of planning and coordination to resolve, so where do we start?

There is a fair bit of research on Age-Friendly Communities that our policy makers may find helpful. As a start, a document produced by the World Health Organization summarizes the importance of including many parameters for the cities of tomorrow (http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/Global_age_friendly_cities_Guide_English.pdf ). As well, there are many interesting co-housing, care in place, and multi-generational models that work well in other countries. As with so many things, rather than 'reinventing the wheel', perhaps our best solution has already been discovered and we need to just look beyond our borders to explore innovative ideas and options that can help both young and old with their housing dilemmas.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Legacies

I have recently embarked on a project with my daughter. We have taken all our family's old photos that have until now sat in shoe boxes or ancient crumbling albums, scanned them, organized them and are creating a family album that spans 4 generations (thank you Shutterfly!). We are fortunate that my grandparents kept organized records in an ancient book that detailed births, deaths and marriages so we have some context to work within. It is beyond fascinating to wander through their lives through photos and dates and to create a family history for my children. I wish I had the foresight when my grandparents were alive to ask them more questions and have conversations with them about generations before them. There is a richness in learning one's family history and understanding how you got to where you are and how very fortunate you are that certain decisions were made well before you were born. I've often thought of the importance of legacies, of family histories or gifting future generations with things we have learned and how they got to where they are today.

I encourage all of you who read this to consider creating your own legacy to pass down to your families. Photos are wonderful but not everyone has the time or patience to pull it all together and with computers and video camera on every phone, there are other ways to save and transmit memories and history. If you have elder relatives sit down with them and ask them questions - I found a list online that is quite apropos so I'm going to include  a few of them them below but the full list of 20 questions can be found on https://www.agingcare.com/articles/questions-to-ask-elderly-parents-147907.htm if you are interested in expanding on these. Write down their answers or better yet, video tape them as they answer them. Ask them to show you photos of important people in their lives and consider scanning or photographing them so you can include them in your creation. It can be a wonderful bonding and special project for grandchildren to do with their grandparents or children to do with their parents.

If I had a chance to sit down with my grandparents now, these are  some the questions I would ask them.
Who is the person who influenced your life the most?
What was the happiest moment of your life?
What are you most proud of?
What are the most important lessons you've learned in life?
What was school like for you as a child? 
Do you remember any fads from your youth? 
What world events had the most impact on you?

(Questions from: https://www.agingcare.com/articles/questions-to-ask-elderly-parents-147907.htm)
What questions would you add to the list? What things would you like to know about the generations before you? And what do you want your children to know about you? 

Knowing where we came from, helps us to understand where we are today and where we want to go.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Inter-generational Relationships

I enjoy reading "Humans of New York" posts. It's an interesting concept - for those who aren't familiar with it, the author takes a photo of someone and publishes it online along with a quote from that person. Sometimes its about that moment in time, who they are pictured with, or something they are doing, other times its a life story, how they are feeling or an experience they had. It's always interesting and underlines both the unique nature and the common thread of humanity. Lately, the posts have been from people in Brazil.

I saw a post a couple of weeks back that has stayed with me - and one I wanted to share with our readers as it particularly relates to seniors and inter-generational relationships........
Above it is a photo of a young mother and her daughter and this is the quote:

“For Heloisa, every elderly person feels like a grandparent. And she loves her grandparents. So I asked her if she wanted to have her sixth birthday party at a home for the elderly. She loved the idea. So I contacted a local home and planned everything with the coordinator. We sent invitations to the family members of all the residents. I’m a photographer, so I went a few days early and took nice portraits of all the residents. On the day of the party, I printed out the photographs and brought them as gifts for their family members. We did games and activities. There was so much joy. Everyone had such big smiles. The residents were crying. Their families were crying. I was crying. I think Heloisa will remember the experience forever. Afterward, her school friends came home with us and we had an old-fashioned pajama party.” (São Paulo, Brazil) from: http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/157584321356/for-heloisa-every-elderly-person-feels-like-a

Firstly, what an amazing mother and child! Secondly, what a brilliant idea! It is no secret that children brighten the lives of adults and that children in a senior's home bring smiles and conversation to even the most stoic of person. On occasion I hear about inter-generational programs or young children visiting a senior's residence but something like this goes beyond that and is such a wonderful gift to give to both that child and those seniors. 

The post, brought a smile to my face - I hope it did the same for you.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Pitfalls to Avoid When Considering a Retirement Home - Guest Blog by Lianas Services

Every now and then we come across and article that we think our followers might be interested in.
This week we would like to share an article by Lianas Services. It has been reprinted with permission.

Whether you are considering a move into a retirement home or if you are part of the “Sandwich Generation” that is concerned about the health and well being of your parents, the thought process of potentially making the big move is very often emotional, overwhelming and confusing.
Here are some pitfalls to avoid when considering a move:
Waiting Too Long
It is only human nature to want to stay at home as long as possible.  However, you will be in a much better position to move into a retirement home when you are in control of the situation.  Be proactive instead of reactive.  Be aware of warning signs such as risks of slips and falls, mobility challenges, cognitive issues, safety and security, nutrition, loneliness and caregiver stress.  They tend to become more prevalent as one ages which increases the risk of creating a reactive scenario as opposed to the desired proactive option.  A frequent comment after a move-in is “I should have done this a long time ago”.
Rushing Into a Move
At the other end of the spectrum, you should try not to rush things if you have the luxury of time.  This can be an emotional, challenging time for families.  Try to plant seeds, do your research, take some tours and keep the lines of communication open with parents and family members.  Nobody likes surprises, and seniors, specifically, do not like to be rushed and would prefer to do things on their terms.
Geographic Convenience for Adult Children
Location is one of the most important features when deciding on a retirement home.  However, avoid the trap of choosing a residence solely based on geography.  The question needs to be “What is best for mom?” and not “What is best for me?”.  Important features such as proper care levels; staff-to-resident’s ratios; 24/7 nursing care; amenities; culinary options; environment; culture; safety and security all play an important role in the decision making process.
Finding the Ideal Retirement Home on Your Own
The search process is extremely time consuming.  In many cases, it can easily exceed 100 hours.  It can be confusing, stressful, emotional and overwhelming.  Talk to friends and other family members that have been through the process for guidance and support.  Do research on line.  For some, the easiest thing to do is to call a transition specialist.
In general, the thought of moving into a retirement home can be daunting.  However, with proper planning, guidance and support, the end result can be fulfilling and rewarding.  Many new residents will initially need some time to adjust but it is quite common to see significant benefits including an enhanced social life, improved nutrition levels, higher levels of care and a secure and safe environment.
Lianas provides families with knowledge, resources and services to assist seniors in transition. To find out more about Lianas Services visit lianasservices.com or call 1-877-450-3365.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Have you had an Essential Conversation™??

Have you 'had the talk' with your aging parents? If you are elderly, have you told your children your wishes if you are unable to make decisions in the future? Have you planned financially for your elder years? Do you have a Will? Do you have Powers of Attorney? If you are a business owner, do you have a plan for what you would like to do with your business when you retire or are unable to work any longer? Have you discussed they kind of care you want if you can't look after yourself in the future?

I attended an interesting meeting today that I thought would be something our followers might want to learn about especially if any of the above questions strike a chord.  Have you heard of The Essential Conversation Project®?

Born out of both professional and personal experiences of two social works with a tremendous passion for helping families with elder loved ones, this organization trains professionals to have the important and "essential conversations" with families to help them with decision making and planning issues around aging. At the same time the company builds partnerships with many different professionals to enable a network of helpers who can assist with any and all specialized issues for their clients and can connect their clients who need help, to an Essential Conversations Facilitator.

Over the many years I have worked with seniors, it is clear that there are certain topics that are much harder for some to broach with their families - topics around aging, care needs, legal and financial issues and death and dying are taboo in many families. And, often no one will even try to raise a concern until there is crisis. Often this limits options and, decision making may be pressured or, not in the best interest of the person involved. If conversations are had in advance of something bad happening it is so much easier for families to deal with the difficult decisions because they know what their loved one wants.

The concept of the The Essential Conversation Project® is simple at its core (in a nutshell, creating a community of helpers to support families dealing with aging issues) but also brilliant and much needed with our ever growing aging population. Sometimes having a neutral professional involved to help with the important conversations and connect you to helpful professionals who understand your situation and needs can make a world of difference.  Check out their website at www.essentialconversationsproject.com.

Friday, 20 January 2017

The Power of Music


When you watch a movie, do you ever listen closely to the music and connect how you feel about what is happening on the screen to what you hear? Have you ever watched a scary movie with no sound? I would bet that if you did, you would realize that it was the music that made you jump far more than the words. The connection between music and emotion is a well-known one but more and more people are using music in their work with seniors with disabilities. There has been work with Alzheimer patients and music and a well-publicized "iPod Project" (musicandmemory.org). 

Music unlocks memories, helps with behavioural issues, improves mood and a host of other things. But a story on CBC news today raised another use and benefit of music for seniors. It seems that playing musical instruments can decrease the effects of some diseases. In Windsor, ON a music therapist has been working with Parkinson's patients and has found that playing an instrument decreases their tremors when they are playing. 

Research indicates that music can motivate people to move, have a calming effect, change negative thoughts into positive and remind one of happy times. Whenever I go to a retirement home when there is entertainment present, there are always people singing along and listening intently. Some even get up and dance. Watching the crowd one can see how uplifting it is for those present. There is even research on a certain piece of classical music played for children with epilepsy. It appears that there is something about this one piece of Mozart music that calms the brain and helps these kids. 

So, if you have an elderly loved one with or without dementia, do try finding music that they enjoy and play it for them. If they played an instrument in the past and you can access one easily, perhaps suggest they start playing again. If you have loved ones in a nursing or retirement home or know any that visit seniors centres and you don't think they have musical programming for them, speak to administration about incorporating it. And for the rest of you, keep listening to music - it is truly 'food for the soul'..........

Monday, 9 January 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all our followers! I hope you had a warm and joyful holiday season.

Each new year brings with it another edition of our Ontario-wide  "Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Living" and this year is no different. Our new 20th edition, is hot off the presses and in the process of being distributed across the province. I am always excited to see our new edition, despite the many months I spend intimately involved in the process of bringing it to fruition. Each new book is indeed, new, updated and different to the ones before it.

We are very pleased with the way our Ontario book turned out this year and thank our many homes and resources who chose to participate in our 2017 Guide. Every year we do our best to add new information and reconfigure things slightly based on the feedback we have received throughout the year. We do hope that those of you who see this year's book will be happy with our changes and please do send us a note letting us know what you think of it when you have a chance. I'd also like to thank the many people on our team who work to keep our website, social media streams and publication current - NTech, In View Marketing and BTT Communications.

Not big on resolutions which seem meant to be broken, no matter how well meaning, we prefer to make a continued commitment to our users and the homes and resources throughout Canada who choose to be part of our database. We will continue to do our best to provide comprehensive unbiased information to seniors, their families and professionals about retirement housing and resources through our website, publication and many social media platforms we now employ.

There are new things on the horizon in 2017 for Senioropolis so do follow us through Twitter, Facebook or Google + to stay updated on our happenings!