Friday, 17 August 2018

GUEST POST - 6 Ways Technology Helps Family Caregivers


The wealth of online resources makes it possible for almost anyone to gather a great deal of information about medical problems and treatment on her own. Pew reports that just under 3 out of 4 caregivers conduct their own health research online and over half engage in health-related social activity online.

It’s clear that the transformative power of technology in health care extends beyond high-tech hospital settings to include everyday senior and hospice care. Read on to learn about 6 tech trends that help family caregivers support the health and quality of life of seniors and others under their supervision.

1.   Med Monitors

A number of digital tools, such as MedMinder and TabSafe, are designed to remind seniors and caregivers to take or administer prescription medication. And the same functionality is available on the go with apps for iPhone and iPad like MedCoach.

2.   Wireless Safety Nets

Another way to monitor a senior’s health and wellness status, while helping them lead active and independent lives, is via sensor-based home monitoring systems like Canary Care and TruSense. These and similar systems alert caregivers or emergency personnel when warning signs, such as long periods of inactivity by a senior at home, arise.

3.   (Virtual) Fellowship

Loneliness and social isolation are particularly acute risk factors for elderly folks given their greater likelihood of reduced mobility and loss of loved ones. In-person interactions are ideal, but when they are not possible, email and video correspondence can be helpful stopgaps. Indeed, encouraging research has shown that social media use is associated with reduced loneliness and improved mental and physical health outcomes.

4.   Picking up the Pace

Like anyone, seniors need regular exercise to reach their full potential for living capably and independently. Technology can help put them in motion and keep them active. Wearable fitness trackers help seniors and their caregivers mark progress toward wellness goals and document encouraging results.

5.   “Telehealth”

Thanks to the emerging tools of telemedicine, obtaining professional consultations no longer requires leaving the comfort and security of home. Senior and hospice patients can arrange virtual visits with physicians and other healthcare professionals. In discussion with U.S. News & World Report, Medical Director of Telemedicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Dr. Andrew R. Watson emphasized telemedicine’s positive impact on health outcomes and patient engagement.

The benefits of telehealth tools for patients and healthcare providers include reduced costs, fewer hospital readmissions, improved diagnosis and treatments, and stronger relationships between doctors and patients, especially in rural areas.

6.    Brain Benefits

Finally, it turns out that healthy amounts of screen time don’t rot your brain. On the contrary, internet browsing and even video games, the brain decay boogeyman of yesteryear, increase elderly brain function and help reverse the bad mental effects of aging. The takeaway here is that, quite apart from the other benefits we’ve discussed, technology offers direct cognitive advantages to senior and hospice patients.

Digital tech is not the most critical line of defense against health setbacks for the elderly and hospice patients, let alone a cure-all. But as we have seen, it provides a wealth of resources supporting family caregivers in their efforts to promote the best possible outcomes for those in their capable hands.



Contributed by: Christian Golden, PhD
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Christian Golden, PhD, writes about tips and trends in digital marketing and social media for TrustRadius. He is a philosopher by day who loves teaching and digging into the big questions. His extracurricular interests include making music, reading comics, watching (really old) movies, and being in the great outdoors. 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

GUEST POST - Planning and Paying for Long-Term Care: A Guide for Seniors and Caregivers


Regardless of age, preparing and planning for long-term care isn’t something most people think about. But, for a person over the age of 65, it’s an important conversation to have. There is a 52 percent chance that they will need long-term support and services. That means it is never too soon to start planning how you want to handle that situation—for yourself and for loved ones.

Planning for long-term care is one step, deciding how to pay for it is another. For seniors, preparing for this is crucial to enjoying your golden years with independence and dignity. For family members, planning for long-term care can help you understand your role as a caregiver. In 2013, unpaid caregivers — mostly comprised of family members — spent 37 billion hours providing long-term care. Being a caregiver is rewarding, but can often be stressful and physically draining.

“Being a kind, compassionate caregiver is one of the greatest gifts you can give to a senior loved one,” says June Duncan, co-founder of Rise Up for Caregivers and author of the upcoming book The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers. While family caregivers play an essential role in our society, they often do so without much-needed support and guidance. June’s book fills that gap by offering a helping hand on everything from how to assess your loved one’s medical needs to how to work self-care into your busy days.

Self-care is just one aspect of planning for long-term care. Planning out the potential steps can be a huge benefit to seniors and their loved ones, even if they don’t wind up needing care at all. You can plan for long-term care by:
       Assessing the likelihood you or a loved one will require long-term care. There are a few reasons long-term care could be in your future. For example, if someone in your family suffered from hereditary illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, you may be at a higher risk. Be sure to plan for in-home care or pick out an assisted living facility to help care for your needs.
       Making lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of injury or onset of illness. Regular exercise, a good diet and consistent good sleep are three lifestyle choices that are critical for healthy seniors. From prolonging the onset of dementia to promoting healthy knees, hips and joints, all three impact your physical and mental health. Start walking, join a gym or sign up for yoga classes.
       Plan for future home modifications you need to make. Most seniors want to age in-place, meaning they want to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Planning for long-term care means planning for independence and safety. If the house is two-story, consider moving all essential rooms to the first floor. Install non-slip flooring in bathrooms and kitchens. These modifications will prevent accidents that could make long-term care a reality, as well as create a home environment that supports independent living.

Planning for long-term care also involves insight into the costs involved. Some ways to pay for long-term care include:
       Retirement options. If you can, consider postponing retirement and staying on at work for another year to boost up your savings. You can also take out an additional retirement policy specifically to cover potential health care issues.
       Purchasing long-term care insurance. Many insurance companies offer special long-term care insurance policies. Keep in mind— the younger and healthier you are when you purchase this type of insurance, the lower your premiums will be.
       Selling a life insurance policy. Selling a life insurance policy can help pay for daily living expenses and medical care. This can give you cash in hand to cover the costs of an in-home caregiver, home modifications or medical equipment you need that Medicare doesn’t cover.

Planning for long-term care is not a simple conversation to have, but it doesn’t have to be too complicated if you start talking about it now. Make sure your family and friends know your wishes, so that, if the time comes, you’ll receive the care you want and deserve.
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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, 20 July 2018

GUEST POST - Senior Wellness and Loss: Coping With the Death of a Spouse


Couples who have been married for a long time find ways to cope with the idea that death will leave one of them bereaved and alone at some point. Some ignore the thought; others keep the grief and pain of such an event at arm’s length, seeing it as something that’s too far off to concern them. It’s a shock no matter when that day comes, regardless of how well prepared you might be. The sense of loss is so large and profound that it can be difficult to comprehend and appreciate. But as the magnitude of what’s happened sets in, the feeling of grief becomes  overwhelming. And it can take a long time before a grieving senior is able to come to grips with his or her loss. Some never quite get there.
Grief exacts an emotional and physical toll heavy enough to undermine a senior’s well-being and frame of mind if left unaddressed. It can produce a state of depression so deep that it affects the ability to carry out the simplest everyday tasks, such as dressing, eating, and bathing. It may feel as though there’s no point in carrying on with a life suddenly bereft of meaning. Once you reach this point, friends and family members play an important role in helping seniors work through their grief and achieve a sense of wellness.
Finding support
Your ability to resume your quality of life depends on how successfully you cope with your loss. If a year has come and gone and grief hasn’t dissipated, it’s time to seek the support of others, perhaps someone close to you or individuals who can relate to what you’re experiencing. Social interaction occupies your mind and prevents your loss from consuming you. There’s a therapeutic quality to sharing thoughts and feelings with other people. Seek out a support group with people who understand how difficult it is to get over the loneliness you’re feeling. Sometimes, just talking things through can help you acquire a new perspective that makes all the difference.

Day to day
Feeling lost and depressed makes it very hard to function from day to day. A bereaved person may neglect their appearance, hygiene, and everyday responsibilities that used to come easy. If you’re struggling, seek out a loved one who can help with paying bills, shopping for groceries, and seeing that your house is cleaned. Or you might want to hire someone who can take care of the essentials for a while. If things continue to worsen, consult your doctor about your grief and the problems it’s creating in your life.
Self-care
Grieving spouses often neglect their own health and well-being. Given the way you’re feeling, it may seem pointless to get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and get exercise. But self-care is essential if you’re to find the strength to work through your grief and emerge a stronger person. Try to avoid eating alone. It can accentuate your loneliness, so seek out people to eat out with or invite over for a meal that you prepare together. It will give you something to do and someone to socialize with.
Losing a spouse to addiction
Grief can be complicated when you’ve lost a spouse to addiction. Feelings of anger toward your departed partner, guilt for not being able to help, and a deep-seated longing for the life you’ve known may hit all at once. Seek help so that you’re equipped to cope with the doubt that leaves you wondering what more you could have done.
Transition
The loss of a spouse produces a torrent of emotion and conflicting thoughts. How well you deal with the sorrow, anger, depression, guilt, and loneliness that follows has a lot to do with how successfully you make the transition to a new life. Remember that taking care of yourself and seeking help when you need it can give you the strength to carry on.
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Contributed by: Karen Weeks, ElderWellness.net

Karen created ElderWellness.net as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

GUEST POST - Tips for Getting Better Sleep as you Age

Sleep is a necessary part of maintaining your health even for seniors, who often sleep only a few hours a night. Experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep per night for people over the age of 64, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Senior Care Corner agrees, writing that some of the benefits of getting a full night’s sleep as you age include:

      Possibly lowering risk of mental decline
      Improved cognitive abilities
      Better memory and concentration

Unfortunately, nearly one-third of seniors report sleeping less than seven hours per night. If this is you, what can you do get more sleep?

Finding the Right Mattress

The first step to a good night’s sleep is finding the right mattress for your needs, and that’s why it’s a good idea to try the mattress first. If you are looking to save money by purchasing a mattress online, CNET recommends you find a brand with a long history that comes with a money-back guarantee. Some places will let you try a mattress in your home for 30, 60, or even 120 days.

You should make sure your mattress addresses any problems you have. For example, if you have lower back pain, you may want to read this post from Spine Health. If you get too hot when you sleep, you might want to investigate buying a “cool” mattress, like these options from Sleep Advisor.

Preparing for Sleep

Adults, like kids, should have a nighttime routine that helps them wind down. Reading is one option, but don’t use an electronic device before bed. It emits light that can disturb your sleep patterns unless you use a blue light blocker found on many tablets or phones. Learn more about blue light at The Sleep Doctor.

You should also make sure that your room is set up to promote adequate sleep. Try room-darkening blinds if you have a bright light source outside your bedroom. Make sure your room is the right temperature and get a good pillow that supports your neck. You might also want to try a white noise machine if you wake up frequently.

How Diet and Exercise Impact Sleep

Diet and exercise can improve your sleep habits as well:

      Regular exercise and activity work your body, but it also helps you feel tired at night and allows you to sleep more soundly.
      Caffeine and spicy foods can keep you up, but research suggests that other foods, such as milk products, fish, fruit, and vegetables, may promote sleep. More research needs to be done to confirm this, but you may want to consider these healthy choices for your dinner.
      Halting liquids after 7:00 pm may reduce the problem of frequent nighttime bathroom visits. However, if this is a persistent problem, talk to your doctor to ensure there isn’t a medical issue.

Napping Helps Cognition

Another way to get adequate sleep is napping. Research indicates several benefits of napping, including better focus and improvement in mood and performance. However, naps should not be longer than 30 minutes; the longer the nap, the higher the risk of falling into a deep sleep, making it very hard for you to wake up. On the other hand, naps of at least 10 to 15 minutes have been shown to improve alertness and cognition.

When Sleep Becomes a Struggle

If you’ve been struggling to get or stay asleep for several months, it’s likely time to see your doctor for help. Prolonged reduced sleep can impair your brain functioning as well as your physical health. Learn more about possible sleep disorders from Harvard Medical’s Healthy Sleep website.

If you are having sleep issues, try these recommendations or consult with your physician for more help.

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Contributed by: Karen Weeks, ElderWellness.net


Karen created ElderWellness.net as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Celebrating Seniors

Every June is Seniors Month in Ontario. June 2018 is the 34th year we celebrate seniors and their contributions to our province and our lives through a month of activities and events geared to highlight and involve seniors and their families. Every year the government announces a theme and this year is no different. "Now's the time to start something new," highlights how aging does not prevent any of us from leading fulfilling lives. Seniors continue to contribute to our community and we can all benefit from their wisdom, friendship, and experience. "  (from www.ontario.ca/page/celebrating-seniors-ontario). 

If you have a senior in your life, encourage them to attend or participate in activities in their community. If that is not possible, or in addition, have your own private celebration with them. While celebrating our senior loved ones is something we should do every day, its nice to have a reminder every now and then and an excuse to do something special for them. 

If you have someone in your life that you wish to honor in some way, have a look at the site 
www.ontario.ca/page/celebrating-seniors-ontario for links to information on the award nomination process for the Ontario Senior Achievement Award and the Ontario Senior of the Year Award. There is also information on that website about how you can request congratulatory messages for a milestone occasion from the Queen, Lieutenant Governor, PM of Canada and Premier of Ontario.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Technology and Seniors

Is technology isolating seniors? Is the very thing that makes the lives easier for younger people actually making life increasingly difficult for the older generation? I read an article today indicating that with advances in technology, and a need for us to be 'connected' to do things like banking and accessing other types of services, seniors who are not tech-savvy are becoming isolated. If you start paying attenition to things around us that we need and use technology for, it does become apparent that those who are not willing or able to learn how to use it, can have a harder time functioning in today's world.
We get calls all the time from seniors who do not have access to a computer or know how to use one. Even seniors who do have computers may be unable to do anything beyond email and Facebook. Navigating websites are beyond challenging for some people and many don't want to put sensitive banking or credit card information into a website. Many scams target seniors through email and it makes many wary of the internet and computers and all that goes with it.
That being said, there are wonderful advances that can make life easier for seniors, keeping them safe in their home and connected to family that live far away and can't visit regularly. Unfortunately, many are afraid or think that they are too old to learn something new.
The solution may be as simple as offering opportunities to learn about technology in venues that seniors frequent. Community Centres, libraries and Senior's Centres are all perfect locations to offer up introductory courses. Encouraging seniors to take simple courses and perhaps showing them how you can do things easily on a laptop or tablet, might make all the differnce to them. For those who run seniors venues, consider offering courses on using email, using Facebook and Skype, using banking websites and other targeted technology /computer related topics. As we move towards more 'age-friendly' communities and initiatives, introducing seniors to technology and helping them learn the benefits should be one of the priorities under consideration.


Thursday, 10 May 2018

GUEST POST - Ways to Provide Long-Distance Senior Care


Whether you’ve moved or your parents have relocated to a retirement or nursing home, caring for them from afar provides a means of staying connected. There are some ways to make the best of your circumstances and ensure that your loved ones are well-taken care of, even if you live hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

Stay In Touch

No matter how old you get, you’ll always be a child in your parent’s eyes. They’ve raised you, and though you are living on your own, it's important to give back by taking the time to communicate with them as often as you can. According to Psychology Today, estrangement is more common than we may think. As many as 7 percent of children are estranged from their mothers, while 27 percent don’t communicate with their fathers. Approximately 60 percent of the estranged parents and children wish to procure a relationship with their relatives, according to The Spruce.

Regardless of the type of relationship you have, communication is key. Thanks to modern technology, we can easily talk on the phone, on Skype, via instant message or through social media. Apps such as AARP Caregiving allow you to stay in touch and keep track of health records and other services (like doctor’s visits) all in one easy place so you can juggle important tasks all at once. Other modes of communication, such as the lost art of letter writing, shows a more intimate means of displaying affection for your loved ones. Remember, even if your loved ones are living in a senior community, they want to hear from you.

Seek Help From Others

You may have your own family to look after while you also take long-distance care of an elderly relative, which makes it difficult to do it all alone. Even if they receive care in a nursing home or assisted living facility, enlist the help of friends, family and even healthcare providers to ease some of the burden.

Additionally, it is important to ensure that your parent has an adequate ride to and from their residence. Even if they receive assistance from their care facility with errands like picking up medication and groceries, your loved one should have a way to leave for social outings. There are many options available, such as public transportation services, Lyft/Uber and even senior shuttles, that will provide transportation at a discount so your loved one will be able to maintain his or her independence. 

Nutrition and Fitness

If your loved one resides in a senior living community, they should have plenty of options for eating healthful meals and getting physical activity. You can further ensure their overall wellness by arming them with healthy-living tools from afar. For example, you can send your mother who is reluctant to attend her water aerobics classes, seeds, soil, flower pots, and a spade so she can burn some calories through gardening. If your father’s freezer is loaded with sodium-filled TV dinners, sign him up for a meal or grocery delivery service to encourage him to eat and if possible, cook healthy (and delicious) meals.

Ensuring that your loved one’s life remains as fulfilling as possible even when you aren’t physically there can be tricky. It’s important to consider your time and be open to the help of others so that your elderly parent remains as happy and healthy as possible.

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, 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.