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.