Friday, 15 November 2019

Elder Orphans

Do you know what an Elder Orphan or Senior Orphan is? Apparently, its a senior who does not have any immediate family or family that they have contact with  or are in close proximity to - no spouse, children,  grandchildren, parents or siblings - so if there is an emergency or crisis, there is no one to assist with care or decision making. Perhaps a nicer term I have seen used is a 'solo-ager' or 'solo-senior' but all seem to lead to a more negative than positive connotation. Being unattached, does not always mean being lonely and for some, it is a preferable choice. That being said, for those who are elderly and live alone, if they are not socially connected, there is a higher risk of mental health, cognitive and medical issues.
The earliest mention of elder orphans that I can find online, from a quick google search, is 2016. From the definition above, there have always been 'elder orphans' who we did not need to label as anything but 'single', so why label them now? I suspect there is a sudden concern now because our senior population is increasing. In the US, the prediction is that up to 20%  of current seniors are potential elder orphans. That's based on current figures; 30 years from now, it's predicted that the number could be double that. So, for those who have no next of kin, there are many reasonable questions that have arisen.  Who will make decisions for people who don't have family to help them? Who will provide unpaid care to supplement paid care or goverment-funded homecare?  Will there be enough resources and enough housing? Do we have the resources to accommodate potentially tens of thousands of people or more, who do not have a power of attorney and for whom a a life-threatening illness occurs? While the general population may not realize how much informal caregiving happens from family, those of us who work in the senior sector see it day after day.
All of these questions are concering but, in many situations, people who are in this predicament have already thought about this and have planned ahead. For those that haven't, but see their future selves when reading this article, having some foresight by planning, will provide much of the solution.
You may want to reach out to close friends you trust with either your finances, health care decisions or both, to ask if they would be your Power of Attorney should you require one in the future. If this is not possible, enquire with your bank - some trust companies may have the availability of people who can manage your finanical power of attorney. This option though, would still leave you with no one to make health care decisions for you. It is preferable to have someone take on this task who knows you or who you can specify your wishes to when you are well; if you don't do this, and you become unable to make finacial or medical decisions, the Public Guardian steps in and makes those decisions for you.
There are senior agencies in every area that you can contact in order to find out services available and the costs involved. Contact your local LHIN to enquire about their offerings and assistance. While you are well and mobile, you may want to look into housing options with care (or graduated care options) in your area so you can plan ahead. Or you may want to look into innovative options like home-sharing or co-housing which will afford you companionship and perhaps shared expenses which can help with care costs.
As long as you are able to plan ahead, do your best to stay healthy, socially connected and reach out when you need assistance, being a solo senior can be something to look forward to rather than something to fear.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Help The Cause: Prostate Cancer


Prostate Cancer affects one in every seven males, making  it the second most common cancer in Canada. According to a study done by the Mayo Clinic and the risk of getting prostate cancer increases with each year that you age, making senior males at a higher risk. Fortunately, if its detected early the survival rate is very high. Common symptoms of Prostate Cancer include, frequent urination, blood in urine or seamen and erectile dysfunction. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important that you schedule a visit with your healthcare provider. However, you should start having a conversation on Prostate Cancer between ages 45 and 50 to become more educated. If interested, your healthcare provider can give you a PSA test to determine your risk factor for the disease.

Many  studies have shown that men are more laid back when it comes to health issues, partially because they are not educated enough on the topic. This causes a major social divide when it comes to men’s healthcare. To help  raise awareness for Men’s health there are many awareness plays you can get involved in, such as Movember. Movember is an internationally recognized movement that supports men's health, with prostate cancer being a main focus. To get involved in this movement all you have to do is rock a moustache for the month of November. To take part all you’ll need to do is take a  sharp clean razor, apply some shaving cream and remove all your facial hair except for that moustache.

Since 2003, Movember has helped fund over 1,000 different men’s health projects around the world and are continuing to challenge the societal norm that surrounds men’s health care. This organization is looking to reduce the number of men dying prematurely from cancers and mental health conditions by 25% in the next 11 years.

This movement isn’t just limited to the men, but women can also get involved now too! Women can play their part in the movement by getting active instead of growing a ‘stache. MOVE is the campaign that they can be in. MOVE encourages women to be active for all 30 days of the month, this not only helps support the men in their lives, but it also benefits their own health!

So let's Help the Cause together by growing our moustaches and getting active!

Contributed by: Alan Johnson

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Alan Johnson is a health and lifestyle writer who enjoys all things health and bringing about awareness to others. When he’s not writing he enjoys running, meal-prepping and hiking.


Friday, 4 October 2019

GUEST POST - Winter Weather Preparation for Seniors


Whether it’s global warming or our imaginations, winter storms seem to get more intense every year, so it’s always good to take the required precautions to stay safe. Blizzards can completely disrupt cities—stopping drivers, halting emergency responders, and even causing power outages. Unfortunately, the two most vulnerable groups of people when it comes to cold weather are the elderly or very young. Many weather-related casualties are not from storms themselves, but rather from the aftermath— elderly people stranded in their homes, overexertion from shoveling snow causing heart attacks or strokes, or automobile accidents due to unsafe roads. While it is difficult to predict exactly what will be damaged by a winter storm, it is possible to know when they will occur, and that vital piece of information will hopefully give you enough time to prepare.

Many people across the country live in small towns and while this doesn’t mean total isolation during a storm, it does mean longer recovery time, so it is best to be prepared on your own. If you are lucky enough to be at home during an extreme winter storm, plan in advance to have supplies that will allow you to stay comfortable and warm. If your home has a fireplace, keep an ample supply of firewood in case the heat goes out. Canned and non-perishable foods are necessary in situations where you lose power or the roads are snowed in. Check that emergency equipment such as flashlights and electric generators are in working order. Lastly, keep bottles of clean water for drinking and cooking because your pipes may freeze.

When you are weathering the storm you will want to receive the latest weather updates. Luckily, weather updates are automatically programmed into many smart phones, but if your phone does not do this, then manually sign up for weather alerts through your mobile phone or email. The Weather Channel offers free weather alerts for any postal code on their website. Sometimes though, the internet goes out, so have a radio available as well. Be sure all of your mobile devices are charged ahead of time in case of a power outage.

Mobile and home phones are especially important for older people who live alone. A senior’s family, wherever they may be living, will want to know they are safe. If the family lives in another province, older people should designate a friend or neighbor as an emergency point of contact. If you are an older person that lives near loved ones, it could be a good idea to group together at one location.  Locate a place for everyone to meet when a winter storm warning is issued, depending on where you and your family are.

You should also make sure your house is fortified for the winter. Make sure the home’s walls and attic are properly insulated to avoid losing heat. To avoid pipes bursting, keep faucets dripping. It is also important to know how to locate and stop your home’s water valves in case a pipe does burst. Set up emergency heating equipment, such as a fireplace with wood or a portable stove with plenty of fuel. If electricity does not go out, space heaters can be very helpful when used correctly. Space heaters should remain at least three feet away from all furniture, flammable items, or drapes. Once everyone leaves the room, turn off the heater. Never place any objects directly on a heater.

If, for some reason, you do need to travel in extreme conditions, or if you are stuck in the middle of a storm in your car, make sure the car is properly fitted for the winter. Before the season, have your car’s radiator system serviced, check the antifreeze level, and be certain the windshield wipers are in good condition. If your tires have worn-down tread, replace them. It is also a good idea to keep jumper cables and chains in the trunk. These basic steps will hopefully prevent an emergency from occurring and keep you safe during the winter months.

Contributed by: Jacob Edward
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Author Bio: Jacob Edward is the founder of Senior Planning, a free service dedicated to helping Seniors find care. He is also the founder of Prime Medical Alert.


Friday, 6 September 2019

Preserving Memories

Downsizing. Relocation. Moving. These words easily create anxiety - especially for someone who is elderly and may have lived in the same home for decades. Besides the practical tasks of figuring out what you can take with you, what will fit, what you need and don't need, comes an often unspoken worry of letting go of and/or finding a new home for, things that are special to you. Your memories. Photos. Memorabilia. That vase you got as a wedding gift. That music box you were given when your first baby was born. The pencil marks on the wall from when you measured your kids growing. And so, the more difficult task than figuring out the practical 'stuff', is how to preserve those memories.

Recognizing that moving will not erase your memories that are connected to your home (or for some adult children, their parents' home) or its contents is a good first step. Once you figure out the items that are hardest to part with, set aside a few that will fit in your new place that you can take with you. For other items, that you simply cannot take with you, consider doing the following: write down the stories behind your treasures which you can then give to your loved ones with those items. Alternately, when you give special items away, use it as an opportunity to share the story behind them verbally with the person you are gifting them to. It is far nicer to share items that are important to you with others when you can see them being enjoyed and it will make you feel good knowing that things you have loved, are being enjoyed by others who will treasure them as much as you did. 

Keep in mind that some items you treasure, may not hold the same meaning to your loved ones or things you don't care much about may be special to someone else because of a memory for them that's tied to it. If possible, allow the loved ones you have chosen to share your valuables with,  to choose what they want keep.

While gifting things to close family or friends may make it easy for you to 'visit' them when you feel a bit nostalgic, you may want to also, consider creating a 'memory book' of photos of your special items that you can take with you and look through whenever you want. Having a child or grandchild help you do this gives them an opportunity to learn more about you and perhaps the family.

When it comes to family photos & mementos, do make every effort to preserve them. Even though everyone is not sentimental, photos denote our history and I know of many grandchildren that would be more than happy to help organize shoe boxes of photos and be the family memory keeper.

Friday, 23 August 2019

GUEST POST - Common Misconceptions of Retirement


We all might have an idea in mind as to what retirement will look like, but for those of us with retirement on the horizon it can be beneficial to align that imagined vision with the reality.

This article will uncover the three of the biggest myths associated with retirement and reinforce some important truths to set you on the right course for your retirement needs and goals.


Myth #1: I’ll Save for ______ Before I Save for Retirement


There is always the potential for big expenses to arise over the course of your adult life. Whether it’s your dream home coming on the market, major renovations to your place of business, or helping to pay for your child’s college education, it can be very easy to say “let me cover this expense now and save for retirement later.” The danger of this strategy is that “later” might come too late.

Saving for retirement can be accomplished through the long-term saving of small amounts of money. This means that you can often afford to both spend and save, with those small increments adding up over time into a healthy retirement account. 


Myth #2: I Can Live on Less Money Once I Retire


This myth is a tough one because technically, you can get by on less money when you retire. That being said, there are several factors that might arise to keep your costs high, including:


Unexpected Healthcare Costs


Even with great retirement options to support you, a major medical emergency or chronic condition can still result in a major cut from your retirement savings.


Lingering Children


An ever-increasing number of adult children choosing to return home after college or during the early years of their professional lives to save money, but this can end up costing you.

From higher associated daily living costs to a larger mortgage payment for a house you had hoped to downsize out of but now must keep to accommodate your “youngsters,” it can wreak havoc on your retirement planning.


Inflation and Taxes


The pressures of the overall economy can also impact your savings. Inflation can increase the cost of living. Meanwhile, some tax rates, like property taxes, can fluctuate as well. This can be particularly true if the area where you live experiences a sudden boost in demand.


Expectations


Some might say that preparing to cover 70% to 80% of what you made before retirement will be adequate. Really, though, this number needs to be adjusted for your individual needs and plans for retirement.

Are you, for example, planning on working part-time in your retirement? Then perhaps you don’t need to save as much. However, if your plan is to adopt a lifestyle with less work but with more luxury that your pre-retirement days, than you will need to develop a savings to support it.

In short, there is no set amount to have on hand; it is unique to each person’s situation.


Myth #3: I Can Always Keep Working


Often people rationalize their lackluster retirement savings by saying: “well, if it’s not enough, I can always keep working.” In theory that might sound like a solution, but it fails in practice on several levels.

First, it has been shown that many retirees don’t work for as many years as they might plan to.

Second, you cannot count on extra years of work to provide you the finances that years of incremental saving would.

Retirement is supposed to be a time where you can relax and enjoy your golden years, so don’t let it become mired in myths that might derail that dream. Take the steps to plan your savings with these truths in mind, and you can be on your way to well-supported retirement.


Contributed by: Christian Worstell
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Author Bio: Christian Worstell is a health and lifestyle writer living in Raleigh, NC.

Friday, 9 August 2019

GUEST POST - Five Fantastic Ways to Stay on Top of Your Health and Take Better Care of Yourself


We all want to live our best lives, but with all that you juggle on a daily basis, it can be easy to lose track of your health. This article highlights five ways to take better control of your health through personal care.


1. Hydrate and Fuel


One of the best ways to stay on the road to good health is to make sure that you hydrate and eat healthy.

Hydration is essential because it can help your entire body recharge and refresh by flushing your system. A large glass of water can also help you feel fuller so you can deter yourself from taking in more calories than you need.

Speaking of calories, alongside a good hydration regimen is the need for a balanced, healthy diet. Try to work in a wide array of colorful vegetables, and keep your fiber level high to keep your body working at its best.


2. Exercise


Adding exercise to your lifestyle can also boost your health. This doesn’t mean a five-mile run every morning or hours-long exercise sessions at the gym.

In fact, studies have shown that short bursts of physical activity throughout the day can be just as beneficial. These brief intervals can also make for a great way to break up an otherwise sedentary day.

Think of these exercise breaks as a time to both raise your heart rate and elevate your spirits as you recharge and re-energize for the remainder of the day.

Just always make sure to keep track of your heart rate so that you don’t run the risk of over-exerting yourself.


3. Listen to Your Body & Look For Signs


While it’s not advisable to diagnose your own conditions, it is important to keep in mind that your body can tell you when something might be going wrong. Given this, you can benefit from listening to its cues.

It might not be the most pleasant, but checking your urine color can tell you whether you are adequately hydrating or if any other issue arises.

You can also check in with your hairbrush. Are there more hair strands trapped within its teeth than normal? Losing hair can be a symptom of mineral deficiencies and more, so it is a symptom for which you should look.


4. Check-In Regularly With Your Primary Care Physician


Just like we take our cars in for tune-ups, check-ups with your physician can ensure that you are staying healthy. The value of these periodic check-ins can be that they can catch any issues that are beginning to emerge. They also provide you with a consistent baseline for your health statistics, which can be beneficial if you begin to notice any concerning fluctuations of symptoms. Check with your insurance provider to see how many check-ups are covered. If you are eligible for Medicare, you may even qualify for an annual wellness exam.


5. Treat Yourself Well


So you’ve changed your diet, you’re drinking multiple glasses of water each day, and you’re keeping track of any signs your body might give that something is out of balance. What else can you do to stay in top form? This one is easy: take time for you.

Take time to de-stress, make sure you treat your body to an ample amount of sleep and don’t be afraid to splurge every once in a while. Whether that means a healthy chunk of dark chocolate after dinner or a weekly massage, treating yourself to these little moments of decadence can help you make healthy choices later on.

Life moves pretty fast, but the good news is that incorporating these healthy practices into your daily life can be immediate and easy.

Before your day gets away from you, commit to adopting some of these care practices to keep your health on track for a long and fruitful future.

Contributed by: Christian Worstell
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Author Bio: Christian Worstell is a health and lifestyle writer living in Raleigh, NC.


Friday, 26 July 2019

GUEST POST - Staying Cool: Why Seniors are at a Higher Risk for Heatstroke and How to Prevent it


For most people, the summertime season means trips to the beach, pool parties, barbecues and long summer nights. For others, particularly older adults, summer can be a much tougher time.

As we grow older, regulating our body temperature becomes more difficult and we fail to adjust well to changes in temperature. The result is an increased risk for heatstroke among seniors.

Heatstroke is a type of heat injury that occurs when your body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit and is unable to regulate itself. Heatstroke is a medical emergency that can be fatal when not properly treated.

Below is some information about why seniors are more vulnerable to heatstroke and some steps that can be taken to prevent it.

Why Seniors Get Heatstroke

There are a few different reasons why an older adult may be more susceptible to heatstroke. 

Lack of sweating

Sweating is a heat-regulating mechanism, and if we’re not sweating, we’re not regulating heat. We don’t sweat as much in old age, which leaves seniors more prone to heat stress in the summer.

Dehydration

Dehydration hits older adults harder than younger individuals. And if your body is dehydrated, it can’t regulate your core temperature as effectively and heatstroke can set in.

Health Factors & Lifestyle Choices

There are also certain health factors and lifestyle choices that can increase the likelihood of developing heatstroke, and these factors are more common in adults over the age of 65. These include:

      Chronic illnesses like heart, lung and kidney diseases
      High blood pressure
      Medications that reduce sweating
      Low-sodium diets
      Overdressing
      Lack of access to air-conditioning
      Living or visiting hot climates
      Dehydration
      Poor blood circulation
      Obesity

Heat Stroke Warning Signs

It's important to know the warning signs of heatstroke in seniors so you can seek medical attention immediately.

Some early warning signs include:

       Fatigue
       Muscle cramps
       Excessive sweating
       Dizziness
       Headaches
       Muscle cramps
       Dry skin
       Flushed skin
       Rapid pulse

The early signs of heatstroke may lead to a more severe case, so it's important to take action as soon as you notice any signs. More serious symptoms include confusion, nausea, fainting, vomiting, seizures and even coma.

Preventing Heat Stroke

Perhaps the biggest problem with heat stroke is that many older adults may not even notice their body is overheating until they start feeling ill. The good news is that there are a few ways to reduce your chances of heat stroke.

       Pay close attention to your body if you’re out in the heat. If you feel any of the symptoms mentioned above, immediately lie down in a cool place. Drink cold fluids, take a cool bath, or use cold towels to lower your body temperature.

       When you feel thirsty, your body's ability to regulate heat begins to lessen. Drinking plenty of water or beverages with electrolytes is an excellent way to help prevent dehydration and heatstroke, and be sure to avoid alcohol in the hot summer months.

       Wear loose clothes and don't overdress. When choosing what to wear in the summer, go with light and breathable clothes.

       Keep the house cool and on a regulated temperature or keep a fan running nearby.

Summer should be a season to enjoy, not one that puts you in danger. So take the proper steps and soak up that warm, summer sun in a healthy manner. 

Contributed by: Christian Worstell
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Author Bio: Christian Worstell is a health and lifestyle writer living in Raleigh, NC.

Friday, 12 July 2019

How Do You Know When To Be Concerned?

As we age, our bodies and minds change. Our memory is not as good. Arthritis sets in and joint pain becomes common. We may have illnesses that are harder to fight. And the list goes on. But how do you know when to be concerned? How do you know when you might start needing extra help to be safe or should go to a doctor to make sure everything you are feeling is simply a normal part of aging? If you have elderly loved ones, how do you know when its time to intervene and discuss your concerns?
There are often tell-tale signs that you need to begin having a conversation or looking for resources to assist,  if you take the time to observe yourself/your environment or that of your elder loved one's.

1. Can the senior take care of themselves? Are they having any hygiene issues, do they seem unkempt suddenly? What about their home? Is it looked after and tidy? If not, has this changed recently? Check the fridge - are there expired bottles and food in the fridge? Are there burnt pots on the stove?Have you noticed a sudden weight loss or weight gain?

2. Are there recent, sudden or new memory issues that seem more than just a bit of normal forgetfulness? Do they get lost when leaving the house? How significant are the things they are forgetting?

3. Do you notice any safety issues in the home? If there are stairs, are they safe and steady to climb them? Have there been any unexplained recent falls or injury? Can they walk safely unassisted or if they have a walker or cane, do they use it consistently? Do they take medications safely and when they are supposed to? Do they drive a car and if so are they obeying traffic rules and are they safe driving?

4. Has anything changed about their mood? Are they still as social as they were or has this changed? Do they call you more or less frequently than in the past?

If any of these questions cause you to wonder if there may be an issue, start by discussing it with your loved one to see if they have similar concerns. Go to the family doctor and discuss the same with them - there may be simple answers to some of what you see - it could have to do with medications or an underlying illness. Of immediate concern would be safety issues so do what you can to address them and look into assistive devices or an assessment by an Occupational Therapist. You may want to look at eligibility for home care through your local government service or other types of services in the community through a local seniors agency (for example, meals on wheels, personal alarm systems, grocery delivery, friendly visiting... etc.). If concerns are significant, it may be time to start exploring local retirement or long-term care homes with your loved one. Do keep in mind that the earlier you address problems and concerns, the more choice you have and the more time you have to make adjustments to an in-home situation. As well, no decisions should be made without the cooperation and knowledge of the senior involved. Sometimes a senior doesn't realize they need help or doesn't want to admit it - bringing your concerns to them, may free them to start discussing options with you. There are many ways to discuss concerns with your loved one. For more information download our Free E-book The Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Living and review Section 1 - Where do I Begin?

Friday, 28 June 2019

GUEST POST - How to Get Your Best Sleep in Your Senior Years


Aging brings with it a whole host of changes to your body and mind. You might even find yourself changing the way you do things in order to compensate for some of these shifts.  What many people don’t realize, however, is that you might need to do the same for your sleep habits. Sleeping can become more difficult as you age, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a full night’s rest. There are a few different things you can do to get the best sleep possible in your senior years.

Listen to Your Body

As you age, you might notice that you begin to feel tired earlier in the evenings. Instead of comfortably staying up until 10PM, for example, you could find yourself nodding off around 8PM. Many people will fight these feelings and attempt to power through the evening on their own terms, but why fight your body? It’s telling you it is tired for a reason. Consider listening to it and adjusting your bedtime accordingly rather than attempting to deny the shift in your circadian rhythm.

Get Help for Insomnia

Insomnia is a particularly common issue to face as you age. The problem is that many people attempt to ignore the problem and move on with their lives rather than seek help. Because sleep is so vital to our physical and mental health, this course of action can be quite harmful. Instead of ignoring the issue, consider reaching out to a professional. This isn’t a “small issue” – it’s one that can impact your health significantly. If you find yourself unable to sleep, professional help could be the answer. Your doctor might be able to help you overcome the issue and return to peaceful nights full of rest.

Create an Environment Conducive to Sleep

Aging can be difficult on your body. You likely find that you have more aches and pains in the morning than you did when you were younger, but the pain at night might surprise you. There are many different health issues that can contribute to persistent pain, including things like osteoarthritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or simply strain on the important joints in your body. A mattress that is designed to help support you as you sleep could help by reducing stress on your body while you rest. You might also consider creating a quiet, cool bedroom that is dedicated to relaxation. Keep the TV and tablets out of the room and use the space for its intended purpose – sleeping.

Keep Exercising

Staying active might be the last thing you want to do if you’re not sleeping well. It’s important to note, however, that exercise can actually help regulate your sleep patterns and enable you to fall and stay asleep. You don’t have to engage in any particularly in-depth or strenuous workouts, either. Simply taking a walk a few times a week can be enough to help improve your sleep.

Sleeping as you age can be difficult, but it is not impossible.

Keep the information above in mind and work towards your sleep goals one tip at a time.

Contributed by: Lisa Smalls
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Lisa Smalls is a freelance writer for NC that regularly covers sleep health and lifestyle topics. She is always looking for ways to better herself and has a passion for helping others create a balance in their lives.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Elder Abuse Awareness

Elder Abuse, like all kinds of abuse, is often unreported (and under reported), likely because in far too many instances it is perpetrated by someone close to the senior. "North American studies indicate that between 2 and 10 per cent of older adults will experience some type of elder abuse or neglect each year." http://www.elderabuseontario.com/what-is-elder-abuse/). With the number of seniors increasing annually, this figure is truly disheartening and clearly this abuse, like all abuse towards a vulnerable sector in our society, really needs to be publicized; as a society, we need to do everything possible to combat it and assist victims. 
Abuse towards an elder can take many forms and includes not just physical abuse but also, psychological, emotional, verbal, financial, sexual abuse and neglect. Family members and caregivers, closest to a person, are in an ideal position to take advantage of a senior and some, who may be experiencing caregiver burnout, may not even recognize that they are victimizing the person. There are also people external to family, that are in a position of trust, like paid caregivers or neighbours who also are in a position to be an abuser especially if a senior is vulnerable and does not have regular family or friends who visit and know what is going on in their lives on a regular basis. 
If you know someone who is elderly and is exhibiting signs of unexplained injury, fear, anxiety, depression, helplessness, poor hygiene, unexplained weight loss, missing money or missing valuables, it may be time to reach out to them in privacy to let them know your concerns and ascertain if what you are seeing may be a sign of elder abuse. Always investigate properly and refer to professionals before jumping to any unnecessary conclusions. Never assume Elder Abuse is happening without proof, especially if you are not overly familiar with the person and their situation; each situation is unique and cultural differences may explain certain behaviours. Don't jump to conclusions but also, keep an eye out for possible issues. Visit http://www.elderabuseontario.com/ to find out more signs and symptoms or call 416-916-6728. If you are a senior and need assistance, call the Seniors Safety Line at 1-866-299-1011.
Abuse is not acceptable in any form.  June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It's unfortunate that we need to be reminded that we all bear the responsibility of of helping someone who is being abused.

Friday, 31 May 2019

GUEST POST - 5 Ways to Improve Sleep for Seniors


There’s no getting around it. Sleep can be a struggle for seniors. Insomnia and snoring increase as do instances of dementia and the need for medications that may cause wakefulness. But seniors need the same seven to nine hours as other adults. Sleep problems can primarily be reduced with good sleep habits and a plan that addresses individual sleep issues.  

Incorporate Daily Exercise

A 2010 study found that aerobic exercise can help seniors fall asleep faster and reduce night wakings. While insomnia isn’t the only sleep issue seniors may be facing, any kind of exercise can help wear the body out while helping to maintain muscle tone and heart health.

Exercise doesn’t need to be vigorous or strenuous to bring sleep benefits. Yoga, swim aerobics, and walking are low impact forms of exercise that can be tailored to the needs of seniors. Activities that can be enjoyed with others also offer social opportunities. While thirty minutes per day is recommended, any exercise is always better than none.

Bright Light Therapy

Sunlight, and other forms of blue spectrum light, naturally suppress sleep hormones during the day. As light fades, sleep hormones get released. Aging eyes often don’t let in as much light as they once did. When the eyes cannot absorb as much sunlight as is necessary to regulate sleep hormones, sleep irregularities like daytime sleepiness and nighttime insomnia may follow.

Increasing daytime exposure to blue spectrum light can help put the sleep cycle back on track. Seniors who participate in bright light therapy spend a few minutes each morning in front of a lamp with a specially designed light blub that mimics sunlight. The increased exposure to blue spectrum light supports the body’s natural rhythms and can improve the regularity of the sleep cycle.

Try Meditation

Stress can be a major sleep loss factor at any age. Seniors may face the loss of a spouse, financial changes, and/or moving out of a beloved home. The stress of life changes can compound sleep problems. Meditation is a simple, time effective way to manage stress.

Meditation has been shown to strengthen connections between the brain’s emotional and logical centers to aid emotional control. With practice, it can also reduce heart rate and improve blood pressure both of which can reduce stress and improve sleep. Seniors can participate in classes with a live instructor or meditation CDs or apps. Even 10  to 15 minutes per day can be enough to reduce stress levels.

Create a Bedroom of Comfort

Comfort can be an issue for seniors as aches and pains tend to increase with age. A heating pad, over the counter pain medication, and a glass of water on a nightstand provide easy access to nighttime pain relief.

A supportive mattress that’s the right firmness level for height and weight can make a big difference. Adjustable beds are other good option as they allow seniors to make adjustments for injuries and can be easier to get out of. Environmental conditions like cool to moderate bedroom temperatures, complete darkness, and absolute quiet make a difference too. Motion sensor nightlights are often a good idea as they allow seniors to see during nighttime trips to the bathroom, yet the light won’t keep them awake.

Set a Reasonable, Regular Bedtime

The human body, no matter the age, relies on consistency and behavioral patterns to correctly time the release of sleep hormones. A regular bedtime and calming bedtime routine are key to a consistent sleep pattern. The familiarity of routine also helps with dementia and other neurological issues that may come with age as they may reduce fear and irritability related to sundowning.

Conclusion

Seniors need just as much sleep as other adults. They face unique challenges, but a plan and support from family, friends, and health professionals can help.

Contributed by Amy Highland, SleepHelp.org

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Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. Her preferred research topics are health and wellness, so Amy's a regular reader of Scientific American and Nature. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Lasting Legacies

A couple of years ago, a very close aunt of mine passed away. She was the keeper of the family history. She found relatives we never knew we had and even created an extensive family tree that could plaster the walls of a decent size bedroom. She knew connections and remembered events and dates like no one else I knew. As I started noticing changes in her physical health, it occurred to me that when she was gone, no one would be able to fill that role. So much of the history of our family would be lost. So I asked her to start writing about her life. She couldn't understand why. To her, her life was unremarkable. To me it was incredibly special and a story I wanted preserved for future generations. I wanted her to leave us a legacy by transferring the knowledge of those connections, people and history to me. Unfortunately, by the time I asked her to do this, her abilities were already declining. She wrote some, but not enough to give me the story I wanted. I realized, it was something I should have asked her do years before or sat with her to create when I had the chance. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day, that the years fly by and things get forgotten or put off until it is too late.

When I worked as a hospital social worker, the concept of leaving a legacy for family came up often, especially with people who were nearing the end of their lives. There were many ideas people had - some talked about a video or audio tape, some were more inclined to write letters and others wanted to gift something special to a person in their lifetime. I remember one woman saying that she wanted to give her grandchild a special necklace from her "living grandmother, not her dead one". As a young mother, immersed in a job where illness was commonplace and things happened to people regardless of age or circumstance, I decided to start creating a legacy for my family from when my children were born. Every year, on their birthday, I would write them a letter from me - I would talk about what they had done, learnt and accomplished in that year, how proud I was of them and how much I loved them. Some years those letters were long, other years, not so much, but I would always write that letter. Those letters went and still go in a box and one day, they will each get their own box to go through. Perhaps I am simply nostalgic; I think of it as something beyond that though, something that will give them a sense of history and belonging, perhaps at a time when they need it the most.

I wonder how many of our readers think about legacies and how to leave them for their loved ones. Would you consider making a video? Writing a letter? Recording your life history? Do you have seniors in your life who you would like to write out their family history? How important do you think this is?

We'd really like to hear from some of you about this topic!

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Relocation Fears

Our regular readers will know by now that relocation to a care setting is not something to be feared. There are several options, depending on need and finances and for many, concerns about safety, socialization, care and nutrition are quickly replaced with a new lease on life and improved health and well-being. That being said, many seniors and their families are concerned that such a significant move will prove to be a mistake.
From a family perspective, letting go of what may be a family home filled with memories and possessions can be daunting. As well, financial concerns abound especially when the choice is a private retirement setting that is without government subsidy or assistance. And finally, there is the fear that the person will decline because everything will be done for them and they will lose the will to be independent.
While its difficult to speak in generalities and everyone's experience is different, this last worry is usually completely unfounded and more often than not, with the environment in most retirement communities, people thrive and improve both mentally and physically, especially if they have been somewhat isolated and shut-in while living on their own. In addition,  the relationship between caregiver and senior will change for the better as their visits become actual visits rather than errands and household tasks that may have consumed their time together in the past.
Seniors who are relocating may share some of the same concerns as their family; downsizing can be a monumental task especially when one may have lived in the same home for decades. Financial issues often impact decision making as most are worried they will outlive their money or won't have anything left to will to their family. The other concern that often surfaces, especially if they have had regular visits from family members to assist with care or tasks, is that once they go into a care home, those visits will diminish.
In terms of the downsizing worry - it's important to separate memories from possessions - there are many ways to ease this process including, hiring a downsizing company to assist, passing down special items to loved ones (that they can 'visit') and photographing items in order to create a memory book, to name a few. Our latest edition of the Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Living available at no charge on our website at https://www.senioropolis.com/BookInfo.asp has information in Part 1 about downsizing and making the transition easier.
Finances are a common concern, especially since most seniors live on a limited budget. Often the sale of a family home is used to fund living in a private setting and the concern is that it will only last so long. For this issue, you should contact an investment advisor who can suggest ways in which to make your money last and calculate an affordable monthly budget to maximize your length of stay. Do keep in mind that if you require extra care or support in the future, the monthly costs may increase over time.
And finally, in terms of the worry a senior may have about less family visits, do everything you can to let them know that this is not the case. Visit often, take them out, involve them in family celebrations (if necessary hold celebrations at the retirement home), share information on the family and what is happening in everyone's life, take the kids to visit, stay for a meal and attend events in the home.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Private Solutions in a Public System

How do you feel about reaching out to the private sector for care or services? I think this is a question we are going to be called upon to answer more and more frequently in the coming years as our population demographic changes. It seems as if our healthcare system is already stretched and limited resources means that wait times for care and services will simply increase. For those that need or want services quickly, reaching out to the private system, for those that can afford it, seems like the next likely step.
This of course means that our system will increasingly become two-tiered but I would argue that to a certain degree, it already is. There are private medical clinics. There are private home health care services. There are retirement homes - all private. All of these services are provided for a fee outside of our public health system. They are responsive, provide quick services and resources, meet a need and fill in some significant cracks in our existing system.
Our current public system has some major holes. There are many who simply can't afford private service and must wait for what our government funded system can provide. For some this means living at risk in the community - needing care they simply can't access, until things worsen enough that they end up in hospital or in a nursing home. This is a problem that will only get worse, stretching our system further. For those on basic pension, this is truly an unfortunate scenario that there is no immediate solution to unless our government looks at innovative ways to resolve it.
But what about those who have the means to pay for extra care? There is an expectation of many that we should not have to pay for healthcare which is indeed what universal healthcare is all about. But what happens when what exists can't meet the needs? Is it fair to close the door to the private options, or simply not present them to people we help even if they can afford them? I ask this because I do know of colleagues who stand by the belief that people should not be 'told' or 'asked' to seek private solutions when our healthcare plan is meant to provide for us.
I would argue that you are doing people a disservice when you do not present all available options - public and private - allowing them to decide if they want to purchase care or services to supplement or replace what our government is able to provide. People need to be given the option of choosing for themselves, and if they can afford private care, it may indeed be their preference and a better option than waiting on the limited services our public system can provide.
When I first started visiting retirement homes many years ago, I was amazed at the stories of people who moved in needing assistance but who, over time, with proper care, nutrition, social stimulation, exercise and medication management, improved and became substantially more independent. If many of these people stayed in their homes, they would have eventually ended up in nursing homes. It speaks to the importance of retirement homes in our system on so many levels - of a private solution to a problem in our public system. So, I ask you, if an option exists that can meet a need, isn't it important to explore it, even if it is private pay?

Monday, 1 April 2019

Ontario's Changing Health Care Landscape

When I first worked as a hospital social worker close to 30 years ago, there were no LHINs, no CCACs, no central processing agency. If you needed to arrange home care for a patient, you called the home care office; if you needed to arrange for a nursing home, you completed an old photocopied form and sent it to every home you wanted and hoped it made it to the top of their pile. There was no standardized waiting list, no organized way of ensuring your patient got the same priority as someone else and no verification that the patient was competent to consent.

When CCACs were created, there was some resistance on our part without doubt. We had to do things differently. There were different forms. More forms. Capacity of an applicant became an issue and something we had to assess for. We couldn't rely on relationships we had created with long-term care homes. And our script for talking to families had to change.  Eventually, we all got on board. There was no choice but also, we eventually recognized that it did make our lives easier and it was a far more patient-centred way of doing things.

And then, about a dozen years ago, came the LHINs. The LHINs were created out of the idea that in a province as large as Ontario, health care should be decentralized. Given that different areas had different populations, it was surmised that those who live, provide services and use those services within a defined community were best equipped to determine where they needed to direct their health care dollars. The concept that one central government agency was not conducive to making decisions for the whole province was why the 14 LHINs were created. Each LHIN was a non-profit entity with a board of directors and was allotted their portion of the health budget to provide health services to their community through hospitals, CCACs, community health centres, long-term care homes, mental health and addiction services.

Another change happened again last year. it was decided that the CCACs needed to be  be disbanded as an agency because of the money spent on unnecessary management salaries, so the agencies that were once CCACs simply became the LHINs. It did not seem to disrupt patients when the transition happened though I'm certain there were jobs lost and it caused some internal agency disruption.

And now with a change in the ruling political party, our province is seeking to get rid of the LHINs completely. In fact, not just the LHINs. We are going to a 'super-agency' model that will house a host of other health care agencies including Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth, Trillium Gift of Life Network, Health Shared Services, Health Quality Ontario and Health Force Ontario Marketing and Recruitment Agency. So essentially, we are going back to 30 years ago; to a system that was flawed enough to require the creation of CCACs and LHINs. Except now we have many more seniors. And more people in general in Ontario. And an established system for some of those agencies that worked well. Yes, there are problems. And a shortage of nursing home beds. And a shortage of  staff/money for home care. And too many people in hospital emergency rooms. There are parts of the system that are broken, but not the entire system. Do they need fixing or scrapping completely? Are we 'throwing out the baby with the bathwater'? Are we really going to save money by doing this or will it cost us far more in the long run? We only seem to be hearing about what is being 'taken away', not about what we will be given to function and live better lives. Will this massive overhaul really result in better service, more service, less people waiting in hospital hallways for beds or service? How will  we transition from one system to another one seamlessly; how do we ensure that people will be adequately and properly served during this time? And what about emerging private sector services; will we end up with a two-tiered system as our public sector gets lost in the monumental changes to the way they do business?

I don't believe there is one easy solution to the flaws in the current system. It's a complex mechanism that can take years to fix, if that is even possible. But to try to fix it, really means to understand it and its complexities by living in it and talking to the people that work in it. There are many, many questions that Ontarians have about this monumental change in healthcare delivery but unfortunately, no one is giving answers to some very fundamental questions right now. I, for one, am worried about what this means for us; for our children; our seniors; and everyone in between.