Friday, 20 February 2015

Lessons learned from tragedy

A year after that devastating fire in a Quebec seniors' home that killed 32 seniors, the coroner has made recommendations. The one that made the news: mandatory sprinklers. I am wondering why it took a year to come up with that recommendation?  Why did their government not immediately legislate something around sprinklers in the wake of the tragedy? And how long will it take to institute this and other recommendations across the province of Quebec?

This is not the first time that fire in a seniors residence caused the loss of life. The 2009 fire in an Orillia home resulted in legislation in Ontario and as of 2014, automatic sprinklers are mandatory in all retirement homes. I suppose because senior care is under each province, legislation specific to retirement homes and long-term care, depends on the province and it seems, depends on what each learns from their own mistakes and tragedies. I am wondering why there are some things that are just not National and why, when avoidable deaths occur, we don't do things to prevent more of them, even if the disaster happened in another part of Canada. There are always more questions than answers when I read news items like this and in fairness, there may be far more to this and the need to go through an inquest in order to create necessary legislation, then the general public realizes.

I am very glad that there were significant lessons learned from such a horrible ordeal - I only wish so many didn't have to die, in order to protect others in the future. For the families and community that lost loved ones, I am certain that inquest findings do not lessen their grief . And I wonder how many other tragedies have to occur before every province recognizes that we as a country, have to do a better job of protecting our seniors.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Better Late than Never

Last week, a group of men, were finally given the recognition they deserved. The USA awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to a group of vets known as the 'Black Devils' or the Devil's Brigade. They were a joint American-Canadian team who assisted in liberating Europe and were the precursor to the Special Forces Units that came to be in both countries years later. Originally 1,800 men, very few are left now  - and about 50 in total attended a ceremony in Washington on February 2, 2015.

This story fascinated me for a couple of reasons; one of the men honoured is the father of a long-time friend. I have known him most of my life but it never crossed my mind that he was quite literally, a war hero. In fact, until I started reading the articles about this group and their award, I had no idea what his role was in the war. Secondly, the story of this group of young men, who used 'unconventional' tactics, to help win the war under cover of darkness is frankly amazing. They had the ability to to create fear in the Germans and have been the subject of movies and books.

Seventy years after war's end, there are 46 Canadian vets left who were part of that elite group. It's a shame that it took this many years for the American government to honour these men - though at the very least it was done while some were able to feel that their efforts were recognized and appreciated. The Canadian government bestowed their award a few years ago.

Part of the ceremony was aired live and I was glad to be able to witness this special piece of history. I think those of us in North America often take our freedoms for granted. Most of us are very far removed from war and what occurred 70 years ago. If not for the brave people who were willing to risk their lives, (and in many cases, lose their lives) at that terrible time in history, the world would be a very different place than it is today.

Thank you Devil's Brigade. Your award was most well-deserved and you have forged a place in history that will not be forgotten.

Friday, 6 February 2015

February - All About Hearts

February is here - and I'm not quite sure where January went. Anyway, besides snow, thanks to Hallmark, February is always associated with matters of the heart. Smartly, someone clued into this and also made the disease of February 'Heart Disease'. 

I already know about Valentines Day (though I am a bit confused why you would by a card for 'Baby's First Valentine's Day' or cards from your dog or cat and, to your dog or cat) so I decided to do some reading on Heart Month. It seems that everyone I know, knows someone with a heart issue so it's not surprising that "nine in 10 Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one risk factor for heart disease. Four in 10 have three or more risk factors."  and  "More than 1.4 million Canadians have heart disease. It is also one of the leading causes of death in Canada, claiming more than 33,600 lives per year." (from: With the growing societal concerns about obesity in children these numbers will only get worse unless we find ways to curb the risks people take with their own health. The impact of this on individuals, families, employers and our health system will be significant if it isn't already. 

So what can we do to make things better? How can we decrease our chances of becoming a statistic of this growing concern. Here's the thing - this is one disease that we might have a bit of control over - unlike others that strike regardless of what we try to do to stay healthy. And while doing all the right things may not prevent us from getting some form of the disease, it may assist in prolonging our healthy years and allow us to be a more viable candidate for treatment in the event that we can't escape a hereditary predisposition to it. If we ever hope to change the statistics we need to start by looking at risk factors that we can change. Smoking - this is a 'no brainer' - seriously, what good ever comes from smoking? Diabetes - some people are predisposed to this, while others develop it later in life for various reasons - one of those reasons is related to yet another risk factor - obesity. If we can ensure a healthy diet with some exercise, we not only can reduce our chances of heart disease, but also of other illnesses including diabetes which itself leads to a slippery slope of other potential issues. High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure might also be hereditary and if it is, early detection and intervention would be the key to reducing risk. However, things like a poor diet and lack of exercise can also contribute to it. So again, it may be an issue of lifestyle that helps reduce the risk for some. And then there is stress. Something we all have to a certain degree but some of us handle it better than others. I suppose the key here is knowing how to decrease stress levels and taking the time to de-stress. Much easier said than done. I suppose most important factors impacting change are an awareness and then a desire to stay healthy. Ultimately, eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, staying social, not smoking, going to your doctor for regular check ups and taking breaks from stress and work will all contribute to a healthier life not only by reducing heart disease risks but also through its positive impact on a host of other illnesses for which the risk factors are the same. We can only hope that the 'healthy lifestyle' message spreads and is adopted by our population soon - before our health care system cracks under the pressure of chronic preventable diseases. 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Musings about Multi-Generational Communities

I was sent an article recently about a community in the Netherlands where young people live in a retirement home alongside seniors rent free, in exchange for volunteering their time with the residents (

It is an interesting concept that in fact benefits seniors and young people alike, but I wonder if its something that would work everywhere....... Often we find that what works in one part of the world does not work everywhere. Culture plays a key role in this but so does economic implications and perceptions of both age groups and their perceived value to the other party. I wonder about our North American culture with less extended families living together and the culture of 'ageism' that we sometimes witness, how open our youth would be to live and volunteer among so many seniors in a retirement home. I wonder how 'patient' they will be and how open to understanding cognitive, hearing and even visual issues seniors often have. And I wonder how open our seniors would be to having young people living in the same setting. It's one thing to have your kids or grandkids visit; quite another to have them living with you!

I think both groups can learn so much from each other. I also think we need to find innovative ways to care for our seniors of the future given the increasing number we are anticipating in the next 20 years, many with limited income. There are multi-generational settings (the co-housing concept) throughout Europe and to a much lesser degree in parts of the USA and Canada but it seems it is a far easier 'sell' in Europe than here . Most of what we see in terms of this in North America are co-housing units with people in similar age groups as opposed to multi-generational. As a model for 'care & support of well seniors' , I wonder if it would be something people would be in favour of in this part of the world?  From the perspective of the retirement home operator, the costs of running a home is immense and I wonder how willing most would be to give rooms for 'free' to young adults with the promise of volunteer work. It makes for an interesting concept and would be a viable 'experiment' to try out but what are the implications  from a legal, social and economic perspective.

I am sure, there will be all sorts of ideas that will start surfacing in the next few years - some will be great, others less so. I think this idea is in fact a great one, but how viable it is in our part of the world is a separate issue.  It is possible that the time simply is not right for this 'forward thinking' concept; maybe 10 or 20 years from now we will progress enough to be able to 'think outside the box' when it comes to caring for our seniors.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Caregiver Stress

An article in yesterday's paper caught my attention as do most things related to seniors. Apparently there is a report published recently by the 'Mental Health Commission of Canada' that caregiving is very stressful and can result in mental health issues. I have to admit that I am a bit surprised that a report was needed to tell us this. Maybe I am simply more aware of issues related to caregiving than those in the general population, but it seems rather intuitive that providing care for someone with a long-term illness, regardless of the age of the person receiving care, would be tremendously stressful on the person giving the care. And stress can lead easily to mental health issues - as well as physical health issues and in some cases, physical abuse of the the recipient of care. While more than just caregiving was dealt with in the document (it looked at mental health issues in general across the country), it is a good thing for caregivers in Canada that a formal document finally acknowledges what so many of us know to be true.

The problem with reports though, is often they are written and then forgotten with nothing substantial coming from them in the form of changes to our system. I suppose now the challenge is to figure out what we do with this information and how we support at risk people in a more constructive way. In recent years there seems to be less secrecy around mental health issues in general. As a 'hidden' often stigmatized illness for many, as a society we certainly have not given it the same acknowledgement as we do physical illnesses or disabilities yet on some level the toll it takes on affected individuals, their loved ones, our health care system and our economy can be tremendous and in some circumstances, far greater than an acknowledge physical problem.

Given our ageing population, the impact of the physical and mental toll caregiving takes, will be on the rise if we don't find a way to support people in this most difficult and demanding task. It is my hope that health professionals and others will take the time to increase their understanding of the issues and look at ways to assist caregivers in decreasing their stress levels and identifying when situations become toxic. It is only through acknowledgement and understanding that we can ever hope to lessen the burden of any mental health issue but also, of caregiving in general.

For additional information on caregiver stress have a look at the articleWorking Caregivers - Balance or Burn Out?

Friday, 16 January 2015


A friend of mine recently sent me an interesting email about female friendships and reading it reaffirmed what I have always know but often wondered if others thought the same. I knew my friend wasn't the author so I took to the internet to try to find out where it came from. I found several instances of the identical content in electronic copies of bulletins and newsletters but since some gave no credit to the person who started it all, and others that did give credit all had different names, I decided that it was safest to quote it from one of the sources directly ........ I can reword it but frankly, I don't see the point - it doesn't need fixing and I don't want to lose the value of what is in the original.
So here it is.

Would love to hear from our readers - do you agree or not?

They Teach It at Stanford, by Sharon Rose
from the March 2011 newsletter of The Business & Professional Women of Nevada County
In an evening class at Stanford, the last lecture was on the mind-body connection – the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best  things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends. At first everyone laughed, but he was serious.
Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality “girlfriend time” helps us to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well-being.  Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes.  Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings?  Rarely. 
Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health.  He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.
There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising” we are doing  something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends,  we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged – not  true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking! So every time you hang out to schmooze with a gal pal, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health! We are indeed very, very lucky.  Sooooo. let’s toast to our friendship with our girlfriends. Evidently it’s very good for our health.


Monday, 12 January 2015

Hot off the Presses!

Our new 18th edition is out! And we can finally breathe a sigh of relief. No matter how many times we proof and reproof the draft copies (and usually its in the range of 5 to 6 times in a two month period), I always worry that I have missed something or that there will be a major problem with production. It's not until I see the very final printed version, that I stop worrying. So, once again, I worried for the better part of a month between the time that it went to the printer and I saw it. It turned out amazing! We changed things up a bit slightly this year and I am more than happy that we did so. We are now in the process of getting it out to our 'subscribers' and advertisers....... Our CD version is also a bit different this year in that we have incorporated two additional publications into it as well as many links to our various social media feeds. We are certain that both versions will be much appreciated by our users! And before long, we will have to start working on our 19th book!

For those of our users that would like a new book, please go to our online store and have a look at the process for ordering a copy or downloading a PDF.