Friday, 19 February 2016

Retirement living at its best

Every time I visit a retirement home, I am reminded of their importance on so many levels. Their existence underlines the necessity of human connection; the significance of mutual support; the benefits of having people around who can look after you when you are not feeling well and; the value of having 3 hot meals a day that you don't have to worry about preparing or shopping for. It's one thing to know intellectually how beneficial this is and quite another to watch it transform someone you know in a loving and supportive way.

Today I watched a senior I know, return to her retirement home after a week-long hospitalization. I was there when they took her back to her suite with kindness, settled her in, asked her what she needed, and offered to bring her food. I was there when she went down to the dining room and saw her friends and saw how happy they were that she returned. The interaction changed her from someone who had been sick in a hospital bed a few hours earlier, to someone who was vibrant, happy and interactive with her peers and friends. It motivated her to stay and talk, not return to her sickbed.

Had she still lived alone, none of this would have happened. I venture to guess that returning home to an empty apartment, with no assistance in sight, would have resulted in a very different homecoming and outcome.

Unfortunately, not everyone who can benefit from retirement living, does. Many simply cannot afford it (retirement homes are not funded by the government so the cost can be prohibitive if all you have is basic pensions).  That being said, even for people who can afford it, there is often a reluctance to relocate because of a misplaced belief that it will take away independence and be too 'institutional'. In reality though, it does quite the opposite. It encourages independence and interaction with others. And, it supports people in many ways that help them avoid institutional care.

It is truly a shame that so many seniors who require this sort of setting, simply cannot afford it. In an ideal world, we would have retirement settings (or at least government funding in existing homes) for people who are on a limited income. I think, if this were to happen, we would have less seniors in nursing homes (and less waiting in valuable acute care hospital beds to go to a nursing home) because they got the care they needed early on before circumstances forced long-term care placement. While government funding won't fix all of the problems with care and housing for seniors, it most certainly will address many of them, by creating options for those who currently lack support and care in their own homes.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Love of a lifetime

A Humans of New York post from earlier this week went viral on social media. An old man holding a paperback of Shakespeare's sonnets was in the photo with the following quote under it: “My wife passed away last January. We’d been married for 62 years. You caught me at a time when I’ve been thinking a lot about love because I’m reading Shakespeare’s sonnets. The definition of love is elusive, which is why we write about it endlessly. Even Shakespeare couldn’t touch it. All the greatest love stories just seem to be about physical attraction. Romeo and Juliet didn’t know if they liked the same books or movies. It was just physical. After 62 years, it becomes something different entirely. My wife used to say: ‘We are one.’ And believe me, she was not the type of person to overstate something. Now that she’s gone, I realize how right she was. So much of our lives were linked. We were very physical and affectionate. But we also shared every ritual of our life. I miss her every time I leave a movie and can’t ask for her opinion. Or every time I go to a restaurant and can’t give her a taste of my chicken. I miss her most at night. We got in bed together at the same time every night.” (

I saw the post and was touched by it but had no idea how many others felt the same way until I looked below it and saw it had 1.4M likes and nearly 71K comments. Wow! So what is it about a post like this that makes it go viral? We too have social media networks and know that certain of our posts get viewed far more than others. Often it's a nice relatable quote or a fun photo that does it. With this website and specifically this post, it seems to be the weight of the words that attracts. 

So what was it about this post that made me want to do something I rarely do. Why did I click 'share'? What shines through his words is the genuine love & respect two people who shared a lifetime together, had. In a few sentences we know how truly in love with her he was and still is. He has eloquently defined what love means to him - what it should mean to all of us. His sentiments are something to be celebrated. This is social media at its best.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Relocation Worries

I read an article the other day about a survey a retirement home company did with the children of seniors in an effort to discover the 3 main concerns people have about moving an elder loved one to a care/retirement home. The 3 most common worries are reported to be: having the "talk", making the right choice and feeling guilty. None of these issues are surprising and indeed we have been addressing all three for the many years we have been working on our website and book and when giving lectures to different groups of people.

I do believe that the fix for all of these issues is opening up communication with aging relatives early on - before anyone needs any help or needs to consider relocation. The trick, which is far easier said than done, is convincing people that they need to have this conversation BEFORE they need to consider options. More often than not, people are afraid to discuss the topic of care and relocation so they put it off until at best, options are limited and at worst, there are no options. Try as I may, I simply cannot convince people that it's far easier to raise a difficult topic when it's not staring you in the face. If it takes time to come to a decision - and you have that time - and you have planned ahead - then finding the right place is easy and guilt is minimal if not, non-existent.

I suspect that the generation of boomers, who are now in the process or have been through the process of helping to relocate a parent, will be more inclined to plan ahead for themselves knowing what the reality was for them. That being said, it may be another 15 - 20 years before the lessons learned from the past translate into making things easier for those who follow.

So, for those who have not planned ahead and are faced with aging relatives who may or may not need care here are some thoughts on how to address the three concerns....
1. Have the talk ASAP - your concerns will not go away just because you refuse to discuss them. Be honest. Involve trusted others if necessary. Be understanding and supportive. We have many suggestions on how to deal with this conversation in our book and in our PDF - Care Options for Seniors (which is an excerpt of the book)
2. Take the time to look around and investigate options. Don't just choose a place from a list. Go and visit. Try a meal. Speak to people. Get references. Encourage your loved one to participate in decision making and stay for a trial period if it is offered. This only works though if you have time. If you are in the situation where you are under pressure from a hospital or a caregiver to make quick choices, you may cut corners and then the place you choose may not be best for your loved one. Again, the more time you have to make this decision the better the chances that you will choose a place that is the 'right one' for your loved one. Our book has a long list of questions to ask when you are on tour or you can download the questionnaire from our website (Retirement Home and Long-Term Care Visiting Tips).
3. If the decision is made with the consent of your loved one and they feel like they have been an active participant in making the choice and the move, guilt is minimal if at all. The key to all of this is having the "talk" early enough that they are able to participate in planning and decision-making.

It all comes down to time. We all have an endless amount of time until we don't. Having the hard conversations early enough makes all the difference in terms of choices, adjustment and emotional well-being.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Caring for the young and old under one roof

A nursing home and a daycare centre under one roof! What a concept! It's not surprising that it works so well in Providence Mount St. Vincent in Seattle that they have a huge waiting list for their daycare and are now the subject of a documentary to be released next year. Children have a way of making people smile. They thrive on interaction and learning from others. They make the old feel young; helping them remember days gone by. They give us hope for the future and with any luck, will learn from mistakes of the past
In a multi-generational setting, there is the ability to inject vitality into a place usually associated with illness and frailty. Young children interacting with seniors may even be the solution to combatting ageism. Imagine learning from seniors from a young age; an age where we see their value rather than negating their worth  - would that not lead to a lifelong appreciation for older adults and their contribution to the world? 
In the past, when multiple generations of one family lived under one roof, it was common for children to learn from their grandparents and have respect, understanding and patience for their elders. In today's world, families are scattered, often in different countries, if not cities and few children grow up living with, or even in close proximity to, grandparents. That most definitely impacts one's view of the older generation. The more we can encourage multi-generational interaction, respect and learning, the more the barriers created by age will be diminished. 
Apparently, this type of a setting exists in Japan, Canada and the US, though since it is not something widespread enough to be common knowledge, one can only assume that it's on a smaller scale in other locations. When searching for information on these settings, the one that comes up repeatedly is Providence Mount St. Vincent but I do think that by and large it has more to do with the publicity about documentary than the concept. 
That being said, now that 'the word it out' maybe it's time to start thinking about bringing this idea or innovation to more daycare centres and nursing homes. It seems that the results can only be positive, for all involved and society as a whole.

Friday, 8 January 2016

19 years and counting!

Happy New Year to all of our followers!

New beginnings for a new year .... as we have done for the past 19 years, our new book was released this past week. It's hard to believe that we have recreated our 'Guide' 19 times but when I pull out our first edition, I realize how many changes we have made over the years to keep it current and provide the best possible information to those at the stage of seeking retirement living options. Always looking for new information to share with our readers, our section 1 continues to grow and change annually. As changes to homes and resources happen frequently, the other sections of the book are also very different from one year to the next enabling us to create a brand new book from beginning to end, every year.

While there are an increasing number of options for those seeking to relocate in retirement, and vast amounts of information about them all over the internet, sometimes what is most difficult is figuring where and when to begin. Often seeking out information can be overwhelming, especially when one considers changing so much that is familiar in their lives.With years of understanding behind us, our goal is to help people figure out the option that is best for them. We continue to create a book that is a bit of a 'one stop shop' on retirement containing information on options, and resources one might need to get to where they want to be. While some homes are opting out of print to be online only, many still feel as strongly as we do; having our information in a book format is very relevant and important for so many still - especially seniors, their families and professionals who work with them. For those who use our book, if you can't find something there, do check our website as we are constantly adding information online - failing that, we are always open to being contacted to assist, explain and provide information.

For those wishing to purchase our new 2016 Guide, please go to our online store to order your copy in book, CD or PDF Formats at

Please feel free to let us know if there is additional information you would like us to add to our next book..........

Our thanks go out to all who participated in our 2016 Guide and to those of you who use it and refer others to it.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Holiday Caregivers

Being a caregiver to an elderly relative is both challenging and rewarding. This role can take a physical and mental toll on the person who has taken it on, adding to their many existing responsibilities of work and family life. This time of year can create additional stress for caregivers as one also attempts to plan for the holidays, entertain, shop etc. While we have written previous blogs on caregiving in our pages, for our last blog of 2015, I thought it might be helpful to share some thoughts on how to reduce one's stress as a caregiver during the holiday season.

Communicate - always an important aspect of caregiving and stress management, communicating with your loved ones and support network is critical. People cannot be expected to 'guess' what you need and what you are feeling. Often just sharing your concerns and thoughts will result in tremendous support for both you and the person you are caring for.

ASK FOR HELP - part of communicating is knowing when you need help and not being afraid to ask for it.

Share Responsibilities - when possible, delegate and share responsibilities that are weighing heavily on you. Caregiving is much easier when its a 'team effort'. There are often many people willing and able to help out - if you only let them know what you need.

Prioritize/Be Realistic - part of coping with significant responsibility is knowing what is important and necessary and recognizing what you can let go of. Sometimes this means changing the way you do things and other times it may mean letting others know your limitations. Taking on too much will only result in you feeling overwhelmed and sometimes in  physical or mental health issues. Instead of a happy holiday, you may indeed end up with quite an unhappy one. It is far better to do less and stay healthy, than do more and become unhealthy. In our world of unnecessary excess, simplifying your celebrations and just taking the time to relish the pleasures derived from sharing time with family & friends may be a wonderful change and the start of a new holiday tradition for you and your family.

Give yourself permission to feel - the holidays are often an emotional time for people, filled with memories of years gone by. As one's situation changes, and losses occur, you are bound to experience a wave of very normal emotions. It is completely okay to feel them and to share them with others.

Balance - the stress of caring for someone else can be diminished if you are able to ensure a balance in your life. do things for yourself every day: eat properly, exercise, sleep and take breaks when you need them. Don't neglect your own health - if you aren't feeling well, make the time to seek medical attention. Don't allow pressure from others or feelings of guilt to force you into doing something that you are not comfortable with. It is really okay to say 'no' if you can't or don't want to do something.

Whatever you do and however you do it, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all of our followers!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Forget me not

Our regular followers will know that Alzheimer's is a subject I have written about several times and one that I have had some personal experience with as I had a grandmother whose decline from the disease, I witnessed first-hand. It's a sad disease on many fronts, but I think hardest for the family is seeing a person who they recognize but who bears no resemblance to the person they once knew. Harder still is the moment you realize that the person who has known you for your entire life, no longer recognizes you.

Almost daily, we read in the news about the 'silver tsunami' we will experience in the not too distant future and often, we read of predictions of the number of people who will succumb to dementia in the coming years. We can only hope that in rapid progress will be made in terms of treatment, maintenance and care of those who are unfortunate enough to develop a disease that robs them of their mind, spirit and the very essence of who they are. 

It is not often that I post other people's work but, I came across a poem the other day that reminded me of my grandmother and all of the other seniors and their families that I have known over the years shared similar stories. Given our followers and the forum that this blog is, I decided it would be something worth sharing with all of you. My thanks to Joann Snow Duncanson who so eloquently has been able to say what so many families feel.

Two Mothers Remembered
by Joann Snow Duncanson
I had two Mothers – two Mothers I claim
Two different people, yet with the same name.
Two separate women, diverse by design,
But I loved them both because they were mine.
The first was the Mother who carried me here,
Gave birth and nurtured and launched my career.
She was the one whose features I bear,
Complete with the facial expressions I wear.
She gave me her love, which follows me yet,
Along with the examples in life that she set.
As I got older, she somehow younger grew,
And we’d laugh as just Mothers and daughters should do.
But then came the time that her mind clouded so,
And I sensed that the Mother I knew would soon go.
So quickly she changed and turned into the other,
A stranger who dressed in the clothes of my Mother.
Oh, she looked the same, at least at arm’s length,
But now she was the child and I was her strength.
We’d come full circle, we women three,
My Mother the first, the second and me.
And if my own children should come to a day,
When a new Mother comes and the old goes away,
I’d ask of them nothing that I didn’t do.
Love both of your Mothers as both have loved you.