Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Innovation and Housing Options

An article on CBC news caught my eye the other day. A "young" senior couple have come up with a cohousing model for their retirement. Recognizing that while they are healthy now, things may change down the road, and aware of the existing options for seniors which they are not keen on, they have come up with their own model community to support them in their later years.
They want to buy a large house that can be divided into several apartments which will have shared space and private units. And, to ensure that everyone gets along, they are meeting and interviewing others who are interested in the idea. The plan is to get to know each other over time so they can be certain that the group will function well together.
While senior cohousing exists and is a relatively new concept in Canada, it is not available in many provinces. These innovative seniors have taken it a step further by wanting to create their own retirement living arrangements without the involvement of a third party which tends to be how most cohousing models are established. The article points to something that is a new idea for most, however in Scandinavian countries it is very well known and far more common a concept.
The phrase "necessity is the mother of invention" very much applies to this situation and I venture to guess that in the coming years, we will see more and more innovation in models for senior care and housing as people start to 'think outside the box' and plan for a retirement that will work for them both financially and socially.
Right now options for seniors who need care and need to relocate are limited to primarily retirement home and long-term care but there are those who may want or need something different to the typical. While there are several alternatives like condos for seniors, life lease structures and even some senior cooperatives, there is the scope for other models that will meet the changing needs of seniors and the approaching "silver tsunami". The people involved in this personal project are being proactive and clearly thinking ahead and it is people like them that will move us toward greater options for senior care in the future.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Fall and Winter Safety

The weather seems to have suddenly changed. Saying good-bye to the summer is always difficult but is one of the wonders of living in a place with 4 seasons.Seemingly out of nowhere the temperature drops and the leaves start falling. And so begins the time when we again need to be concerned about cold and flu season, dressing warmly and winter safety issues. For seniors, these concerns are amplified as recovering from an illness or fall may take far longer than for younger people. A woman I have come to know in a nearby retirement home who was spry and active, using only a cane on occasion, fell a couple of months ago, hurt her hip and now is using a walker. Having not seen her in a while I was reminded how we cannot take our health for granted and always need to be aware of everyday risks.

And so, looking ahead, I thought it might be helpful to talk a bit about winter safety for seniors. Cold and flu season is a worrisome time and so, prevention is key. Hand washing, lots of fluids, eating a healthy diet, dressing properly for the weather and getting medical attention as soon as one begins feeling ill are logical but often we dismiss any or all of the above until we become terribly sick.

Slips and falls outside in winter weather can happen easily and can be prevented or at least can be less risky if one makes sure that they only walk in areas that have been properly salted and cleared, wear no skid footwear, use a cane if they require it (with a proper tip for the weather), and don't take unnecessary chances.

For senior drivers, car accidents in the winter are common as well - winterize your car and avoid unsafe and icy roads. If you don't feel you are safe driving in certain weather, stay home or use another form of transportation. Don't take unnecessary risks especially in bad weather.

For those who spend a lot of time outdoors, hypothermia is often a concern. Wear warm clothing (including gloves, hat and scarf), stay inside if it's cold or windy and keep your home at a comfortable temperature.

In the home, home heating safety can be an issue. Invest in a carbon monoxide detector, ensure your furnace is serviced and working properly, ensure smoke detectors are working and be very careful if you are using a space heater.

Most importantly though, seniors should be aware of their own limitations and not afraid to ask for help.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Aging in Place

It seems of late, I have been hearing a lot about "Aging in Place". For those unfamiliar with the term, it generally refers to staying in the same place as your needs change and bringing in supports and services to help you manage in your chosen home. While in the past, this was something retirement homes offered, it seems more and more we are hearing this term referred to for those wishing to stay in their private residence as they age.

While staying in one's own home is something most assume (I don't know anyone who talks about a future in a nursing home), it is something that needs to be planned for. Clearly, no one knows what their future holds but there are ways in which one can ensure that they can stay in their home for as long as possible.

Of course, finances are probably the biggest issue. Depending on the type of home you are in, beyond being able to cover the costs of residing in your home, in order to stay there as you age, one might need to renovate, or spend money on care. That being said, if this is the goal, then it may make sense to downsize in retirement to a single level home and one that does not require much maintenance. The type of home you are in can impact your ability to stay independent in your later years.One would need to consider the kind of modifications your home would require as you age and if you will have available funds to pay someone to help maintain your home and provide services to you if you require them.

For those who live in a small community, you may wish to consider/investigate the type of resources or supports in your area for seniors who require help. While your community may meet your needs when you are young, it may not be 'age friendly' for seniors requiring help.

Do keep in mind, that despite one's desire to age in place in their own home, for some this is simply not possible regardless of how much planning one does. As well, sometimes even if you are able to manage in your own home with supports an alternative like a retirement home is more feasible. On a regular basis I witness how retirement homes keep people healthy and engaged through social stimulation, good care and proper nutrition. Many who live in a supportive setting do far better than they would have done living in their own home with supports.

For more information on Aging in Place visit

Friday, 2 September 2016

Home Help

In recent years there seems to be an increasing number of companies who provide care to seniors in their own homes. For those who don't qualify for CCAC services, or for those who need more than what CCAC can provide and wish to stay in their own homes for as long as possible, this is often a very viable option (as long as it is affordable). However, as with any service geared to a vulnerable population, be it children or seniors, it is always best to take a 'buyer beware' attitude. While the large majority of companies are wonderful, well-meaning and caring organizations, there is always the possibility that a company you hire, may not be as reliable as one would expect. To this end, there are several questions one might want to ask before hiring a company to provide care for your loved one in their home. It is always smart to interview care providers before you commit to hiring them and always best to contact a few companies so you can compare what each offers.
Suggested questions include:
1. How long have they been in business?
2. Do they have any kind of accreditation (if they do, investigate them with the accrediting body)?
3. What services do the offer?
4. What qualifications do their employees have?
5. How do they screen employees (back ground checks, vulnerable person screening etc.)?
6. Do they provide extra training to their employees? If so, what kind of training?
7. How do they monitor their staff and track hours?
8. Are they licensed, insured and bonded? Is there agency liability coverage?
9. How do they share information between staff?
10. Do supervisors do surprise visits?
11. Can you interview the caregiver/s before hiring them?
12. Do the same staff visit each time?
13, What is the cost of service? Is there a minimum number of hours? How often are fees increased?
14. What emergency procedures are in place? (feel free to create scenarios of what situations you would consider an emergency)
15. Is there a contract you must sign (ask to see a copy in advance of hiring them)?
16. Can they provide references for their agency and the specific caregivers you would be using?

These are just a few questions to consider. Spend some time thinking about additional things you would like to know before making your calls. As well, you might want to speak with others who have been through this process to find out what things are important to them and what they found helpful or problematic when they hired private help. Its always best if you are prepared and do your research before a crisis hits. 

Friday, 19 August 2016

Living with Family

While it is no longer the 'norm' for children to move their elderly loved ones into there homes for a host of reasons, there are still times when families do consider this as an option when living alone is no longer possible. It is wonderful to have a family that is willing to consider this however, there are a host of factors that need to be taken into account and addressed before finalizing any plans in order to ensure the best possible outcome. It's important to keep in mind the relationship one had and continues to have with the person, any unresolved issues, care needs, home accessibility and a host of other things. Consideration needs to be given to how how a move such as this will impact the senior, family members living in the home, yourself and any extended family.  

Questions to consider include: How will the senior cope living with others especially if there are children in the home with various schedules, activity and needs? Will living in your home impact their privacy and independence? Are you close to their current social network so they can still visit with friends? How demanding is the senior? Will other family members be required to provide care? How will moving the senior into your home impact your job and/or your relationship with your spouse/children? Are there services in your community that can assist with any care if it is required now or in the future? Can you afford the extra person? Will they contribute money? If they do, will this create problems with other family members?

Inter-generational families living under one roof can be extremely rewarding for all family members involved however, for some families adding additional people to your nuclear family can be stressful and can create problems. For those struggling with a decision such as this, do keep in mind that caregiving can be difficult for even the most cohesive of families and if for whatever reason it is not feasible to move your elderly relative into your home, it's important to recognize that sometimes the best decision for all involved might be to let others provide care - even if it means relocating the person to a seniors home of some sort. It cannot and should not be viewed as any sort of failure or as a reflection of how one feels about the person. Sometimes, it is clearly the best move for everyone.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Knowing when its time

People often ask me how they will know when it's time to start thinking about relocation. How do you know when it's time to downsize or consider a retirement home? For some, it's an easy decision and one based on health, lifestyle or even financial issues. For others, it is less clear. To this end, you might want to consider the following sorts of things:
1. Are there stairs in your house and if so, are you having difficulty with them?
2. Do you need help with household tasks, maintenance issues, cooking, shopping or any personal care?
3. Are there people that can help you with things you cannot do for yourself?
4. If you do not have people who can help, would you be willing to hire someone?
5. How do you get around and is this starting to be difficult for you? (driving, public transit, taxi)
6. Are you close to important amenities (doctor, dentist, store etc.)? 
7. Do you use any assistive devices?
8. Do you have safety or health concerns?
9. Do you feel isolated?
10. Do you get out regularly or are you in your home all the time?
11. Do you have a support network of friends and family nearby?
12. Has your family indicated any concerns about your living situation?

These questions can serve as a guide to help you determine if it's time to downsize or obtain support in the home you are currently in. While a few minor issues may not be problematic, some larger ones may suggest a need to begin considering resources and perhaps researching options to downsize with or without care services. it is far better to do your research and start discussing options with your family before you actually need the help and most certainly before crisis hits and available options become limited.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Emergency Visits

When was the last time you went to the Emergency Department of your local hospital? We all know that going to the hospital in an emergency can involve many hours waiting, and be tremendously stressful for all involved. Now imagine being elderly, perhaps with some cognitive issues, and some physical limitations and disabilities. There may be no one you know with you when you are taken there. How much more difficult is a trip to the emerg. for them?

While trips to the emergency room may be unavoidable, coping and managing the stress involved comes down to being prepared. For many years now, I have talked to people about creating an 'Emergency File' of important documents that contains any necessary information for someone to access if you are incapacitated; in recent years I have included lists in our annual book of what should be included in that file (see the article How Important are your Documents? at or for more details you may download the Emergency File Document from our site's online store at

In addition to an Emergency File, it might be wise to create a one page document that can be taken to doctors appointments or on trips to the emergency room so you aren't scrambling to collect things when time may be of the essence. Consider, what a doctor needs to know in an emergency? Medical conditions, drugs/dosages, allergies, contact numbers of physicians, recent tests and results, health card and  insurance information and power of attorney info (if you are someone's POA for personal care, you should have it with you in case you are asked to present it). Because things may change frequently, this list should be updated regularly.

 If you are taking a senior to an Emergency Department or going with them, make sure they have any assistive devices they may require - glasses, dentures, hearing aids, walkers etc. are imperative - do keep in mind though that you don't want them to get lost in the shuffle so ensure that they stay with the person through their hospitalization or if they are admitted, label whatever you can or take home what they don't need for the moment. And for you as the caregiver, make sure you take what you need - money, food, your cell phone and a charger, phone numbers of important friends and family - you may have a long wait so it's important to have anything you might require with you.