Friday, 19 May 2017

The Cost of Care

A recent study by CIBC has found that caring for aging relatives in Canada costs billions - actually $33 billion annually - between personal expenses and time off work (either in the form of unpaid leave or paid vacation). It is projected that that figure will increase significantly in the next 10 years as the number of seniors grows.
Added to this is the physical and emotional toll of caregiving that you cannot put a price tag on. So, while caregiving for a loved one can be very rewarding, one must also keep in mind the harder aspects of this very necessary and important role.
While there is no easy solution to the financial cost of care beyond government funding and devising innovative ways to care for seniors in communities (which is something that will likely take years and many dollars to figure out), there are ways to reduce the physical and mental toll caring for someone else can cause.
It is of paramount importance that caregivers take the time to 'care' for themselves. Seek out support, and assistance to allow yourself time to meet your own needs. Don't be afraid to ask for help and accept it when it is offered. It is always beneficial if there is someone you can share responsibilities and decision making with.
Communicate openly with medical personnel, family, friends and employers. Find out about any available support groups or Employee Assistance Programs you may have access to. Educate yourself about the medical aspects and available resources - both paid and unpaid, available to your loved one. Do what you can to plan ahead in light of their medical issues and projected prognosis, if possible.
Stress management is important so take some time to understand the signs of stress, how your body reacts to it and what you need to do to relieve it. Keep in mind that while you may not be able to control a situation, you can control your reaction to it and how you deal with it. Ensure a balance in your life and prioritize tasks. Be realistic and don't allow others to guilt you into taking on more than you can cope with. It really is okay to say 'no'.
It is only if you care for yourself, that you can provide care to someone else.


Thursday, 4 May 2017

Seniors in the News

Seniors have been in the news this week a fair bit. Apparently the census results are in and Canada officially has more seniors than children. And the fastest growing age group are centenarians (those 100 and up). So we are living longer. Presumably we are living healthier. But, the older people get, the more likely they are to end up requiring care and ending up in a nursing home. As the number of seniors increase, so will our need for more organized and innovative care and housing.

Recent reports have alluded to the fact that our hospitals, with less beds than 2 decades ago, are over crowded with people waiting in hallways for beds in the acute care sections of the hospital. The Ontario government, in an attempt to ease this problem, is embarking on a pilot project with the retirement home sector to see if they can alleviate the overcrowding. They are testing a program of offering 'vouchers' for people to go to retirement homes  temporarily. The target group are those who are unable to return home directly because of incapacity/dependence and a need for either long-term care or home care. The cost of paying for a short term retirement stay for medically stable people, is far less than the cost of keeping them in an acute care bed. While the program is termed 'innovative' it is only meant as a short term measure until alternate arrangements like long-term care placement or returning home with assistance, can be arranged.

Using retirement homes for short term stays, is not new. However, it has been something out-of-reach to those on a limited basic pension. So, while it's a great step that the government is taking, utilizing the private sector for convalescent care, especially when it is far cheaper to house people in retirement homes than in acute care hospitals, this step will only solve a small piece of a much larger problem. There is a black hole out there that is only getting bigger. We have seniors who need retirement level care that they simply can't afford. Because retirement homes are private and cost more than basic government pensions, they are not accessible to everyone.  For those who need it but are on a limited income, they end up waiting until they are long-term care level often living in poor conditions and declining simply because they can't afford adequate help or support. In fact, if people go to a retirement home early enough, they may be able to completely avoid long-term care or at the very least defer it. With proper nutrition, medication monitoring and socialization, people do live healthier longer. And with the often long wait for long-term care homes, there are many waiting in hospitals or in their homes at a substantial expense to the government. It seems the the true 'solution' is to provide funding, subsidies or vouchers, on more than just a short-term temporary basis.

The writing is clearly on the wall - we have a few years to find better and more economical ways to care for our seniors. We may be heading on the right track but we still have a ways to go.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Downsizing Dilemma

A recent article in my local newspaper caught my eye - it spoke of the high number of 'unused bedrooms' which are contributing to the increased housing prices and lack of affordable housing for young people. As children grow up and leave home, couples are left with large homes that are quite empty. When faced with a choice of move or stay, many are opting to stay simply because the cost of moving is too great and the options are limited. For many, staying in their mortgage free home, is far cheaper than moving to a condo where expenses far exceed what they are currently paying to run a home. Most have their homes as their greatest asset for retirement and want to save the funds they have for their older years rather than deplete it on unnecessary living expenses. Additionally, the offerings that do exist are often too small for those moving from a house, to consider. Just as there are no inexpensive options for young people, the same is true for those at the other end of the age spectrum. And so, downsizing becomes something many choose not to consider until they are forced by circumstance.

Those living in smaller and more isolated communities face additional challenges as they age because of the lack of resources in many areas which they may not feel until they become less mobile. While living out of the city is attractive when one is young, independent and raising a family, it can be problematic as one ages. Older seniors who stay in their homes which are a distance from amenities like healthcare and shopping may become increasingly isolated and may have difficulty organizing adequate in home supports, as they age.

Housing options, affordability and, for seniors, resources and care are key issues many are faced with. It seems that we need to start looking for innovative housing options for both the young and old. Just as I worry that our young adults of today will never be able to afford to own a home, I am concerned that our seniors of tomorrow will find the cost of retirement living prohibitive and/or will not be able to afford the care they require. So many are already in this predicament; unless we make changes to the way housing and care are offered to our seniors, even less people will be able to cope with the challenges of aging they may someday face.

This is indeed a huge issue that will take years of planning and coordination to resolve, so where do we start?

There is a fair bit of research on Age-Friendly Communities that our policy makers may find helpful. As a start, a document produced by the World Health Organization summarizes the importance of including many parameters for the cities of tomorrow (http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/Global_age_friendly_cities_Guide_English.pdf ). As well, there are many interesting co-housing, care in place, and multi-generational models that work well in other countries. As with so many things, rather than 'reinventing the wheel', perhaps our best solution has already been discovered and we need to just look beyond our borders to explore innovative ideas and options that can help both young and old with their housing dilemmas.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Legacies

I have recently embarked on a project with my daughter. We have taken all our family's old photos that have until now sat in shoe boxes or ancient crumbling albums, scanned them, organized them and are creating a family album that spans 4 generations (thank you Shutterfly!). We are fortunate that my grandparents kept organized records in an ancient book that detailed births, deaths and marriages so we have some context to work within. It is beyond fascinating to wander through their lives through photos and dates and to create a family history for my children. I wish I had the foresight when my grandparents were alive to ask them more questions and have conversations with them about generations before them. There is a richness in learning one's family history and understanding how you got to where you are and how very fortunate you are that certain decisions were made well before you were born. I've often thought of the importance of legacies, of family histories or gifting future generations with things we have learned and how they got to where they are today.

I encourage all of you who read this to consider creating your own legacy to pass down to your families. Photos are wonderful but not everyone has the time or patience to pull it all together and with computers and video camera on every phone, there are other ways to save and transmit memories and history. If you have elder relatives sit down with them and ask them questions - I found a list online that is quite apropos so I'm going to include  a few of them them below but the full list of 20 questions can be found on https://www.agingcare.com/articles/questions-to-ask-elderly-parents-147907.htm if you are interested in expanding on these. Write down their answers or better yet, video tape them as they answer them. Ask them to show you photos of important people in their lives and consider scanning or photographing them so you can include them in your creation. It can be a wonderful bonding and special project for grandchildren to do with their grandparents or children to do with their parents.

If I had a chance to sit down with my grandparents now, these are  some the questions I would ask them.
Who is the person who influenced your life the most?
What was the happiest moment of your life?
What are you most proud of?
What are the most important lessons you've learned in life?
What was school like for you as a child? 
Do you remember any fads from your youth? 
What world events had the most impact on you?

(Questions from: https://www.agingcare.com/articles/questions-to-ask-elderly-parents-147907.htm)
What questions would you add to the list? What things would you like to know about the generations before you? And what do you want your children to know about you? 

Knowing where we came from, helps us to understand where we are today and where we want to go.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Inter-generational Relationships

I enjoy reading "Humans of New York" posts. It's an interesting concept - for those who aren't familiar with it, the author takes a photo of someone and publishes it online along with a quote from that person. Sometimes its about that moment in time, who they are pictured with, or something they are doing, other times its a life story, how they are feeling or an experience they had. It's always interesting and underlines both the unique nature and the common thread of humanity. Lately, the posts have been from people in Brazil.

I saw a post a couple of weeks back that has stayed with me - and one I wanted to share with our readers as it particularly relates to seniors and inter-generational relationships........
Above it is a photo of a young mother and her daughter and this is the quote:

“For Heloisa, every elderly person feels like a grandparent. And she loves her grandparents. So I asked her if she wanted to have her sixth birthday party at a home for the elderly. She loved the idea. So I contacted a local home and planned everything with the coordinator. We sent invitations to the family members of all the residents. I’m a photographer, so I went a few days early and took nice portraits of all the residents. On the day of the party, I printed out the photographs and brought them as gifts for their family members. We did games and activities. There was so much joy. Everyone had such big smiles. The residents were crying. Their families were crying. I was crying. I think Heloisa will remember the experience forever. Afterward, her school friends came home with us and we had an old-fashioned pajama party.” (São Paulo, Brazil) from: http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/157584321356/for-heloisa-every-elderly-person-feels-like-a

Firstly, what an amazing mother and child! Secondly, what a brilliant idea! It is no secret that children brighten the lives of adults and that children in a senior's home bring smiles and conversation to even the most stoic of person. On occasion I hear about inter-generational programs or young children visiting a senior's residence but something like this goes beyond that and is such a wonderful gift to give to both that child and those seniors. 

The post, brought a smile to my face - I hope it did the same for you.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Pitfalls to Avoid When Considering a Retirement Home - Guest Blog by Lianas Services

Every now and then we come across and article that we think our followers might be interested in.
This week we would like to share an article by Lianas Services. It has been reprinted with permission.

Whether you are considering a move into a retirement home or if you are part of the “Sandwich Generation” that is concerned about the health and well being of your parents, the thought process of potentially making the big move is very often emotional, overwhelming and confusing.
Here are some pitfalls to avoid when considering a move:
Waiting Too Long
It is only human nature to want to stay at home as long as possible.  However, you will be in a much better position to move into a retirement home when you are in control of the situation.  Be proactive instead of reactive.  Be aware of warning signs such as risks of slips and falls, mobility challenges, cognitive issues, safety and security, nutrition, loneliness and caregiver stress.  They tend to become more prevalent as one ages which increases the risk of creating a reactive scenario as opposed to the desired proactive option.  A frequent comment after a move-in is “I should have done this a long time ago”.
Rushing Into a Move
At the other end of the spectrum, you should try not to rush things if you have the luxury of time.  This can be an emotional, challenging time for families.  Try to plant seeds, do your research, take some tours and keep the lines of communication open with parents and family members.  Nobody likes surprises, and seniors, specifically, do not like to be rushed and would prefer to do things on their terms.
Geographic Convenience for Adult Children
Location is one of the most important features when deciding on a retirement home.  However, avoid the trap of choosing a residence solely based on geography.  The question needs to be “What is best for mom?” and not “What is best for me?”.  Important features such as proper care levels; staff-to-resident’s ratios; 24/7 nursing care; amenities; culinary options; environment; culture; safety and security all play an important role in the decision making process.
Finding the Ideal Retirement Home on Your Own
The search process is extremely time consuming.  In many cases, it can easily exceed 100 hours.  It can be confusing, stressful, emotional and overwhelming.  Talk to friends and other family members that have been through the process for guidance and support.  Do research on line.  For some, the easiest thing to do is to call a transition specialist.
In general, the thought of moving into a retirement home can be daunting.  However, with proper planning, guidance and support, the end result can be fulfilling and rewarding.  Many new residents will initially need some time to adjust but it is quite common to see significant benefits including an enhanced social life, improved nutrition levels, higher levels of care and a secure and safe environment.
Lianas provides families with knowledge, resources and services to assist seniors in transition. To find out more about Lianas Services visit lianasservices.com or call 1-877-450-3365.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Have you had an Essential Conversation™??

Have you 'had the talk' with your aging parents? If you are elderly, have you told your children your wishes if you are unable to make decisions in the future? Have you planned financially for your elder years? Do you have a Will? Do you have Powers of Attorney? If you are a business owner, do you have a plan for what you would like to do with your business when you retire or are unable to work any longer? Have you discussed they kind of care you want if you can't look after yourself in the future?

I attended an interesting meeting today that I thought would be something our followers might want to learn about especially if any of the above questions strike a chord.  Have you heard of The Essential Conversation Project®?

Born out of both professional and personal experiences of two social works with a tremendous passion for helping families with elder loved ones, this organization trains professionals to have the important and "essential conversations" with families to help them with decision making and planning issues around aging. At the same time the company builds partnerships with many different professionals to enable a network of helpers who can assist with any and all specialized issues for their clients and can connect their clients who need help, to an Essential Conversations Facilitator.

Over the many years I have worked with seniors, it is clear that there are certain topics that are much harder for some to broach with their families - topics around aging, care needs, legal and financial issues and death and dying are taboo in many families. And, often no one will even try to raise a concern until there is crisis. Often this limits options and, decision making may be pressured or, not in the best interest of the person involved. If conversations are had in advance of something bad happening it is so much easier for families to deal with the difficult decisions because they know what their loved one wants.

The concept of the The Essential Conversation Project® is simple at its core (in a nutshell, creating a community of helpers to support families dealing with aging issues) but also brilliant and much needed with our ever growing aging population. Sometimes having a neutral professional involved to help with the important conversations and connect you to helpful professionals who understand your situation and needs can make a world of difference.  Check out their website at www.essentialconversationsproject.com.