10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

Memory loss that disrupts everyday life is not part of the normal aging process. It is a symptom of dementia, a gradual and progressive decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a disorder that results in the loss of brain cells.The Alzheimer Society, a national leader in the fight against Alzheimer’s, believes that it is critical for people with dementia and their families to receive information as early as possible. To help family members and health care professionals recognize warning signs, here is a checklist of the top 10 common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease that the Society has developed.

1. Memory Loss

One of the most common early signs of dementia is forgetting recently learned information. While it is normal to forget appointments, names, or telephone numbers, those with dementia will forget such things more often and not remember them later.

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks

People with dementia often find it hard to complete everyday tasks that are so familiar we usually do not think about how to do them. A person with Alzheimer’s may not know the steps for preparing a meal, using a household appliance, or participating in a lifelong hobby.

3. Problems with language

Everyone has trouble finding the right words sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer’s disease often forgets simple words, making his or her speech or writing hard to understand. If a person with Alzheimer’s is unable to find his or her toothbrush, for example, the individual may ask for “that thing for my mouth.”

4. Disorientation to time and place.

It’s normal to forget the day of the week or where you’re going. But people with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost on their own street, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home.

5. Poor or decreased judgment.

No one has perfect judgment all the time. Those with Alzheimer’s may dress without regard to the weather, wearing several shirts or blouses on a warm day or very little clothing in cold weather. Individuals with dementia often show poor judgment about money, giving away large amounts of money to Telemarketers or paying for home repairs or products they don’t need.

6. Problems with abstract thinking.

Balancing a checkbook may be hard when the task is more complicated than usual. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease could forget completely what the numbers are and what needs to be done with them.

7. Misplacing things.

Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or key. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer, a wristwatch in the sugar bowl, or a sandwich under the sofa.

8. Changes in mood or behavior.

Everyone can become sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease can show rapid mood swings, from calm to tears to anger, for no apparent reason.

9. Changes in personality.

People’s personalities ordinarily change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can change a lot, becoming extremely confused, suspicious, fearful, or dependent on a family member.

10. Loss of initiative.

It’s normal to tire of housework, business activities, or social obligations at times. The person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, sitting in front of the television for hours, sleeping more than usual, or not wanting to do usual activities.


Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care


How PSW Certified Caregivers Help Seniors Maintain Independence

PSW Certified Caregivers

Elderly care recipients and their families who are seeking home care assistance are often told to make sure that the home care they receive is provided by skilled and experienced Personal Support Workers. Premium home care agencies demand high standards from their personnel. This means that employees should:

  • Provide recent police checks.
  • Provide references, to be checked thoroughly by the home care agency.
  • Be adequately insured for liability and dishonesty.
  • Be fully insured and covered under the Workers’ Compensation Board, with a valid Workers Compensation Clearance Certificate.
  • Have graduated from a Personal Support Worker training course at a reputable community college.

This last qualification is important, as it indicates that your caregiver has been through rigorous training. Students in PSW courses learn the full range of skills required to assist people with their personal and household needs so as to ensure their comfort and safety. These programs focus on the skills and abilities needed to create a climate that promotes the optimal physical, social, and emotional wellbeing of clients. Subjects studied by individuals enrolled in college PSW courses include Anatomy, Communication Skills, Nutrition, and Providing Optimal Care and Support. These courses must include all types of learning opportunities, such as lectures, labs, and practicums.

By employing a home care agency that hires only caregivers who have PSW certification, you are far more likely to receive excellent care.

What Services Do PSWs Provide?

There are four major areas where a PSW can provide support. These are:

  • Personal Hygiene. A senior may need assistance with bathing, toileting, dressing, or grooming. A PSW is trained to provide this help efficiently and professionally. These workers are familiar with various types of home healthcare equipment such as commodes, wheelchairs, walkers, and respirators.
  • Medical. Under the supervision of an RN, a PSW can help to organize and administer medications. They can monitor blood sugar, blood pressure, or other vital signs. PSWs can help clients with compression stockings, ostomy bags, hearing aids, catheters, and other appliances. They can provide basic wound care as well as other medical care. PSWs can often help the client with physical therapy that has been prescribed by a physiotherapist. A PSW can drive and accompany their elderly care client to medical appointments. PSWs are also trained to assess clients and alert family or medical professionals to problems or potential issues.
  • Housekeeping. Seniors may have difficulty maintaining a clean home. PSWs are able to do light housekeeping such as dishes, vacuuming, bed-making, and laundry. A PSW can also cook simple, nutritious meals for clients. Often times, seniors are unable or unwilling to cook balanced meals for themselves, and a PSW can make meals for eating fresh, or for storing in the freezer.
  • Companionship. A caregiver can help an isolated senior to feel less lonely. Caregivers often provide conversation, or engage in activities such as crafts and hobbies, card games, or reading aloud from newspapers or books. A PSW can also take the senior on excursions that can include church, shopping, bingo, or other social activities.
Keeping Seniors Independent

PSW certified caregivers can help you or your family member maintain independence and live life to the fullest. Contact a premium home care agency today and learn more about engaging the services of a PSW.


Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care


Retirement Home Care in Toronto

In the Greater Toronto Area, many seniors engage the services of a Personal Support Worker (PSW). Most of these workers support the home care health needs, personal needs, and household needs of people who wish to remain as independent as possible in their own homes. Over time, many clients and caregivers develop excellent working relationships, with the PSW becoming familiar with what the client needs and how he/she prefers it to be done in a home care situation. If a family member has ever had the support of a caregiver, you know how valuable this type of relationship can be.

In some cases, a senior’s family decides that his or her needs are such that they can best be met by moving to a retirement home. But these families may not be aware that many retirement home residents also engage the services of a PSW from outside agencies.

The Best of Care

There are many reasons why your family member can benefit from having a PSW work for you in the retirement home. Here are some of them:

  • Personalized service. While nursing home staff may be excellent, they have a number of clients to look after. A dedicated PSW from an outside agency can become very familiar with what is required and provide your family member with individualized service.
  • Constant monitoring. With a PSW dedicated to your family member, you can be sure that assistance is available at all times. If he or she needs help to get to the washroom, for example, it can be difficult to depend on retirement home staff who may be busy with another resident’s needs. Your PSW will be available when you need them. As well, if your family member has complex medical needs, it provides peace of mind to know that someone who understands these needs will be attending to them constantly.
  • Observations. Recent news stories have highlighted neglect and abuse in some Ontario retirement homes. Having an independent PSW on site can provide your family with an objective pair of eyes. If your loved one is not receiving the care he/she should be, the PSW will be able to make family members aware of this.
  • Comfort. Seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia can become easily confused, agitated, or upset. Having a familiar face nearby can help to keep him/her calm. Similarly, if your family member’s first language or culture is important to them, it may be hugely beneficial for you to engage a caregiver who shares that mother tongue and culture. If your family member already has a relationship with a PSW, it’s possible he/she may be allowed to continue to work in the retirement home.
  • Companionship. There are many times of the day in retirement homes when there may be little for residents to do. Having a dedicated PSW means that your loved one always has someone that they can talk to, go for a walk or simply play cards.
Premium Care-giving

If you think your family member could benefit from having a dedicated PSW to attend to him/her at a retirement home, call a premium home care agency today. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that your loved one is well cared for is invaluable.

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

Senior Care for Alzheimer’s Patients

Senior Care for Alzheimer’s Patients

If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you may be feeling devastated and overwhelmed. Alzheimer’s can be difficult to deal with, causing personality changes and robbing the patient of cherished memories. But with the proper support your family can remain strong, while providing care, comfort, and love to the person with dementia.

First, while you may be tempted to take on all caregiver duties for your loved one. This is generally not a good idea. By immersing yourself in caregiving, you upset the natural balance of your relationship with the person who has Alzheimer’s. You also run the risk of exhaustion, and of making yourself ill.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, so it’s best to begin by taking small steps to get the help you need. Keep in mind that your family’s needs will evolve, so regular re-evaluation will be necessary.

Hiring a Personal Support Worker

First, find an agency that provides skilled and experienced personal support workers or PSWs. By engaging a PSW shortly after diagnosis, your loved one will have an opportunity to bond with him or her, and your caregiver will have a chance to get to know your family member.

A PSW can augment the care you or other family members provide. You could, for example, book a PSW for a few hours each day. This will give you a chance to leave the house to socialize, shop, go for a walk, or do errands. During this time the PSW can attend to your loved one’s needs – such as bathing, or grooming – or he/she can do household chores or cook nutritious meals. A PSW can even take the client out to an adult day centre or to medical appointments.

Some of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Memory loss and confusion
  • Anger and aggression
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Depression
  • Repetition
  • Sleep issues and “sundowning”
  • Wandering
  • Delusions or hallucinations

It can be difficult for family members not to react emotionally when dealing with some of these symptoms. However, trained personal support workers who have experience with home care and dementia patients know a number of strategies to cope with these manifestations of the disease.

As time goes on, you may find that you need more help. Many home care agencies provide PSWs that will spend the night, allowing you to get enough rest, and some even provide live-in caregivers. As well, should your loved one move to a retirement home, a dedicated PSW can work for him or her there.

Getting the Help You Need

Working with a top-notch home care agency can ensure that your loved one receives the type of care he or she deserves. Choose a home care agency that has high standards for hiring workers. PSWs should have:

  • A certificate from a PSW training course from a recognized college.
  • A recent police check on file.
  • Experience with dementia patients.
  • References from previous jobs.
  • Sufficient liability and dishonesty insurance.
  • A valid Workers Compensation Clearance Certificate.

Contact a home care provider today and get the help you need to care for your family member.

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

Senior Home Care: What To Look For

Senior Home Care

Access to home care varies greatly throughout Canada. Many rural communities have little or no access to services, while cities may have a large range of choices available. The Greater Toronto Area is one of the best-served regions of the country, with virtually every type of personal home care – including first rate senior home care – available at all times.

However, it’s important to research your home care options carefully. Some home care agencies provide only limited types of services, or can only offer a few hours of assistance per week. If you are dependent on government funding, you may only be eligible to engage caregivers from certain agencies. (More information about funding can be found on government websites, such as this Ontario Ministry of Health site.)

However, if you are able to choose a top-notch agency to provide your home care, you’ll have a wide range of services and times available to you. Premier agencies also provide benefits like choice, 24/7 availability, and certified personnel.

Assessing Your Needs

The first step is to evaluate your own home care needs. Bear in mind that the goal of home care is to help seniors remain as independent as possible. Perhaps very little assistance is needed – a ride to the grocery store once a week, for example, or help getting to medical appointments. Or maybe the care recipient is experiencing difficulty with daily tasks such as bathing and grooming. In these cases, you could hire someone on a regular but limited basis. A few hours one day a week in the first instance, and a daily morning visit in the second case would be sufficient.
On the other hand, it may be that you have been recently released from hospital and are recovering from an illness or operation. In this case you might need round-the-clock home care for a short period of time that tapers off as you get well.

Or, you could be experiencing progression of a debilitating condition, in which case you might want a substantial amount of help that evolves to live-in support as your condition changes.

Finding the Right Care

Good home care agencies will send a registered nurse to perform an initial assessment of their own, and may offer suggestions that will work for you. While some agencies send caregivers from their roster on a rotating basis (as they are available), better agencies provide you with one primary caregiver. Premium agencies will try to match you with a PSW who shares your mother tongue, culture, values, hobbies, or interests. Some home care agencies will send several candidates and allow you to make the final choice and will employ a Registered Nurse as an advisor and supervisor.

When interviewing agencies, make sure the one you choose has a rigorous employee screening process (including police checks and reference checks). Your caregiver should have PSW training and a certificate from a recognized college, general insurance, and coverage under Worker’s Compensation.

Look for flexibility and accountability in the agency’s policies, with regularly scheduled “check-ins” to make sure you are receiving the service you deserve.

A little support from a PSW can help you retain your independence and self-esteem. Contact a premium Living Assistance Agency in your area today and learn more about how home care can add to your quality of life!

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

How to cope with your aging parents

Reassure Your Parents.

Let them know that you are supporting them and can be depended upon to help solve their problems. Emphasize family bonds.

Educate Yourself.

You, and your parents if possible, need to become information specialists in areas relevant to their changing situation.

Legal matters, including wills, property ownership and powers of attorney.
Financial arrangements.
Healthcare resources and home support services.
Housing and recreation resources.
Current knowledge on the aging process.

Take Stock.

As health and living problems arise, obtain an assessment of your parent’s challenges and needs. Such an assessment would best be organized through a Case Manager and could include a physician, nurse, social worker and/or other professional. A lawyer and financial advisor may also be helpful in some instances.

Help Parents Retain Control.

Respect your parents need to make their own decisions and remain in control of their lives.

Share The Work.

Don’t try to do everything yourself. Share the emotional and physical responsibilities among family, friends, personal support workers, and other health care professionals.

Think Creatively.

Brainstorm with family and friends about ways to help older family members maintain independence, continue interests on some level, and have as much decision making opportunity as possible.

Make Small Changes.

Opt for the smallest change possible at each step. Don’t be overwhelmed by the complete care that may be necessary in 5 years when partial help may be all that is required right now.

Get Counseling.

Obtain professional counseling if the situation and the relationship with an elderly parent become overwhelming.

Respect Your Own Needs.

Be honest with your parents about your time and energy limits. Make them aware of the necessity for your recreation and pursuit of interests.


Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

Discussing Home Care with Your Loved One

Here are three questions for you to consider…

  1. How do you help your elderly loved one get past family customs and cultural beliefs, to accept assistance in their homes?

  2. How do you tell your loved one that you and your siblings are concerned about them living alone at home?

  3. How do you help them keep their independence without appearing to be interfering in their lives or making decisions for them?

These are issues that will not go away with time. To the contrary, everyone involved should be proactive about such complicated topics. With advance planning, and open and frank discussions within the family, the problem-solving process can work quite well. However, it will take some concerted effort on the part of you, your siblings, and your loved one.

The first thing to recognize is that many of the conversations you will be having on your loved one’s behalf could be emotionally laden and should be handled with care.

Some issues to consider when having conversations that are focused on helping your loved one decide whether or not to use home care:
  • Ensure your loved one is completely focused and involved in all discussions, (assuming their mental capabilities are up to the task).
  • Voice your opinions using “I” statements.
  • Have a clear topic for every discussion.
  • Be assertive about your thoughts.
  • Be respectful of others’ opinions (especially your loved one’s).
  • Realize it may take some time and several conversations to come to a consensus.
  • Don’t blame others or use “You” statements.
  • Don’t try to accomplish too much in one conversation.
  • Don’t expect that it will be easy.

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

Fear, Loathing Stalk Health-Care Reform – Toronto Star

Behind closed doors at Queen’s Park, Health Minister Eric Hoskins and a team of senior bureaucrats are preparing to unveil a massive reform of the health-care system that will impact the lives of every single resident in Ontario.

But Hoskins is running into a wall of opposition and criticism from vested interests in the system as he tries to push ahead with the most significant health-care reform in 50 years in Ontario.

At the same time, a pervasive sense of fear has dominated the closed-door talks that Hoskins has been holding in recent weeks with health-care leaders — a fear that prevents many participants from speaking their minds openly lest they face reprisals from agencies they rely on for funding.

These issues are so prominent that they threaten to delay Hoskins’ proposals — or even derail the entire process.

This is important because Hoskins, who deserves praise for trying to clean up the mess in the health-care system, especially in the home-care sector, needs to win wide support for his proposals if they are to have any chance of success.

The reform package, expected to be presented to cabinet in April and then tabled in the legislature in May, is intended to improve dramatically how patients are handled from the moment they first need treatment until the day they no longer require services at home or in their community.

At the heart of the reform package is a dramatic reorganization of the home-care system.

The reforms come in the wake of a series of damning reports that showed the current system of home and community care is a disaster, with bosses at Community Care Access Centres (CCAC), which co-ordinate home care, receiving whopping pay raises and working in lavish offices while front-line health workers saw their wages frozen for 10 years and thousands of patients received inadequate or no care at all.

Hoskins is proposing to scrap the 14 bureaucracy-laden CCACs and to shift much of their work to the province’s 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), with the goal of saving more than $200 million and directing the savings to much-needed front-line services.

Over the past two months, Hoskins and his ministry have staged a series of “stakeholder engagement” meetings with hundreds of senior health-sector professionals. He had hoped these sessions would provide an opportunity to receive fair and honest feedback on the reform package.

Too often, though, the outside professionals have been holding back on their opinions, feeling it is too risky for them to stand up and speak out against the LHINs, who they rely on for money, or the health ministry itself.

This issue became apparent during a survey of senior health professionals released last week by Ted Ball, a respected health transformation analyst who has worked in the field for some 40 years.

Ball found that many of those who answered the survey said they did not feel “safe” speaking truth to their LHIN funder and to the health ministry officials.

Said one CEO, “The focused questions at these consultations were about implementation issues, so I was not going to put my organization at risk and stand up and tell the LHIN and [health ministry] officials that their plan to increase their micromanagement of the delivery system was a bad idea.”

Indeed, 69 per cent of the nearly 200 top officials answering the survey said they had little or no confidence in the consultation process. Some 61 per cent said they had little confidence in the LHINs’ ability to undertake the expanded role and nearly 60 per cent lacked confidence in the health ministry’s ability to manage the LHINs.

The three words most used to describe the LHINs were “inefficient,” “inexperienced,” and “bureaucratic.”

Three words used often to describe the health ministry were “controlling,” “insular” and “bullying.”

Hoskins knows the path forward in the next few months will be difficult.

He must win over the people who feel threatened, assuring them that their voices really do count. But it won’t be possible if only the bean-counters at Queen’s Park and the vested interests in the CCACs or big institutions are allowed to get their way at the expense of the needs and wisdom of patients, front-line workers and primary-care agencies.

Only by working together can our health-care system be fixed — and the fear and loathing finally come to an end.

Toronto Star
Posted by Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

It’s a Family Affair: How to Deal with Resistance from a Loved One

A Family Meeting

Arranging a family meeting can be a great opportunity to have a discussion about the care your loved one should be receiving, (or wants to receive). It may seem obvious, but remember that he/she is the one who will be making the necessary choices about how to live their life, not you or another family member, (unless, of course, there is a very serious health concern and your loved one is being quite unreasonable and is disregarding this health concern). Your loved one should always be at the centre of every discussion. If you do not involve your loved one, it may be more difficult to find solutions that are acceptable. You may find that your loved one (and possibly other family members) show signs of resisting a family meeting. If so, and it becomes very clear they would like to put off discussing the issues involved for a while, don’t push them into having a meeting.

Realize that they may need some time to prepare for such a discussion. Approach them a week or two later and make the suggestion again if they continue to resist, be a bit more assertive, make sure that they understand that you (and your family) want this meeting because you care about them and are concerned about their well being.
A family meeting demonstrates care and concern on the part of the family, and this how of concern alone may be enough to convince your loved one that they should consider some form of home care before their health deteriorates further.

Some suggested ways of dealing with resistance are:
  • If your loved one’s health and/or safety are at issue, say so, and push the discussion forward.
  • Involve others, such as, physicians, a social worker, or a case manager.
  • Use community resources to help everyone ease into the ‘care at home’ process. Meals on Wheels or a no- obligation consultation with our agency, are some examples.

Make sure you have focused on what your loved one feels are their issues, not just what others in the family think are the concerns. Your loved one will be much more accepting of your point of view and wishes if they can relate them to their own situation.

It is often wise for family members to discuss the issues among themselves before having a family meeting with their loved one. This will give family members an opportunity to organize their thoughts and for the family to develop a strategy. A united front will help to show your loved one that all of you are concerned about the same issues. The statement “strength in numbers” certainly does apply here.

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

Talking With Older Drivers

The growing number of older drivers and today’s driving complexities has increased the concern expressed by many family members and friends about the safety of a loved one. These decisions about driving are difficult for older individuals to make on their own. This guide is to initiate the conversation and assist you when the time is right to discuss driving and your elderly relative, loved one or friend.
More information is available at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation website: www.mto.gov.on.ca

Questions & Answers

What can I, as a family member or friend, do if I am concerned about the driving ability & safety of someone older who continues to drive?

Firstly, recognize that driving is very important as it is often our primary means of getting around.
Secondly, if there are other family members or friends available, communicate with them to see if they have made some of the same observations and discuss how you may be able to help the driver.

What can family members and friends do when a driver continues to drive against the advice of their doctor and others?

It is best to maintain a sense of trust in your relationship, being honest and persistent. Encourage your loved one to make a decision or reduce or stop driving as appropriate. Be aware that seniors who lose the privilege of driving often feel lonely or anxious because they have fewer opportunities to be with friends or involved in activities. If your loved one will not listen to reason you may want to discuss the problem with his/her doctor to find out if there are any medical reasons that should be reported.

If an older driver stops driving, what alternative means are available?

Most areas in the city have subsidized alternative transportation services, (if you qualify), such as the TTC’s Wheel Trans. Our agency can also arrange for transportation or simply check your Yellow Pages telephone book for alternatives. Be sensitive to the older person’s feelings. Expect some emotional reactions and do what you can do to help them through this trying time.

The Warning Signs

COGNITIVE Reaction time is one of the most crucial functions to safe driving. This slows with age but increasing distance between other cars and objects may help some older drivers.

VISION Good vision is essential to safe driving. An older person may notice difficulties focusing on objects and switching focus from near to far. The ability to see fine detail may diminish. Peripheral vision may also change with age. This is significant, since about 98% of what we see when we drive is seen first peripherally. Driving at night may become more difficult due to clarity and eyesight issues. As we get older, we need more light to see clearly. Approaching headlight glare may make it harder to adjust.

HEARING Some hearing loss is common among people age 65 and older. High pitched sounds may become less audible than low pitched sounds. This is important because horns, sirens and train whistles are high pitched. Studies show people who have hearing difficulties are more likely to be inattentive to their surroundings. Family and friends who suspect an older person doesn’t hear well should recommend a hearing exam and offer to go with the older person to get one.

The Bottom Line

It is important to understand that even after taking steps to correct diminished eyesight or hearing, and after successfully avoiding adverse reactions to medication, an older person still may not feel comfortable behind the wheel. Encourage the older person to discuss this with you, another family member, friend or doctor. As a family member or friend, you must be sensitive to this insecurity to effectively help your elder loved one.

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care