Do you practice mindful eating?

Research shows that we often eat more when we are presented with larger amounts of food. Over the past few decades, portion sizes have dramatically increased. Remember seven-ounce soda bottles? Those had 85 calories. Compare that to the 250 calories in the twenty-ounce bottles that are now available. Today’s muffins are so large they make muffins of years past look like mini-muffins.

Because eating can be an automatic behaviour, awareness of portion sizes – and calories – is the first step to making healthier food choices.

Looking for tips to making healthier food choices? Click here and read the full article on page 2 of our Caring Matters newsletter.


Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

How to have those difficult but necessary conversations

Few of us have given much thought to our parents’ aging and becoming dependent on us. It always seems to be something that will happen “someday,” far off in the future.

As adult children, many of us feel uncomfortable talking to our parents about their finances, estate plans and possible home care needs, as they transition into their later phase of life.

In addition, many parents do not initiate these conversations because they grew up in an era where their financial and medical information was considered private, even within families. Still, other parents don’t want to “burden” their children or admit that home care may be required.

Do you find yourself wondering how to initiate these conversations?

To learn how you can initiate these conversations easily and comfortably, make sure to read the full article When Roles Reverse on page 2, of our Caring Matters newsletter.

Let us know your comments below.


Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

Why You Need to Care for Yourself When You’re Caring for an Elderly Loved One

Caregiving or professional home care for a elderly loved one can be very stressful, particularly when the caregiver is also the spouse and emotions are involved.

Under healthy circumstances, spouses draw support from each other. When a spouse becomes the caregiver, not only do they lose the traditional help around the home, they also lose emotional support from their spouse. Many spousal caregivers feel utterly distressed because they feel the journey of caregiving is one that they must undertake alone.

Spousal caregivers often are more stressed than the spouse being cared for which can actually often result in the caregiver predeceasing the care recipient.

Family caregivers are so often consumed in the caring process that they often forget themselves. For the spousal caregiver, who may be a senior, there can be additional issues such as suffering from one or more chronic illness themselves.

It is therefore important to realize any signs of caregiver burnout before it occurs.

If you are caring for a spouse, have you noticed any of the following?

  • Feeling helpless and hopeless
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulties relaxing, even when help is available
  • Feeling depressed
  • Feeling increasingly resentful to the person you are caring for
  • Drinking, smoking or eating more
  • Cutting back on leisure activities
  • Having less energy than you once had
  • Constantly exhausted (even after sleeping or breaks)
  • Neglecting your own needs (too busy or you don’t care anymore)
  • Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction
  • Feeling tired and run down, even after taking breaks
  • Difficulty sleeping

Is one of your parents caring for a spouse? Are they exhibiting any of these signs?

  • Anxious & irritable
  • Overreacting to minor nuisances
  • New or worsening health problems
  • Weight Loss / Gain
  • Increase drinking or smoking
  • Decreased socializing
  • Changed household habits – signs of neglect, clutter, bills unpaid etc.
  • Changed Personal Habits – hair is undone, unkemptness etc.

A spousal caregiver who is not fully capable, mentally and physically, cannot properly care for their spouse. It is therefore critical that the caregiving spouse remains in the best health possible or that a home care agency is utilized, if only to provide respite for a family caregiver.

Take timeout for YOU!

Set aside 30 minutes every day for yourself. Do whatever you enjoy, whether it’s reading, gardening, tinkering in your workshop, knitting, playing with the dogs, going to the movies, walking, visiting friends or simply napping.

Get Social.

It is easy to let friendships and other social connections fade away as the responsibilities of caregiving become demanding. Don’t be afraid to talk about your new role as a caregiver. Seek out other caregivers; remember they are going through similar experiences and can likely share some insights to assist you in your role as caregiver. This also provides the care recipient with the opportunity to interact with other people while giving you a well-needed break to socialize, relax or just pamper yourself.

See your Doctor Regularly.

The stress of caregiving can take a toll resulting in illness and/or depression. When you visit your doctor ensure that you inform him/her that you are a caregiver. Make a list of any mental or physical changes that you have noticed about yourself since your last visit, including issues such as changes in sleeping and eating patterns.
When you’re stressed and tired, the last thing you feel like doing is exercising, but exercise is a powerful stress reliever and mood enhancer…even 30 minutes a day of moderate walking can be beneficial.

Eat Well.

You will need nutritious food like fresh fruit, vegetables and lean protein to effectively handle stress. Fast food including caffeine and sugar are easy but will also give you quick crashes and increase your irritability.

Don’t skimp on sleep.

When you skimp on sleep you become irritable, have little energy, and you are less able to cope with stress.

Pamper yourself.

Get yourself a manicure, have a bath, get a massage, buy yourself some flowers, go for a stroll in the park, read a book, take a well-needed nap. You may have to get respite care for your loved one whilst you engage in these activities, but it would be well worth it in the long run. Remember, you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.

Say YES to help!

Try to get as many family members involves as possible. Ask family members to assist with bills, errands, groceries, cutting the lawn, etc. Some of the other resources for help include adult day centers, home care services and assisted living facilities.


Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care


What You Should Look For When Choosing a Home Care Provider

Most home care organizations do their best to project a positive image to potential clients and will claim that they provide quality caregivers who are reliable and sensitive to your needs. The best way to ensure that you find the right match is to ask specific questions about how they operate.

Here is a checklist of what to look for and what to look out for.

Can You Choose Your Own Caregiver

We pride ourselves in being one of the few agencies which actively encourages clients to choose their own caregiver. Beware of agencies which only assign you anyone who is available.

Qualified and Experienced Caregivers

Make sure the agency hires only qualified and experienced caregivers who possess a community college Personal Support Worker certificate or equivalent. Beware of agencies that rely solely on their own training programs.

Hiring Process

Ask how the agency hires its caregivers. If they don’t conduct extensive background checks, talk to references, screen their candidates for personality traits and interview them at least twice, your loved one may be put at risk. Personality traits, such as reliability and a caring disposition, can make or break the relationship between caregiver and care recipient.

Agency Track Record

Reputable home care agencies pay their caregivers fairly and provide them with the statutory benefits, at a minimum. All workers should be fully insured and covered under the Workers’ Compensation Board. Be sure to ask for a copy of a valid Workers Compensation Clearance Certificate.

How Do they Monitor their Caregivers

Enquire how the agency monitors its caregivers. Careful and continuous monitoring ensures that appropriate action can be taken immediately if needed. Ask if they have a Registered Nurse (RN) on staff.

Flexible Live-in or Live-out Services 24/7

The requirements of care recipients typically change over time, even day-to-day or week-to-week, depending upon needs and the availability of family members. Therefore, it’s vital that the agency be flexible and able to provide either live-in or live-out service, for whatever periods are needed. Ask if your agency provides service on a 24×7 basis.

Flexible Location

Flexibility may also be required in the locations where care is provided: at home, in a retirement residence or in a hospital. Some agencies do not provide these options and elderly care situations and locations can change.

Do they have Liability and Dishonesty Insurance

Be sure your care provider has liability and dishonesty insurance with a limit of at least two million dollars. This is required to protect the care recipient and their family. The agency should supply proof of insurance by giving you an insurance certificate.

Timeliness and Responsiveness

Finally, time is often of the essence because you need home care assistance immediately. Agencies differ considerably in their ability to respond. Some only need a few hours while others need days. Ask to ensure your needs will be addressed on a timely basis.


Living Assistance Services – Home Care

How Companionship Can Play A Crucial Role in Elderly Care

As the Baby Boomers age, their adult children are seeking ways to keep them as healthy and independent as possible. Studies show that seniors do far better when they’re able to remain in their own homes, yet many are unable to do so by themselves. Your elderly parent may need both home care and companionship.

Here are some signs that your aging parent may benefit from having a elderly care/personal support worker:

  • Hospital stay. If the senior has recently been in hospital and has not fully recovered.
  • Hygiene. If the senior is unable to bathe or groom him/herself properly.
  • Housekeeping. If the senior’s home is unclean or in disarray.
  • Health. If physical health is declining, or if the senior is having difficulty taking medication properly.
  • Deficits. If the senior has short-term memory loss or hearing/vision impairment that interferes with daily functioning.
  • Nutrition. If the senior is not eating properly.
    Loneliness. If the senior is unable to get out to social functions, or feels isolated.
What Your Parent Needs

Some self-assessment is useful before you contact a home care agency. What is it that prevents your loved one from eating nutritious meals, for example? Is it because he or she is unwilling or unable to cook balanced meals, or is it because he/she finds it too difficult to shop for groceries? Is your parent isolated because there’s no way for him/her to get out to social events, or is it because hearing loss prevents him/her from joining in group activities? Most seniors will resist the idea that they need help, so prepare for some pushback from your mother and/or father; but rest assured that providing elderly parents with home care to help them live a healthier life will preserve their independence and provide everyone in your family with greater peace of mind.

Choosing the Right Caregiver

Once you’ve got some idea of the ways in which a personal support worker might be able to assist, call various home care agencies and ask them important questions. A good home care agency will send a medical professional such as a Registered Nurse to conduct an initial evaluation and make recommendations.

Top-notch home care agencies take great care when hiring personnel. Make sure that all caregivers are certified PSWs or equivalent, with at least two years experience in the field. Workers should be fairly paid, insured, and carefully screened.

Many home care agencies offer limited types of support and little flexibility. Look for a home care agency that provides all types of support, as well as 24/7 care when needed. Choose an agency that allows PSWs to work in homes, hospitals, and/or nursing facilities. Remember that your family’s needs may change over time.

A big part of the caregiver’s job is to provide your parent with companionship, not just physical help. So choose a home care agency that places value on matching each senior with a PSW who is compatible. This may even include finding a caregiver who speaks your parent’s native language.

After a caregiver is assigned, the home care agency should follow up with regular assessments, making adjustments when necessary.

Provide your aging parent with the ability to continue to live independently – contact Living Assistance Services today!


Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

How to Use Technology to Make Aging at Home Easier

Two of the leading causes of hospitalization in Ontario are Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The majority of the people with these illnesses are over the age of 65. Utilizing Telehomecare, seniors can live at home longer and their caregivers can provide better home care and can do so with peace of mind. Telehomecare is now available through Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN’s) and/or select hospitals across Ontario, as outlined below by Sarah Warmington, Supervisor of Program Engagement for Telehomecare.

Transforming the Lives of People with Heart Failure and COPD

With the Telehomecare program, technology is used to deliver healthcare services to patients with CHF and/or COPD in their homes. This is typically done by the monitoring of heart rate, oxygen levels, weight, blood pressure, etc. as well as other health related information. The monitoring is offered with an educational component provided to patients.

Clients are loaned a small tablet, oxygen monitor, blood pressure cuff and scale to monitor their weight and vitals for six months. Clients also answer some questions about their health on the tablet daily, Monday to Friday. The health questions are simple “yes” or “no” questions or rate on a scale of 1-5. For example, “are you having more trouble breathing since yesterday?” This information is sent remotely to the Telehomecare nurse who calls the client if the weight, vitals or answers to the questions on the tablet are concerning.

The Telehomecare nurse also calls clients bi-weekly to do health education on topics such as diet, stress management and medication management. Once the equipment is dropped off and set up by the Telehomecare technician, this program is delivered through the telephone and the equipment. The equipment is simple and easy-to-use. No previous experience with a computer is required. The Telehomecare team supports the client through every step from learning how to use the equipment to goal setting and self-management in order to achieve better health at home.

The goals of Telehomecare are:

  1. Decrease Emergency Department visits
  2. Decrease Hospital admissions
  3. Increase clients’ confidence in their ability to self-manage their chronic disease
  4. Support the client’s doctor or Nurse Practitioner

Telehomecare helps you to learn how to feel better by teaching you about how to identify and manage your symptoms, eating, exercising, managing your medications and setting goals that are unique to you. Clients of all ages—from 33 to 103 years old have completed the program.

In a provincial survey on Telehomecare, 94% responded that Telehomecare improved their ability to self-manage their CHF or COPD. Further, 96% indicated they would likely recommend the program to others. In fact, six months after completing the Telehomecare program, there is an 88% drop in the number of Emergency Department visits made by participants. Considering the average age of someone on Telehomecare is 79 years, these results are impressive! As the wife of one client said, “The program gives me great peace of mind…”

Click here to view a short video of Wendy`s story of Telehomecare transformed her life.
For more information about Telehomehomecare, call Sarah Warmington, at 416.222.2241 x4363

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care
Written by: Sarah Warmington & Opal Rowe

The Benefits of a PSW for a Dementia Sufferer

Dementia is one of the most common conditions affecting seniors in Canada. With the aging of the “Baby Boomer” generation, it’s expected that by 2031, 1.4 million Canadians will suffer from dementia. If a family member has been diagnosed with dementia, you may be worrying about what the future has in store. Medical professionals will be able to advise you regarding the various options available but no matter what you decide, you should consider engaging a Personal Support Worker (PSW). A PSW provides home care and companionship to seniors, allowing them – and their families – to experience a better quality of life.

Benefits of Hiring a Caregiver

Patients with dementia often have difficulty with “activities of daily living,” or ADLs in medical parlance. If your loved one is living at home, you may be providing help with these ADLs. Hiring a home care agency can lighten your workload, and may even provide a more comfortable experience for your spouse or parent. Sometimes having a professional home care agency look after the Care Recipeint’s personal hygiene, for example, is a great relief to family members who find that these duties can affect their previous relationship. A PSW is trained in ways to accomplish these tasks easily and efficiently.

Trained caregivers can help to organize medications, treat wounds, or help with recommended therapies such as pressure stockings. They can also offer housekeeping support, performing tasks like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and tidying. They can drive the client to medical appointments, or escort them out to socialize or shop.

Many agencies provide caregivers, but some of these perform only a limited range of functions in the home setting. Better home care agencies have PSW’s that will provide a wide variety of support and care to your family member in a number of different settings, 24/7. Keep in mind that your loved one’s needs will change over time, so when engaging a PSW it’s best to use a home care agency that offers maximum flexibility. A good caregiver will form a lasting bond with your family and will advocate for your loved one no matter where he or she is living.

Finding the Right PSW

Beware of agencies that send many different PSWs on a rotating basis, as this is unsettling for any Care Recipien and can cause great stress for dementia patients. Ideally, you’ll want to work with a home care agency that puts value on finding one compatible caregiver (and a regular backup) who will be a steady presence in your family’s life. This might include finding a PSW who speaks your loved one’s first language, for example, or one who has the same hobbies or interests. Better home care agencies allow you to interview several candidates and choose the one that’s right for your family.

Make sure that the home care agency you choose hires only caregivers who have completed Personal Support Worker training at a reputable college or learning institution, and that employees are carefully screened, insured, and well paid. A supervisor who is a Registered Nurse is also beneficial.

Finally, select an elderly care agency that does regular “check-ins” to ensure that your family member is receiving exactly the care that they need.

A diagnosis of dementia can be devastating for both the patient and family members, but finding good home care can help to make a challenging situation manageable.


Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care


Caregiving During the Holiday Season

Here are some suggestions to help make this time of year more joyous and enjoyable for everyone…

Keeping it balanced
  1. Don’t be afraid to say “No, thank you”; and, only agree to do something if it’s comfortably manageable.
  2. Many people have time off during the holidays; and, even if not, people are usually more willing to help.  So, take advantage of this to improve communication and connections and get more support from your network of family and friends.
  3. Specifically, ask family or friends to provide some respite from your caregiving. Just a few hours can help renew your energy.
  4. Be mindful that circumstances change, so some “traditions” may not work anymore.  Don’t force it.  And, if it makes sense, use that change to start a new tradition.
Season-specific caring tips
  1. Schedule activities early in the day if possible.  For someone ill or injured, their fatigue and stress levels can increase throughout the day.
  2. Try to maintain a sense of routine for the care recipient. Ask them how they want to celebrate over the holidays and get them involved with the planning.
  3. Keep decorations to a minimum to avoid clutter that may be hazardous to a frail or disoriented person.
The Holiday Gathering
  1. If you’re getting together with family and/or friends, make it a potluck, or ask a family member(s) to prepare the meal.  Order in, or go out, for your holiday meal!  Some restaurants or grocery stores sell holiday meals for take-out.
  2. Keep the numbers manageable.  Noise and hectic activity can be exhausting for the person who is ill, and can burn you out too!
  3. Unfortunately, holiday gatherings can cause old resentments to resurface when people spend an extended period together – especially when the stress of caregiving is added to the mix.
  4. Holiday gatherings can be a reminder of loss.  It is natural to feel sad.  Try and remember, everyone is doing the best they can.
  5. Avoid comparisons with past holidays.  Yes, your family situation has changed and this year will not be the same as before, but it can still be enjoyed in its own unique way.

In summary, enjoy your time together, celebrate the uniqueness of the situation, don’t overdo it, and ask for help if you need it from family and friends.


Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care


End of Life Care: What To Look For In A Provider

If you or a family member is facing a terminal illness, emotions can be overwhelming. It can sometimes be difficult to know what to do, and who to turn to. Some patients, reluctant to place the burden of caretaking on loved ones, opt to spend their final days in a hospice. But it is often possible for terminally ill patients to remain comfortably at home until the end, as long as the family has the right home care support in place.

When a patient reaches the end of treatment options, the doctor usually refers him/her to a palliative care team. The team may include physicians, nurses, social workers, spiritual advisors, and more. Indispensable to the team are the caregivers, both family members and trained personal support workers (PSWs). These people will provide home care, practical support and companionship, which is crucial.

Selecting a Home Care Agency for End of Life Care

Home care agencies provide different types and levels of service, so be sure to do your research. Choose an agency that provides:

  • Choice. Many organizations send a rotating roster of workers. This can be frustrating for patients, and for family members who have to explain the patient’s needs over and over again. The best home care or nursing agencies try to match your family with the perfect PSW. If your family prefers to work with someone who speaks your mother tongue or understands your culture, for example, a good home care agency will have enough diversity to meet that need. Ask to meet several home care candidates, and choose a caregiver who is a good fit for your family, and who can relate with the patient. You will be depending on this person during one of the most challenging times any family will face, so it’s important that you feel comfortable with the caregiver(s) who will be providing home care.
  • Variety of services. Some home care agencies send caregivers for companionship only. Others specialize in providing personal services such as bathing, dressing, and grooming. Be sure to find an agency whose workers will provide a range of services, from administering medication to doing laundry, or from driving the client to appointments to playing cards and running errands, if necessary.
  • Flexibility. Premium home care agencies understand that your home care needs may change from week to week. Choose a home care agency that is open to changing the schedule to fit your needs. You’ll want to find one that offers 24/7 service, and that can provide workers who will support your loved one at home, hospice, or in the hospital.
  • Qualifications. And of course, make sure the home care agency you choose selects personnel very carefully. They should have completed a PSW certificate course, and have at least two year’s experience. They should be screened, insured, and paid fairly.
Accessing Funds for End of Life Care

There are various ways in which services can be delivered through the health system, or privately. You may be eligible for funding for a PSW; more information is available on the Health Canada website.

A good caregiver can provide home care, comfort, and support to the entire family through this most difficult time.


Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care


Why You Should Consider Elderly Care for Parkinson’s Disease Patients

As Canada’s population ages, the prevalence of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, macular degeneration, and type 2 diabetes is increasing. Parkinson’s disease, a chronic, progressive neurological disorder, is also on the rise. Nearly 100,000 Canadians have Parkinson’s disease, and approximately 5,500 new cases are diagnosed each year. Treatment for Parkinson’s may include working with a family physician, a neurologist, a Parkinson’s nurse specialist, a pharmacist, an occupational therapist, and a physiotherapist. In addition, patients may need to consult with a social worker or a psychologist, a speech and language pathologist, and a dietician.

If you or a member of your family has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, each of these professionals will have something valuable to offer. However, one of the most important members of the team you will put together can be the home care professional or Personal Support Worker (PSW.)

What To Expect

Any time one is diagnosed with a life-changing illness, the patient and his/her family experience shock and anxiety about the future. Although there are treatments for the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, there is currently no cure. The most common symptoms include tremors, impaired balance, and rigidity of the muscles. Other symptoms may include fatigue, sleep disturbances, and depression. Because Parkinson’s is a progressive ailment, it’s important that patients and their families put supports in place as soon as these become necessary.

There are many home care agencies that provide caregivers. Some of these home care agencies offer a limited number of services, delivered by a rotating roster of PSWs. This results in care that can be less than optimal, and inevitably leads to frustration for patients and their families. A far better option is to seek out a home care agency that will match you or your loved one with a specific caregiver on the basis of compatibility. It’s best to interview candidates and choose a home health care PSW who is a good “fit” for the client. This might include complementary temperaments, a similar sense of humour, a common mother tongue, or shared interests and hobbies.

Support for Daily Living

Make sure to select an assisted living agency that hires qualified and experienced personnel. Any caregiver you engage should have a PSW certificate from a respected college or learning institution, and should be properly screened and insured. He or she should have at least one year of experience in the field and should be knowledgeable about Parkinson’s in particular.

You’ll want to consider the fact that your family’s situation may evolve, so choosing a home care agency that provides flexibility regarding hours and locations is a good move.

Also make sure that the home care agency’s personnel provide a wide variety of services. You’ll want a PSW who can provide whatever is best for your family, and that can include everything from administering medication, driving the client to a dinner party, doing laundry, or playing cards.

Finally, look for an agency that is able to provide plenty of references from former and current home care clients. A caregiver can become an integral part of your family’s plan for coping with Parkinson’s disease, and the right PSW can make a tremendous difference to your quality of life.

In fact, a good caregiver can be one of your greatest assets in facing the challenges that living with Parkinson’s can bring.


Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care