Caregiver as a Personal Assistant

It’s a common misconception that in-home care is for people who are very ill, immobilized and unable to do anything for themselves.  In-home care agencies provide more than just advanced home care for those in dire medical condition. Many of the home care services we offer are the same responsibilities that a lot of people do for their aging parents.

If your parent is still in reasonably good health and living on their own, you may both struggle with the idea of enlisting outside help. It can be hard to justify the expense or “fuss” of home care services for someone who is still mobile and fairly independent. This is very common. Unfortunately, what often ends up happening is that the person who takes on the caregiver role quickly realizes how time-consuming even basic assistance—like grocery shopping, hairdresser appointments, and taking mom to church—can be when also trying to juggle a job, children, and their own household.

To give you an idea of what a typical week looks like for a personal assistant, below is the calendar for a  senior care recipient who does not have a chronic illness or require advanced home health care. Most of the tasks look more like those of a personal assistant than a home healthcare provider, but these are tasks that a home care agency can help with.

They include:

  • Grocery shopping and errands, such as picking up prescriptions, dry cleaning, etc.
  • Meal planning, preparation, and storage
  • Transportation to and from appointments and activities, such as church, social functions, etc.
  • Joyful companionship, such as playing cards, going for walks or to the movies, correspondence, etc.

A broad range of services to choose from and the flexibility to enlist the amount of help that best suits your needs makes caregiving easier on you and the entire family.


David Porter, CPCA,

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

The Shortage of Personal Support Workers in Canada – Is There A Solution?

With Canada’s aging population growing at record speed, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing a shortage of Personal Support Workers to keep up. Baby Boomers are aging and many had fewer or no children. This not only means more seniors in need of care without children to care for them, but also fewer people of caregiving age to provide professional elderly care services in hospitals, senior care facilities, and at home.

According to Stats Canada, approximately 6 million Canadians are over 65 and the number of Canadians receiving some type of home healthcare sits at around 8 percent of the country’s total population. The estimated number of seniors requiring health care services is expected to double over the next 20 years, according to the Canadian Institute for Health.

These numbers aren’t just affecting seniors looking for private home care, but also those utilizing home healthcare services through the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). Created by the provincial government just two years ago, a client would receive their first home care visit within 10 days. That number jumped to a whopping 77 days in 2017. Though new funding from the government helped drop those wait times, they are rising steadily again with clients currently waiting an average of 28 days for service.

Making It Better

There will always be a need for caregivers and that need has already passed the breaking point.

The federal government recognizes this and has been making an effort to recruit more foreign caregivers through increased funding, incentives, and raising compensation rates. A 5-year pilot program made becoming a caregiver more appealing to those from outside of Canada by offering caregivers the opportunity to apply for permanent residency by securing and maintaining employment for two years.

Canada’s program appears to be the only one in the world that provides access to permanent residency to foreign caregivers. This incentive was put in place to make up for the less-than-desirable realities of the job, such as low pay and unpleasant, and sometimes even abusive or exploitative work conditions.

Unfortunately, many caregivers are finding out that they may not be eligible for permanent residency after being apart from their families and spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on applications, language assessments, and other requirements. The program is set to expire in November 2019 and caregivers who have not completed two years of caregiving work by that date will no longer be eligible to apply. This includes caregivers who have been here for several years, but haven’t been able to accumulate two years’ worth of work experience for reasons beyond their control, such as being let go by employers who no longer need or want care, or having to leave a toxic work environment. If a caregiver is let go or chooses to switch employers, they need to apply for a new work permit—a process that can take close to a year to complete and puts them a step closer to missing the application cut-off.

While the government has introduced new pathways to permanent residency, the requirements for eligibility have created significant new obstacles for caregivers, further adding to the shortage we’re facing now. With a job that can be unpleasant at times, low-paying, and without the guarantee of permanent status, there is little incentive for foreign caregivers to leave their families behind to come work in Canada.

Living Assistance Services takes pride in our high standards when it comes to recruiting PSWs and we maintain this quality with regular performance monitoring and ongoing training from our Registered Nurse. We offer our caregivers compensation that is reflective of the important job they do. We recognize that it takes a special person to care for others and value their commitment to a job that can be quite challenging at times. We also demonstrate our appreciation with an annual luncheon to honor our five-star caregivers and we hold them in the highest regard.

While we wait for the government to (hopefully) implement a permanent solution to this ongoing and likely permanent need for caregivers, we will continue to do our part to make it better.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care


Article Resources
Seniors in Transition: Exploring Pathways Across the Care Continuum.
Live-in Caregiver Program.
Home and community care.
Caregiver Program.

Going solo – you don’t have to

Your spouse has died, your children live far away, and most of your close friends are already in assisted living facilities. This is the reality for many seniors who want to continue to live at home but find themselves alone and wondering how they will manage.

Many people who get to this stage think that moving out of their home and into an assisted living community or with family is the only option, but that doesn’t have to be the case. We can help!

Hiring a Caregiver is Not a Sign of Inability

Hiring in-home care can actually enhance your life and help you live independently longer. It’s not in any way a sign of defeat or a person’s inability to do things, but rather a conscious choice to continue to live life on your terms.

An in-home caregiver can provide home health care services, if needed, but they can also be hired to help you simplify chores. Hiring a caregiver just 4 hours per day, twice per week can help keep your home organized and easier to manage. It’s a way to stay on top of chores and errands so that you can focus on other things.

It’s a common misconception that in-home care services are for people with extensive health or mobility issues. The truth is that in-home care services encompass a broad range of services and tasks designed to give you as much or as little help as you need.

Some of the things that an in-home caregiver can help you with include:

  • Housekeeping
  • Shopping
  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Errands
  • Transportation to and from appointments

Hiring a professional to help you with these things doesn’t make you a failure—it makes you a better planner and keeps you in control of your life and independence. Speaking of planning, these services can be modified to help you navigate any bumps in the road, such as an injury or illness. This gives the added peace of mind of having extra help should you need it.

In-home care is help on your terms, based on your needs so that you can live life your way.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

Stroke – Effects, Limitations, and After-Care

More than 62,000 strokes occur in Canada each year and approximately 405,000 people in the country are living with the effects of stroke, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

A stroke happens when blood flow to any part of the brain is stopped. Strokes can range in size and the effects depend on the extent of the damage and the part of the brain affected.

The risk of stroke increases significantly after the age of 55. Other risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Atrial fibrillation (Afib)
  • Smoking
  • Obesity

Limitations Immediately After a Stroke

A stroke can affect various parts of your body and cause a number of limitations, some temporary and others permanent. It often affects your physical, emotional, and cognitive functioning and limits your ability to do many things, including daily tasks that were once easy.

Some of the limitations that are common right after a stroke include:

  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Trouble communicating
  • Trouble walking due to foot drop, muscle weakness in the leg and foot, or paralysis
  • Trouble using an arm or hand because of paralysis or muscle weakness
  • Difficulty controlling your bladder and bowels
  • Inability to drive

Fortunately, many of these things improve with time rehabilitation. In the meantime, the effects of a stroke can affect your ability to live independently.

Type of care required

The limitations placed on a person following a stroke can be difficult to accept and cause frustration, anger, and even depression. It’s important to remember that things will improve. Getting the right type of care after a stroke can make these challenges easier to manage so that the patient can focus on their recovery.

Rehabilitation is the first step and its goal is to get a person back to living as independently as possible. This may take some time, but rehabilitation can help a person learn new skills or relearn old ones, and also includes learning to adapt to any new limitations caused by stroke.

Getting back to your community and living as normally as possible is a key component of stroke after-care, so getting in-home help, whether through the help of family, a professional home care agency, or a combination of both is important.

Some of the care required after stroke may include:

  • Personal care, such as bathing, dressing, and other grooming and hygiene
  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Medication administration and management
  • Help making and keeping the environment safe and free of obstacles
  • Housekeeping
  • Escorting to and from physical therapy and other medical appointments
  • Help walking and getting around the home

How the caregiver makes life better

Having a professional caregiver can make life after a stroke better in many ways and take a lot of the stress and frustration off of the patient and family members. Stroke can have a big impact on your relationships. Family members who take on a caregiver role often face significant emotional, financial, and even physical costs when trying to juggle their lives and your care. Enlisting the help of a home care agency can help a person get the best care while providing loved ones with much-needed support.

Professional in-home caregivers can provide all the home care services a person needs after a stroke to help them on their road to recovery in the familiar surroundings of home—which is especially important for those whose memory has been affected.

An in-home care provider doesn’t just perform daily living tasks, but can also provide companionship, which can help reduce the risk of isolation, loneliness, and depression. A warm smile and friendly conversation can do a world of good following something as traumatic as a stroke.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care


Article Resources
2018 Stroke Report.
Stroke in Canada.
Recovery and support.

Caregivers do no harm – Debunking Common Myths

It’s understandable to have some reservations about hiring an in home care provider given that you are inviting a virtual stranger into your home or a loved one’s home. If you or your aging loved one are ill and in an especially vulnerable place, the idea of entrusting a stranger with your/their care can be even harder. Add to this some of the myths about caregivers and the idea of hiring a home care agency can feel like a big risk that you’re not sure is worth taking.

While the odd case of mistreatment in long-term care facilities has made the headlines, the myths about in-home care providers are simply that: myths.

Let’s clarify some of these myths about professional caregivers.

Myth: They’re strangers who cannot be trusted.

Reality: We introduce you and your loved ones to a couple of caregivers so that you can be sure that your caregiver’s experience and personality are a great fit.  Also, because we are a relatively small organization, we are able to take the time to and care to select and screen all potential caregivers. Our hiring process involves thorough interviews and a meticulous references check. Our extensive background check also includes a police clearance certificate, which is a background check completed by the police. Choosing only kind, trustworthy, and experienced caregivers is something we take great pride in.

Myth: They’ll snoop through my things and spy on me or my loved one.

Reality: In-home care providers are extensively trained and part of this training includes discretion. They are trained to be discreet in every way and don’t look at or go where they are not asked to. They provide services with the utmost respect for the care recipient and their family.

Myth: They participate in family quarrels and take sides.

Reality: Caregivers focus on the best outcomes for the client and do not get involved in family quarrels. Caregiving is much more than just a job to our personal support workers (PSWs). They genuinely care about the client and their focus is always on their care.

We understand that making the decision to bring in outside help is not always easy and that many people have misgivings about inviting a caregiver into the home. If you are contemplating in-home care, feel free to get in touch with any questions or concerns. We’re happy to answer your questions candidly so that you can make an informed decision to ensure that you and your loved ones are completely comfortable with.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

Co-housing for older adults

Regardless of your age or situation when Golden Girls hit the airwaves, chances are that you, like so many others, thought that their living arrangement seemed like a good deal. Certainly better than Shady Pines, like Sophia often joked about!

Co-housing for older adults, also often called “home sharing for seniors”, is when two or more single, widowed, or divorced seniors move in together as roommates. This trend in housing for seniors is actually an old concept that’s long been practiced in Europe and finally catching on in North America.

The Benefits of a Co-Sharing for Seniors

The thought of living alone as we age can be a bit daunting when you consider financial challenges, health issues, and a shrinking social and support network that often accompanies aging. Loneliness and isolation are also a very real problem for many seniors. The majority of seniors want to remain in their homes as long as possible rather than going into a senior care facility and moving in with their children isn’t always possible or even desirable. Taking on a housemate can remedy all of these things.

By sharing your home with another senior, you enjoy companionship, which has been shown to have a number of mental and physical health benefits. Seniors who live with others tend to be healthier, happier because they have friendship and support, eat better, and exercise more.

It Makes Home Care More Affordable

Home care services help seniors continue to live at home longer by helping with tasks that become difficult or by providing advanced home healthcare when a person has health issues. When two or more seniors decide to live together, home care becomes more affordable because they are able to split the costs.

Professional caregivers can come in and help with chores such as housekeeping, grocery shopping, and meal preparation that both parties can benefit from. It also eliminates the need to battle out who’s going to get stuck with what chore! Home care services can also be modified to include home health care should one or both seniors require them due to an injury, illness, or recovering from surgery.

Living with another person provides the comfort of safety and independence. Splitting the cost of professional home care can help you both enjoy safety and independence even longer, regardless of any health challenges that may come up.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

Back Pain – Causes, Limitations, and More

According to Statistics Canada, back problems are one of the most common chronic conditions in Canada—low back pain especially.

Back pain can range in severity from mild to severe and can be a dull ache or a shooting or stabbing pain. When bad enough, it can impact your ability to perform even simple daily tasks.

It’s often accompanied by other symptoms, which can include:

  • Pain that radiates down your leg
  • Numbness in tingling in a leg or foot
  • Pain that worsens when you bend, walk, or lift
  • Depression when back pain is chronic or limits mobility

Causes of Back Pain

Aging is one of the most common causes of back pain. Over time, everyday wear and tear causes the discs between your vertebrae to become thinner and more brittle. This leads to common back conditions, including:

  • Osteoarthritis, which results from the breakdown of the disc and cartridge in the joints
  • Spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal cord
  • Spondylolisthesis, in which one vertebra slips forward onto another
  • Bulging or ruptured disks

Physical inactivity and osteoporosis are also common causes of back pain in seniors.

Activities to Avoid That a Caregiver Can Help With

Acute back pain can last from days to weeks and can sometimes become chronic, lasting months or even years. Depending on your age and overall health, you may be required to avoid certain activities for some time while your back heals.

Depending on how severe your pain, you may need to avoid activities such as:

  • Lifting
  • Sitting for long periods
  • Raising your arms or reaching
  • Bending over
  • Walking
  • Driving

As you can see, back pain and recovery can be quite limiting and make it difficult—if not impossible—to perform a number of daily tasks. This can make life challenging for you and your loved ones.

Our in-home caregivers are able to help with these tasks and do the things you’re not able to while you’re recovering from back pain. They can be there to help day or night, and offer live-in or live-out home health care services, depending on your needs.

Some of the things they can help you with include:

  • Personal care, such as dressing and bathing
  • Grocery shopping and errands
  • Transportation to and from medical appointments
  • Medication administration
  • Meal preparation
  • Housekeeping

If your doctor has recommended walking to help loosen stiff muscles and joints, our caregivers can also provide companionship and accompany you on walks and outings so that you can remain mobile.

If back pain is interfering with your ability to carry out certain activities and you’d like to know more about our in-home care services, give us a call.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care



Article Resources
Back Pain.
Degenerative Back Conditions.

Social workers and their role in senior care in Ontario

Those of us lucky enough to live in Ontario have access to amazing social workers and other support personnel to help when crisis strikes. Whether for a broken hip or a serious medical condition, all of the professionals working within the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) work together to help seniors return home after a hospital stay.

Their philosophy focuses on keeping seniors safe in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible with community supports. At Living Assistance Services, we share the same philosophy and understand the importance of being home for recovery.

The Discharge Process

Seniors who live alone or have a limited support network and require extra help after a hospital stay are kept in hospital until LHIN staff is able to arrange the support services needed. This is no small task, when you consider the increasing aging population. They help more than 637,000 people each year and this number is expected to continue to rise.

Unfortunately, an overburdened network means that many seniors are forced to remain in hospitals even after it’s no longer a medical necessity. For the patient, this results in an increased risk of hospital-associated complications, ranging from a decline in physical functioning to infections. It also means tying up acute care beds, which remain in short supply.

Hospital social workers and LHIN staff do what they can to support patients to return home. A big part of this is providing the patient and family—if any—with advice and information on how to help the patient manage at home. Much of this relies on family members being able to help and take on as much of the caregiving as possible, with some outside support. Finding sufficient care at home for seniors who don’t have family, whose family live far away, or are busy with their own lives is especially difficult. This often results in a longer hospital stay while other home care services are arranged.

Private Home Care Agencies Offer an Alternative to Get Seniors Home Sooner

LHINs have their hands full when it comes to the number of seniors in hospitals requiring home care before their discharge. This can be just as frustrating for them as it is for patients. Private home care agencies like ours provide an alternative for seniors who require extra home health care services so they can return home after a hospital stay.

Our highly experienced caregivers can be there from discharge through recovery.

Our registered nurse reviews and assesses caregiving needs free of charge. Our caregivers don’t just provide home health care services, but are also available to provide supplementary care in the hospital, if needed.

We offer RN-supervised support, such as administering medication and injections, wound care, pain management, and much more. Our caregivers can also help with all aspects of personal care, housekeeping and meal preparation, and even errands. Chronic disease and palliative care are also available.

Our wide range of home care services are catered to the senior’s specific needs so they get as much or as little care as needed while they make the transition from hospital back to home for recovery. And because we’re able to arrange home care quickly— with as little as 24 to 48 hours notice in some cases—patients can return to the comfort of home much sooner.

If you or an aging loved one is in need of support once you leave the hospital, give us a call to learn more about how we can help you during your recovery.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care



Article Resources
Facts about Local Health Integration Network Home and Community Care Services.
Supporting Seniors Return Home from Hospital.

Safety For Seniors at Home – Making Your Loved One’s Home Safe

What may not constitute an obstacle to you may be to your elder loved one. There are actually areas of the home that should be addressed to better suit the mobility and agility limitations we can all expect to experience as we age.

Take a Walk Through The House

  • Keep all areas of the home, including hallways and stairs, well-lit but free from glare.
  • Remove scatter rugs or attach a nonskid backing to them.
  • Reduce the risk of falling on uncarpeted floors by ensuring they are not slippery. Do not use any gloss polish.
  • Use night lights in the bedroom, hallways, kitchen and the bathroom.
  • Remove all newspapers and magazines from the kitchen counter areas.
  • Inspect electrical cords for fraying or cracking; be sure they are placed away from walking paths, but not under a carpet or furniture, where they could present a fire hazard.
  • Set the hot water heater/tank temperature to 115 degrees (Fahrenheit) or 46 degrees (Celsius) – or less.
  • Use slop-resistant decals or non-skid mats in the tub or shower.
  • Install grab bars in the bathtub and near the toilet; be sure the screws go directly into the wall studs, so that they remain securely in place.
  • Check to be sure that extension cords are not overloaded and are clear of walkways.
  • Install smoke detectors on every floor of the house and test them monthly.
  • Destroy out-of-date medications and those which are no longer being used.
  • Place a telephone in the bedroom. Post emergency numbers by all telephones.
  • Keep space heaters away from flammable materials and be sure the room is well ventilated.
  • A three-pronged plug should be used in a three hole outlet or an adapter should be used.
  • Always turn off heating pads before an older person goes to sleep.

Have a Plan

Have an emergency exit plan and an alternative plan in case of fire. If the older person has a disability, call the local fire department and have them give you some stickers for the windows.

You may want to review some of these issues with your loved one and call Living Assistance Services to assist you in making your loved one’s home safer and happier.

Making the home safer makes your life easier!

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

Smart Technology for seniors – Can it replace the Human Touch?

With our senior population growing faster than ever, so are smart technologies geared at improving the lives of seniors. Smart technology—or gerantechnology—devices include things like telecare and telehealth, robotics, and various information and communication devices, from smartphones to health trackers. With all of these products available to do anything from control lighting and appliances with one swipe to sensors to track movements and remind you that it’s time to move or take a medication, the jury is still out on how many seniors will use these products.

Gerantechnology devices are available across the world and promise seniors healthier and more independent and active lives. While this appears to be the wave of the future for seniors, those who require extra help right now are less likely to use these devices and many prefer good old fashioned human care.

Number of Seniors Using Smart Technology in Canada

While the number of seniors using the internet has increased in recent years, this isn’t the case for smart phones or other connected devices. More than 76 percent of Canadians own a smartphone, according to Statistics Canada, but this number drops significantly in the senior population, primarily for those over 75. Only 18 percent of Canadians over 75 own a connected device.

The trend continues when it comes to those who believe that smart technology has or can improve their lives. Only 38 percent of Canadians over 75 believe their lives are better or report improvement because of smart technology.

Smart Technologies vs In-Home Care

There’s no doubt that some smart technology can help make life easier for seniors, especially those who live alone. Technology that monitors the comfort, safety, and security of home or wearables that can alert emergency services to a fall or medical emergency can provide peace of mind not only for the elderly, but also their loved ones.

Many of the other smart technology devices available are likely to be a hard sell for seniors who are not tech-savvy or are living on a limited income. Trusting a device to take the place of human care is also something that many seniors are not comfortable with.

The cost of some of these devices and the monitoring to use them can be expensive. And even with online tutorials and detailed manuals, there’s always the worry that the user will have difficulty using the features properly or to their full potential. This is especially the case for those cognitive issues that accompany aging and illness.

In-home care services can help seniors age with dignity and independence in the comfort of home. Medication reminders, regular visits, errands, and transportation are just some of the in-home care services we offer.

This isn’t to say that some of the available technology isn’t worth considering, of course. Smart phones or tablets that allow seniors to stay connected with friends and loved ones who live far away or when mobility is an issue are wonderful. Fitness trackers that remind you to get up and move around are great for those who are able to do so safely on their own.

As amazing as these technologies are, it’s comforting to know that the human connection is still available for seniors who need or simply prefer assistance from a real, live human who has been trained to provide care and companionship.

Pauline Lyons, CPCA
Director of Community Relations

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care