How to Talk To Your Aging Parent about Incontinence

Incontinence is one of the topics that adult children find the most difficult to talk with their aging parents about. It’s not surprising, though, when you consider the difficult transition our elderly parents are in. Once the authority figures who took care of us, they are becoming the ones who need care.

To make the situation even more difficult is the embarrassment around incontinence – even though it’s common and affects more than 1 in 5 Canadian seniors.

If you’ve noticed that your parent is struggling with incontinence, you owe it to them to have an honest talk about it and work with them to find a solution. We realize that this is easier said than done, especially if your parent is a proud and private person, so we’ve compiled some tips that may help.

Tips to help you talk to your parent about incontinence

Upholding your parent’s dignity with understanding, patience, and respect is crucial when talking with them about a topic as sensitive as incontinence. Your help may not be well received at first and could be met with emotions ranging from embarrassment to anger, and even sadness.

The following may help make the conversation and easier one for you both:

Refrain from using the word “diaper”

While they are often referred to as “adult diapers”, the word “diaper” is associated with babies who are unable to care for themselves. A parent grappling with a loss of independence is likely to rebel against your treating them like a baby – even if that’s not at all what you’re doing.

Family caregivers and professional in-home caregivers should be urged to refer to these products by other names. Some examples are “disposable underwear” or “adult briefs”.

Tactfully explain that you’ve noticed

Decreased senses of smell and sight are a natural part of aging. As such, some seniors don’t even realize just how noticeable their incontinence is to others.

Many seniors will do their best to manage incontinence on their own and others may simply be in denial and opt to ignore the issue entirely. Letting them know that you’ve noticed an odor or stains may help them realize that it’s time to find a solution.

Be gentle and tactful, and be careful not to use words or a tone that could be perceived as shaming.

Be ready to provide samples

Having samples of incontinence products on hand is a good idea, but gauge their reaction to the situation before you pull them out.

If your parent seems open to your help, then by all means show them samples of some of the different products available so that they can make their own choice.

If, on the other hand, your parent is having a hard time accepting the situation and your help, offer to take them to the store so they can see the options themselves.

Learn why incontinence happens

Do your homework and learn about incontinence before bringing it up to your parent. Rather than implying that it’s just something that happens to “old people”, help them understand that there’s more to it than just getting old and losing control.

Incontinence is not a condition, but a symptom. Perhaps it’s a symptom related to an existing condition, such as diabetes or a neurologic disorder. Often, incontinence in older adults is simply the result of muscles that stretch and weaken over the years, affecting the bladder’s ability to store urine.

An explanation as to why it can happen can help take a lot of the shame and embarrassment out of it.

Enlist outside help

Accepting help or advice from your child isn’t easy, especially for a parent already struggling with the fear of losing their independence. Your parent may be less likely to discredit advice given by a professional, such as their doctor or a home health care provider.

A professional can explain the potential health issues that can arise from poor hygiene, such as the risk of skin and urinary tract infections. Sure, you can explain it, too, but sometimes hearing it from a professional can make all the difference.

Speaking of professionals…

While incontinence is common in older adults, it’s important that your parent see a doctor about any new or worsening trouble holding their urine. A doctor can rule out a serious underlying medical condition and may be able to spot lifestyle habits that may be contributing to urinary incontinence.

Things like drinking too much at once, certain types of beverages, or not getting enough fiber and ending up constipated can make it hard to hold your bladder.

A professional caregiver can often spot these things, as well. In-home senior care can also assist with personal hygiene and bathing, dressing, and more.

Heather Goba, RN, BScN
Director of Care

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care




Article Resources
Seniors and Aging – Bladder Control Problems (Incontinence). Government of Canada.

Top 10 Ailments to qualify for a disability Tax Credit

The Disability Tax Credit (DTC) is a non-refundable tax credit meant to help people with disabilities or their caregivers.

If you qualify, you can receive up to $8,416 per year (2019 amount), but according to many, figuring out whether or not you’re eligible isn’t that easy. Only roughly 40 percent of Canadians who qualify receive it.

The eligibility criteria can be a bit confusing for people applying, as well as the medical practitioners who have to certify that a person may be eligible. In fact, this has been the topic of many news stories in the past few years.

To help make things a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of 10 conditions that qualify for the DTC.

First, the DTC eligibility requirements

To be eligible, the person must meet one of the following criteria:

  • be blind
  • be markedly restricted in at least one of the basic activities of daily living, such as hearing, feeding, speaking, or dressing
  • be significantly restricted in two or more or the basic activities of daily living (can include a vision impairment)
  • need life-sustaining therapy

The person’s impairment must also meet all of the following criteria:

  • be prolonged, which means the impairment has lasted, or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months
  • be present all or substantially all the time (at least 90 percent of the time)

10 Conditions that likely qualify

Every person’s situation is unique and no two people have the exact same experience, even if they have the same condition or injury.

So while this isn’t a guaranteed or even a complete list by any means, these are among the most commonly approved ailments:

  1. Blindness
  2. Severe hearing impairment
  3. Stroke
  4. Alzheimer’s disease
  5. Parkinson’s disease
  6. Kidney failure
  7. Diabetes
  8. Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  9. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  10. Arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, etc.)

More information on the DTC and eligibility requirements is available on the Government of Canada website.

If you qualify

The DTC can help fund the costs associated with a disability, such as home improvements to accommodate mobility issues. It can also offset the cost of in-home care services to assist with tasks such as bathing, dressing, cooking, and escorting to medical appointments – just to name a few.

If you have an ailment that affects your ability to function, it’s worth applying for the DTC.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care



Article Resources
Disability Tax Credit (DTC). Government of Canada. (2020).
The CRA makes it so hard to get the disability tax credit, many don’t even try. E Alini – Global News. (2018).

Study Shows Seniors Are Happier With Their Lives than Young People

Have you heard the old line about youth being wasted on the young? According to the most recent life satisfaction study, there’s more truth to that line than you’d expect.

Looks like in this day and age, Canadian seniors are happier than their younger counterparts.

What the study says

Based on the study released by the Statistics Canada in 2018, people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s had higher life satisfaction scores than people aged 20 to 59. Even better is that among seniors, life satisfaction increases with age!

The study examined nine different areas of life. Seniors were most satisfied with:

  • their personal relationships
  • their safety
  • the quality of their local environment

The study also found that – contrary to popular belief – income was not really associated with life satisfaction. And, 8 out of 10 seniors said that they usually had someone they could depend on for help when they really needed it.

Of all the domains examined, the one that seniors were least satisfied with was their own health. While Canadian seniors are healthier and more active than ever before, the risk of chronic illness and injuries does increase as we get older.

How caregivers can help seniors maintain and improve life satisfaction

Most of the study is good news for seniors and their loved ones. To keep this momentum going and enjoy the best quality of life possible for as long as possible, a safe and comfortable environment, a strong social network, and staying on top of health are key.

In-home care services can help with all of these things and more.

A caregiver provides a senior with someone they can depend on when family and friends live far away or are unable to help due to other commitments. Companionship can help combat senior loneliness and isolation through regular visits or outings. If mobility issues make it difficult for you or your loved one to get out, a caregiver can help with transportation to social functions, church, or appointments.

Home care services can also include home health care that ranges from basic needs to more advanced RN-supervised home care medical services.

Some of these include:

  • healthy meals
  • medication reminders
  • regular exercise
  • wound care
  • pain management
  • chronic disease care for cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other conditions

Some other tips for staying healthy and happy

Here are a few other things that seniors can do to stay healthy and happy, longer:

  • Talk to others – never underestimate the power of a friendly chat!
  • Stay active, even if it’s just taking a short walk or doing some chair exercises.
  • Eat healthy to keep your immune system strong – not to mention your bowels regular!
  • Find a hobby that brings you joy and don’t be afraid to try new things.
  • Get a good night’s sleep to maintain good mental and physical health.
  • Try to get outside every day.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care





Article Resources
Life satisfaction among Canadian seniors. (2018). Statistics Canada.

Here’s why having a spouse is good for your health

It may take everything in you to keep from putting a pillow over his head to stop his snoring and her nagging may drive you batty, but there’s still no one else you’d rather be with. So, in honour of National Spouses Day, January 26th, let’s celebrate your union and all the wonderfulness that comes with being married.

Being married is good for the heart

We’re not just talking about the warm fuzzies you get from being with the one you love, but actual cardiovascular benefits!

Studies have shown that married people have fewer heart attacks and strokes compared with those who are single.

In 2016, a large-scale study found that married people more 14 percent more likely to survive a heart attack and get out of the hospital a couple days sooner than single people having a heart attack.

Other health benefits of having a spouse

The health perks of marriage don’t just stop at your heart. People who are married are less likely to develop mental health issues, including depression. Married seniors are also less likely to suffer loneliness and isolation, which has become an epidemic among the older population.

Research shows that married people also:

  • enjoy better sleep
  • have lower stress levels
  • are physically fitter over the age of 60
  • survive major surgery more often
  • are less likely to engage in risky behavior, such as substance abuse or drunk driving
  • live longer

Staying healthy and happy, longer

Together is definitely better, especially in our later years. In-home care is one way to help ensure that you can stay together and enjoy the perks of marriage, longer.

Senior couples are among the best candidates for in-home care because it allows you to continue to live together, even if mobility issues and chronic illness arise.

A caregiver can take on some of the pressures of caregiving so that you and your spouse can age in the comfort and privacy of home. While we’re on the subject of privacy, it’s a lot easier – not to mention more enjoyable – to enjoy your private time together at home than when one or both of you is in a retirement facility.

A caregiver can help with tasks like shopping and errands, light housekeeping, and meal preparation freeing up more time for you to enjoy together.

If you’re struggling to care for each other due to illness or simply the natural changes that occur with aging, our caregivers can assist with more advanced home health care needs, too.

Oh! And another perk of having a spouse: home care is also more affordable when you’re sharing!

Happy Spouses Day!

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care



Article Resources
The health advantages of marriage. (2016). Robert H. Shmerling, MD.
Natasha Wood, Anne McMunn, Elizabeth Webb, Mai Stafford. (2019). Marriage and physical capability at mid to later life in England and the USA.
Wiley/Science Daily. (2016). Being married may help prolong survival in cancer patients: Varying effects by race and place of birth.

Teenagers as Caregivers: The consequences of caregiving at a young age

The trend of waiting to start a family is no longer a trend, but the norm with most couples having their first child in their 30s. You might be surprised to learn that the number of women giving birth after the age of 40 is also rising and has risen steadily over the past decade, according to Statistics Canada. This explains why more and more adolescents and teens are finding themselves taking on the caregiver role for their parents, whether they’re ready or not.

The impact of being a teen caregiver

The number of adolescents and teens in a caregiving role is rising, but what is the impact of caring for a sick or aging parent when you still need care yourself?

The Adolescent Health Survey by the McCreary Centre Society in Vancouver found that 20 percent of the 30,000 respondents who were high school students said they were caregivers. Their duties included helping a parent or other family member bathe and eat, keeping them company, and more. The survey found that young caregivers were twice as likely to have attempted suicide in the previous year and were more likely to be bullied than those without caregiving duties.

Other research on young caregivers shows that adolescents and teens are having to perform complex caregiving duties, such as administering medication and cleaning and dressing wounds. For those looking after an aging parent with a condition such as Alzheimer’s, the demands and impact are even more profound.

Not surprisingly, taking on this role has been shown to negatively impact almost every aspect of a young person’s life.

Adolescent and teen caregivers have been shown to struggle with:

  • Poor academic performance due to trouble staying awake and focusing
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Stress
  • Mental health issues
  • Decline in physical well-being

How to help a young caregiver

No parent wants to burden their children with the duties of caregiving at any age, let alone in their adolescence or teens. Unfortunately, it’s not always avoidable, depending on variables like finances, family dynamics, and even cultural traditions and expectations. It’s also natural for a child at any age to want to care for their parent even if it’s at the cost of their own well-being.

For those who find themselves in this position or facing the possibility of being in this type of situation in the future, there are ways to help take some of the burden off teen caregivers.

With some outside-the-box thinking and a little planning, you can help a teen caregiver manage caregiving, as well as their own academic and social activities, and their mental wellbeing.

Some things that can help:

  • Have other family members and close friends share caregiving duties while the youth is at school.
  • Ask a family member or trusted friend to be there for the young caregiver so they have someone to talk to.
  • Speak to teachers and guidance counselors about the situation at home as they may be able to offer support and flexibility to help the teen succeed at school.
  • Ask your doctor or local hospital to refer you to a social worker who can help you look into financial assistance for in-home care and emotional support resources.
  • Hire a home care agency come in and help with some of the duties, such as personal care, errands, and housekeeping to free up more time for the teen to just be a teen.
  • Arrange regular respite care so the teen can take regular breaks from caregiving duties and avoid caregiver burnout.
  • Hire a home care agency to take on the more advanced home care duties that can be especially difficult for a teen, such as chronic disease care and palliative care.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care




Article Resources
Fertility: Overview, 2012 to 2016. Statistics Canada.
BC Adolescent Health Survey. McCreary Centre Society.

Retired and No Longer on a Health Plan: Here are your out-of-pocket expenses not covered by OHIP

Having enough money to cover unexpected costs is a common worry for Canadians planning retirement. We worry about having enough to cover groceries, housing, and the leisure activities we dream of enjoying once we retire. But what about medical expenses?

It turns out that many Canadians are confused about what’s covered by OHIP after retirement. Retirees are often shocked by hidden healthcare costs. And if you were fortunate enough to have a good health plan through your employer, the sticker shock of medical expenses not covered may be especially alarming.

The amount of out-of-pocket medical expenses faced by seniors and their caregivers this year averaged around $5,800, according to the Conference Board of Canada. Costs will continue to rise per capita and are expected to reach at least $8,000 by the year 2035.

What’s not covered by OHIP

As Canadians, we are fortunate to have much of our medical care covered. Even with long wait times and sometimes limited access to doctors, depending where you live, OHIP covers visits to the doctor or nurse practitioner and hospital visits and stays.

Government programs are also available to qualifying seniors to help cover some of the cost of prescriptions and assistive devices. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go very far, especially on a limited income or when living with a chronic disease or disability:

Things not covered by OHIP:

  • vision care, such as glasses, contact lenses, and eye surgery
  • hearing care
  • certain drugs administered outside of hospital, such as certain costly cancer drugs
  • ambulance transportation services that are not deemed medically necessary
  • dental services, except for complex dental surgeries performed in a hospital
  • physiotherapy, unless you’re over 65 or meet certain criteria
  • private or semi-private hospital rooms

Other out-of-pocket medical expenses to consider:

  • Non-prescription medications, such as over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Partial cost of prescriptions unless you’re over 65 or meet the eligibility criteria for ODB if under 65
  • Partial cost of assistive devices, such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and hearing aids
  • Most of the cost of home and car modifications made to accommodate a disability
  • Part of the cost for a nursing home or other type of residential care facility
  • Part of the cost of home care services, such as personal support workers or health care aides

Medical expenses not covered by OHIP can leave you blindsided even if you’ve been diligent about saving for retirement and creating financial security for your golden years. Even if you’re fit as a fiddle, it’s important to factor the cost of long-term care when planning your retirement. Doing so can help you maintain your quality of life and ability perform everyday activities as you age or if injury or illness makes it challenging for an extended period.

Educate yourself on available government tax credits and programs for seniors and private health insurance plans to help offset medical costs. Also consider looking into home care services, including free assessment with our registered nurse who can review and assess your health and caregiving needs.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care



Article Resources
Measures to Better Support Seniors and Their Caregivers. The Conference Board of Canada. (2019).
Get coverage for prescription drugs. Government of Ontario. (2019).
What OHIP Covers. Government of Ontario. (2019).

Renovating Your Home To Comfortably Age In Place – You’ll Need More Than Just a Grab Bar!

The majority of older Canadians want to age in place. This is not all that surprising – home is where the heart is, after all! But if home is where you want to remain for as long as possible, you’ll need to plan for it.

A Closer Look at Elder Care Renovations

When people think about home modifications for seniors, they often imagine installing a grab bar or two, but there’s more to it than that.

Older Canadians are in better physical shape than ever before, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to plan for what you may think are “old people problems”. Mobility issues and vision changes are common. The risk of chronic conditions also increases with age.

When you’re planning your future, you’ll want to factor in the cost of renovating your home to accommodate these challenges. Did you just hear a cha-ching? While renovations can be expensive, they’re not as costly as retirement homes and assisted living facilities, which cost from $2000 to $6000 per month, according to the Government of Ontario.

Here are examples of some elder care renovations that can help make aging in place easier and safer:

  • Wider doorways and hallways to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs
  • Slip-resistant flooring, such as vinyl which provides better a level surface traction than stone to prevent falls
  • A ramp to at least one entrance to eliminate the need to navigate stairs to get in and out of the home
  • A curbless shower with a wide entry or a walk-in bathtub
  • A bath seat in the shower
  • Flat transition flooring and strips between rooms to minimize the risk of falls
  • Chair lift or elevator if you have stairs in your home
  • Lower kitchen counters to accommodate a wheelchair or scooter
  • Grab bars next to the toilet and shower

You may be entitled to some $$$

You can apply for a home accessibility credit to help pay for your renovations if you:

  • are eligible for the disability tax creditfor the year
  • are 65 years of age or older

Renovations or alterations that qualify are those that allow you to access your home and move around and function within it, and those that reduce harm when inside or gaining access to the home.

Other tips for aging in place

Here are a few other tips for aging in place:

  • Talk to your doctor. If either you or your partner is living with a chronic condition, your doctor may be able to tell you what types of challenges you can anticipate down the road.
  • Home care. Reputable home care agencies have registered nurses on staff who can assess your care needs and make recommendations for in-home care services that best suit you and your circumstances.
  • Consider your neighbourhood. You may love your home, but where it’s located matters. Is it safe? Is it close to family? Will you have easy access to a hospital, groceries, and your medical appointments?
  • Do your homework. When it comes time to choose a contractor, ask family or friends for recommendations. Be sure to ask for credentials and references, and try to choose a contractor familiar with elder care renovations.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care




Article Resources
Find a retirement home. Government of Ontario. (2019).
Line 398 – Home Accessibility Expenses. Government of Canada. (2018).
Long-term care accommodation costs and subsidy. Government of Ontario. (2019).

Caring For Seniors with Diabetes

November is Diabetes Awareness Month in Canada and November 14th is World Diabetes Day. There’s no better time to address the care issues faced by thousands of Canadians, the majority of which are seniors.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body uses blood sugar. It has the potential to cause serious complications when not properly controlled. Unfortunately, seniors – the most affected population – often have trouble managing diabetes on their own.

Aging and diabetes

Managing diabetes often involves a combination of medication and a diet and exercise. The condition often goes hand-in-hand with other conditions, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol – both of which also require medication and a healthy lifestyle to manage. Diabetes also raises the risk of depression and cognitive impairment – something many older adults already struggle with.

Controlling diabetes can become increasingly difficult as we get older. Age-related memory issues can make it difficult to remember to take diabetes medication or insulin. Mobility issues, lack of exercise, and menopause can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, which can also worsen diabetes.

Caring for your parent with diabetes

Some people make managing their diabetes seem effortless. Perhaps your parent has spent years living a very healthy and active life with little to no mention of their condition. The reality is that controlling diabetes gets more difficult as the years go on and it needs to be considered when planning senior care.

The following are some things to consider when caring for a senior with diabetes:

  • Blood glucose monitoring
  • Meal planning to ensure healthy, consistent meals to avoid hypoglycemia
  • Medication, such as metformin
  • Administering of insulin injections
  • Medical appointments to check for eye problems, circulatory issues, and other diabetes complications
  • Weight management
  • Dental checkups (diabetes can worsen dental health)

Talking to your parent

Talking to your aging parent about their diabetes is important. It can help you understand what their care routine involves. It’s also a good way to gauge how well they’re managing their diabetes and spot red flags, like irritability and low energy.

Look for signs that taking care of their diabetes is becoming more difficult, like trouble holding their hands steady for a blood glucose test or insulin shot, forgetting to take their medication, or not eating as well as they should be.

Have an honest discussion with your parent about their condition and care requirements. Be realistic about what you’re able to do as far as caregiving. Keep in mind your other responsibilities, the amount of time and energy needed to care for a senior with diabetes, and even whether or not you think you’ll be able to do things like administer an insulin injection or perform a finger prick. Not everyone has the stomach for it and that’s okay!

In-home care for diabetes

The right care can help keep your parent’s diabetes well-controlled and minimize the risk of life-altering complications. It also allows seniors with diabetes and other health issues to age in the comfort of their own home, which can also have a positive impact on their health and wellbeing.

A professional senior care provider can assist with:

  • healthy meal planning and preparation
  • medication, including insulin injections
  • blood glucose monitoring
  • medical appointments
  • exercise
  • other errands, such as groceries, picking up prescriptions, etc.

In-home care providers are also act as another set of eyes so that can catch changes in your parent’s condition when you’re not able to be there.

Talk to your parent about their needs and work together on a care plan that you’re all comfortable with. Good planning and the right help can make all the difference.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care




Article Resources
Diabetes Awareness Month Canada 2019. Canadian Diabetes Association.
Diabetes, 2017. Statistics Canada.
Diabetes in Canada. (2017).

How Caring for Your Elderly Parent Is Affecting Your Job

News articles and statistics on caregiving and employment often focus on the losses suffered by companies when adult children take time off to care for their elderly loved ones. But what about the impact that caregiving has on the employee who’s trying to take care of work and their aging parent?

The Impact of Caregiving on Your Employment

It’s long been known that people who care for an aging parent deal with increased stress and can suffer from caregiver burnout. Poor sleep, anxiety, and less “me” time to pursue personal interests are just some of the issues that caregivers face. For working Canadians, the demands of caregiving are even worse and have a domino effect on the workplace. The result is more time off work and reduced productivity.

A recent Ryerson University study focused on the impact that caring for an aging parent has on workers. It looked at two groups of people in a caregiver role – those with senior care responsibilities and those in the sandwich generation who are juggling both childcare and senior care responsibilities.  The results of the study were somewhat surprising. The group with only senior care demands was more overwhelmed that the group juggling both. They reported more difficulty with work-life balance and were more negatively impacted overall.

Work and Caring for Your Aging Loved One

If you have children, chances are you’ve had to skip out of work early or take time off to look after your child, be it for an illness or injury, or a medical appointment. If you don’t have children, you’ve likely had a co-worker miss time for these same reasons. Most employers are understanding of parents and their childcare responsibilities. Many companies even offer assistance for parents, such as onsite daycare or paid family responsibility days. Unfortunately, people who don’t have kids often don’t get the same compassion or support when the needs of their aging loved one interferes with work.

The hope is that employers will use the information from this and other studies when considering benefits for employees in a family caregiver role. A better understanding of the profound impact that looking after an aging parent has on an employee and how it can affect their job may help foster a more family-friendly culture that offers the same consideration and assistance to those in a senior care role.

What to Do In The Meantime

While some employers are supportive of those with familial responsibilities outside of just childcare, we still have a long way to go. Where does that leave you if you have a job and an older parent in need of care? Fortunately, you have options.

Here are some ideas to make work-life balance easier so that adult children and their aging loved one gets the care they need:

  • Speak to your employer about your situation so they are aware of your caregiving obligations; being honest may help reduce job-related anxieties.
  • Look into any support that your employer may offer, such as flexible work arrangements, employee assistance programs, etc.
  • Share the responsibilities with other family members and friends – you don’t need to do it alone.
  • Find a caregiver support group online or in your area.
  • Take care of yourself – it’s critical to balancing your work and caregiving demands.
  • Hire a home care agency – home care services can be adjusted to fit your needs whether that’s occasional respite care, so you get a break or ongoing home care services.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care



Article Resources
Halinski M, Duxbury L, Higgins C. (2018). Working While Caring for Mom, Dad, and Junior Too: Exploring the Impact of Employees’ Caregiving Situation on Demands, Control, and Perceived Stress.
Government of Canada. (2016). Balancing work and caregiving responsibilities, tips for employed caregivers of family or friends.

Getting Around – One of the Biggest Challenges for Canadian Seniors

Of all the senior issues that make the news, there’s one big one that gets little attention. We’re talking about transportation.

This Non-Issue is Actually a Big Issue

When thinking about senior care, the focus is often on making sure seniors have a comfortable place to live, food on the table, and the medical care they need. Transportation is often considered a secondary issue, but not having access to transportation can prevent a senior from getting even the most basic care.

Not having easy and affordable access to transportation can:

  • prevent a senior from attending crucial medical appointments for chronic illness or after being discharged from a hospital
  • lead to isolation and loneliness (statistics show that seniors who don’t drive are considerably less likely to participate in social activities)
  • place added stress on seniors who may already be dealing with other issues, such as poverty and loneliness
  • make it difficult to get groceries, contributing to poor nutrition and health

This isn’t only a problem for seniors, but all Canadians and our healthcare system. Inability to get to an appointment is one the most common reasons given for medical appointment no-shows. Not only does the senior miss out on being seen by the doctor, but when they don’t show up, another patient suffers if sufficient time isn’t given to fill the open slot. In Canada, the patient no-show rate is estimated to be between 10 and 30 percent.

Limited Options

Chronic health issues, loss of driver’s license, and neighborhoods with limited access to public transportation are just some of the things preventing seniors from getting around. Cost is also a factor for many seniors.

While some Canadian cities are looking for better options geared at seniors, the problem is far from resolved. In the United States, ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft are contracting with healthcare agencies and insurance companies to set up patients with rides. Slowly, but surely, similar partnerships are being considered here. Unfortunately, many older adults shy away from using ride-hailing services because they don’t know how to use the digital interface to order a ride, be it on their smartphone or computer. Also, because you’re required to enter payment information into the app, fear of senior scams and data breaches are other reasons seniors don’t take advantage of this option.

So What Are Seniors to Do?

The inability to get around is often the driving force behind seniors having to move into assisted living facilities. With the majority of Canadians preferring to age in place, finding alternative transportation is crucial.

Here are some alternative transportation options for seniors:

  • Ride-hailing services – These provide an alternative to taxis and are sometimes the only option for getting around, depending where you live. You don’t need to be a computer wiz to use technology like your smartphone or or computer to order a ride, but basic skills are needed. Many senior centers offer workshops geared at teaching seniors the basics – helpful not just for transportation, but also for access to medical records and other services.
  • Volunteer driving programs – Some communities have organizations that provide driving services for seniors. Some are free, while others charge a fee. You can find information about these services in your area by dialing 211 from any phone in Ontario or visiting
  • Public transit – If you live in a city, chances are you have a public transit system. The majority of municipal transit systems offer discounted rates for seniors. Information about fares and schedules are available online, by phone, or at your local bus or train station.
  • Para-transit – This is a shared ride, door to door service for people unable to use regular public transit because of a physical or functional disability. Para-transit programs vary depending where you live. In some communities, service is provided directly by the municipality or their transit commission, in others it’s contracted out.
  • Community shuttles – Some hospitals, medical centers, and community centers offer shuttle services for patients and seniors. Speak to staff at your healthcare facility or community center to find out what transportation assistance is available.
  • Senior care companions – Transportation and escort services are part of the home care services that we offer. The service can be catered to meet your individual needs. For instance, if you require more assistance than just a pick up or drop-off, our caregiver companions can help. This includes help preparing for an appointment, accompanying you to your visit, and even taking notes at important medical appointments for you and your family. Our caregiver can be there to help before, during, and after your appointment or outing, no matter how long that may take. If you or your loved one also requires help getting dressed for appointments and settled back in after, we can help with that, too.

Canada has a long way to go when it comes to ensuring that seniors have access to reliable and affordable transportation. We hope that this information makes getting around a little easier in the meantime.

David Porter, CPCA

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care




Article Resources
Access to Travel. Government of Canada. (2013).
Profile of seniors’ transportation habits. Statistics Canada. (2015).
The use of transportation by seniors in Canada. Statistics Canada. (2015).
Seniors Get Around. Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. (2019).
The Para-Transit Programs. Ontario Human Rights Commission.