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
Director

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
Director

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

 

Article Resources
2018 Stroke Report. https://www.heartandstroke.ca/-/media/pdf-files/canada/stroke-report/strokereport2018.ashx
Stroke in Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/stroke-in-canada.html
Recovery and support. https://www.heartandstroke.ca/stroke/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
Director

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
Director

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
Director

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

 

 

Article Resources
Back Pain. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-619-m/2006003/4053542-eng.htm
Degenerative Back Conditions. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16912-degenerative-back-conditions?_ga=2.128921988.947820902.1543350927-1001412253.1542995090
Osteoarthritis. https://www.arthritis.ca/about-arthritis/arthritis-types-(a-z)/types/osteoarthritis

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
Director

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

 

 

Article Resources
Facts about Local Health Integration Network Home and Community Care Services. http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/common/system/services/lhin/facts.aspx
Supporting Seniors Return Home from Hospital. http://www.hnhblhin.on.ca/goalsandachievements/integrationpopulationbased/olderadultstheirfamiliesandcaregivers/supportingseniorsreturnhome.aspx
http://www.waterloowellingtonlhin.on.ca/newsandstories/current_news/20140129mohseniorshome.aspx

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
Director

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

More Women Are Living Longer and Making It Work – You Can Too

You’ve likely noticed that when it comes to older people, more women seem to live alone than older men. The Canadian government has noticed this, too. According to Statistics Canada, women over 65 are almost twice more likely to live alone than senior men and this includes 31 percent of women over the age of 90.

It’s not surprising given that women have a longer life expectancy than men—explaining the two women for every man aged 85 and older reported by Statistics Canada in 2016! That ratio increases to five to one for centenarians!

The tendency to form partnerships/marry men who are slightly older also contributes to this. It’s also a known fact that older women aren’t as interested in finding a partner later in life and more prefer to go it alone than men, who are more likely to seek companionship regardless of age—often with a younger woman.

Help for Senior Women Living Alone

Regardless of how capable and independent a woman is, living alone as health and care needs change isn’t always easy. The size of our family and social networks decrease with age, especially for women living alone, many of whom report having fewer people they feel close to. As much as they may enjoy their independence, many women who alone report missing having people around and worry about the potential vulnerabilities they face as they age. Even those who enjoy financial stability and good health know that these circumstances can change quickly. Having a limited number of family and close friends means not having a potential caregiver to help when the need arises.

Finding Support

A lack of a support system to help with senior care needs isn’t the only issue for older women who find themselves without a social or family network. Loneliness is a real struggle that has mental and physical health implications and has been found to be a serious problem among seniors, especially those living alone.

Community is important and building connections and a support system is crucial, even if you’re enjoying single life as a senior. This can help combat loneliness and ensure that you have help when you need it.

Some ways to find support:

  • Meet and get to know your neighbours
  • Join social clubs
  • Attend events in your community
  • Stay in contact with any friends and family
  • Take an exercise class
  • Engage a companion or Personal Support Worker (PSW)

For those who are computer-savvy, the internet is a great place to find community groups and social clubs in your neighbourhood, including many geared at seniors. Senior centers also offer a variety of classes, workshops, and social events.

Enlisting professional home care services can also help for those who need assistance with things like household chores or getting to medical appointments. Home care agencies also have caregivers who can help with transportation to get you to and from social activities and community events, as well as joyful companionship if you spend a lot of time alone because of a limited social or family network.

Women are living longer and thriving well into their senior years. With a little extra support, you can continue to enjoy your independence and do the things you love, for longer and on your terms in a location where most seniors wish to be … at home.

David Porter, CPCA
Director

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

 

 

Article Resources
Living arrangements of seniors. https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/98-312-x/98-312-x2011003_4-eng.cfm
Senior Women. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-503-x/2010001/article/11441-eng.htm#a7

Senior Loneliness and Isolation – A Growing Health Crisis

According to Statistics Canada, approximately 1.4 elderly people in Canada report feeling lonely. Loneliness and isolation among Canadian seniors is growing and some are calling this a public health crisis.

Loneliness and isolation are caused by a number of factors. As we age, our social network gets smaller as friends and spouses die and adult children have their own lives to manage. It’s important to point out that for many people, this loneliness and isolation can often begin as early as in their 50s, especially in those who are widowed. And with each passing year, the number of risk factors associated with loneliness increases. Risk factors include:

  • Living alone
  • Being 80 or older
  • Having health issues
  • Having no children
  • Having little to no contact with family
  • Changing family structures, such as younger relatives moving away
  • Limited access to transportation
  • Low income

Loneliness Worse Than Obesity and Smoking, According to Reports

Feelings of loneliness are predictors of mortality. According to various reports, social isolation increases your risk of death by an astounding 30 to 60 percent.

Diseases that are worsened or even caused by chronic loneliness include:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Obesity
  • Neurodegenerative disorders

In-Home Caregivers Can Help with Senior Isolation and Loneliness

Home care agencies that offer in-home health care services for seniors provide invaluable assistance to seniors at risk of or already dealing with isolation of feelings of loneliness.

Having limited mobility or limited access to transportation to get to and from social activities and medical appointments have been identified as contributors to isolation and declining health in seniors. Our willing and able caregivers are available to help with transportation to appointments, social outings, and more.

Poor medication adherence is another identified risk factor that increases with aging alone or with limited support. Our home health care services also include RN- supervised care, including medication management, pain management, wound care, and more.

Our caregivers are also available to provide companionship. We can schedule regular visits to assist with other in-home care services or companionship, which entail anything from someone to chat with over a cup of tea to playing cards, doing crafts, or going for a walk.

If you or an aging loved one would like to learn more about how our friendly caregivers can help combat loneliness, stay well, and enjoy life to the fullest, give us a call.

David Porter, CPCA
Director

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

 

 

Article Resources
Report on the Social Isolation of Seniors. https://www.canada.ca/en/national-seniors-council/programs/publications-reports/2014/social-isolation-seniors/page05.html
The Social Isolation and Loneliness Among Seniors (SILAS) Project: Summary of Findings and Recommendations. http://www.vancouverseniorsadvisory.ca/wp-content/uploads/SILAS_review_slides_SAC_Friesen_May_2018_Elmer.pdf