Aging in the Comfort of Your Home – Tips For Success

Great tips to consider for successfully aging at home.

Moving is stressful for everyone, especially seniors. Many seniors wish to stay in their current home for as long as possible. But can they afford it? And are their homes a safe place to age? Whether you are that older adult or the child of an aging parent, there are a number of issues and concerns you need to consider before aging in place can be made a reality. Following is a list of many of the key issues to consider.

1. Make Your Home Safe and Accessible

Whether you’re planning to stay in your current home or considering downsizing to a residence with less maintenance requirements (e.g., a condo or smaller house), there is one overriding issue for you to stay safe in your home: preventing a fall. Studies have clearly shown that a fall is one of the major causes for a rapid decline in health and well-being among older adults, and is often the precipitating event for transitioning into a long-term care facility. The simple fact, however, is that most falls can be prevented. For instance, taking simple steps like removing throw rugs, clearing clutter from the floors, installing grab rails in the bathrooms, wearing non-slip shoes, and updating your lighting in and outside of your home will all help.

2. Create Your “Care Team

Even if you are healthy, active, and completely independent, you will still want to create a “care team” to work with you to assess how you are managing at home and provide you with assistance when needed. A good care team serves as your ally, helping you in whatever way necessary to ensure your safety, comfort, and ongoing quality of life.

In addition to being trustworthy, your care team should ideally have a number of other qualities to be truly effective and act faithfully on your behalf. These qualities include strong communication and organizational skills, compassion, empathy, patience, a tolerance for stress, the ability to delegate, and the humility and good sense to be able to ask for help when needed.

3. Home Maintenance

Part of the trick of growing older gracefully (and staying healthy!) is to recognize when it’s time to stop doing certain things, and this is certainly true for many of the regular tasks associated with maintaining a home. Here are just a couple steps to consider:

• Hire a reputable cleaning company. Perhaps they only come in once a month to do a ‘top to bottom’ cleaning.

• Contract with a local landscape company or handyman to provide regular lawn care, including mowing, trimming, raking, and snow shoveling, as needed.

• Maintain an up-to-date list of qualified contractors and service people (e.g., electrician, plumber, etc.) who can address all of your major home repair and maintenance needs.

• In case of an emergency – say, a leaky roof or power outage – establish a key contact you can easily reach to help you resolve the problem quickly.

4. Area Services

In most locations, you can get help for just about any service or need you have, usually for a cost. To start, check with your local community and government services, including your local community care access centre.    Whether it’s help with meals (look into the “Meals on Wheels” program), hiring a caregiver to cook at your home, driving and errands (consider public transportation, taxis, and  paid services), or wishing to expand your social life  – a solution can usually be found.

5. Self-maintenance

For older adults living at home there are certain activities that can be dangerous, or at least problematic, such as:

• Bathing. Make sure the tub/shower area is ‘senior friendly’ (e.g., handrails, non-slip mats), always test the water temperature before entering; avoid any sudden movements, never rush.

• Bill paying. Have a qualified member of your care team work with you to set up the most efficient system (e.g., automated bill paying online), so that everything is in one place and all bills are paid at the same time each month. It might make sense for this team member (or the primary caregiver) to review your bills with you periodically.

• Medications. Maintain a list of all current medications with all pertinent information; ration out pills in a daily dose organizer and keep in an obvious place (e.g., beside the coffee maker); throw out all expired prescriptions; keep all prescriptions in their original containers.

6. Technology Is Your Friend

With today’s technology you can now turn your house into a “smart home” with an array of tools and systems that will go a long way to ensure your safety, comfort, and independence. Depending on your particular needs and budget, the kinds of safety and monitoring systems that can now be installed in your home include emergency assistance, automated timers/reminders, GPS locators, video cameras, motion and lighting sensors, and environmental controls. Now, when there’s an emergency, help can be literally minutes away. Make use of these tools.

7.  Budgeting for Care

Because there are so many variables in terms of the types of services and care available, it is impossible to create a one-size-fits-all budget for personal home care costs. To develop a realistic idea of what it will cost you, you will need to create your own budget, listing all the items (services, alterations, technology, etc.) you think you will need. Break them up into two categories – “must have” and “like to have” – and then get price ranges from the appropriate individuals and companies. Under the price column remember to specify if it is a one-time or ongoing cost. Once you have a working budget, you should meet with your financial advisor (and perhaps your lawyer) to have a candid discussion about what you can realistically afford. Keep in mind that this kind of discussion is not a one-time thing. Going forward, plan on scheduling this meeting on a periodic basis or whenever significant life changes occur.

Call the Tree of Life, we are here to help and only a phone call away.

Call us at (416) 786-6064/ (416) 567-5352 for a free, no obligation care consultation to learn how your family members can benefit from our personalized services

Getting Help with your Loved Ones Sadness

Aging means a series of progressive losses including withdrawal from work, loss of purpose, reduced independence, loss of friends, increased poverty, the risk of developing an illness leading to long-term disability, isolation and loneliness. Your loved one may be feeling sad, and alone.

An Increase in Sadness

Aging means a series of progressive losses including withdrawal from work, loss of purpose, reduced independence, loss of friends, increased poverty, the risk of developing an illness leading to long-term disability, isolation and loneliness. Your loved one may be feeling sad and alone.

According to Health Canada, it is estimated that 5% to 10% of seniors living in the community will experience a depressive disorder that is serious enough to require treatment. And the rate of anxiety and depression dramatically increases to 30% to 40% for seniors living in institutions. The great news is that most people with depression (over 80%) respond well to treatment and achieve a complete and lasting recovery.

Sadly, 90% will NOT seek out the help they need or their depression will be missed or ignored, denying them beneficial treatment for mental health problems.

How do I know if its depression? 

A depressive illness is more than just feeling sad. Depression affects the whole person including their feelings, thinking and physical health. It also lasts a long time.

The most common symptoms of depression include:

Physical changes 

  • Changes in appetite – with a resultant weight loss or weight gain.
  • Sleep disturbances- with trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much.
  • Sleep, when it comes, does not restore and refresh. People often report feeling worse in the morning with the mood lifting as the day goes on.
  • Decreased energy, with feelings of weakness and physical fatigue.
  • Some people experience agitation with restlessness and have a need to move constantly.
  • Phantom pains, headaches, muscle aches and pains, with no known physical cause.
  • Stomach upsets – constipation.

Changes in thinking

  • Thoughts may be confused or slowed down which makes thinking, concentrating or remembering information difficult.
  • Decision-making is difficult and often avoided.
  • Obsessive ruminations, a sense of impending doom or disaster.
  • Preoccupation with perceived failures or personal inadequacies leading to a loss in self-confidence.
  • Becoming harshly self-critical and unfairly judgmental.
  • In extreme cases, there can be a loss of being in touch with reality, perhaps
  • Hearing voices (hallucinations) or having strange ideas (delusions).
  • Persistent thoughts of death, suicide or attempts to hurt oneself.

Changes in feeling

  • Loss of interest in activities that were once a source of pleasure.
  • Decreased interest in and enjoyment from sex.
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and excessive guilt.
  • Deadening or an absence of feelings.
  • Sense of overwhelming or impending doom.
  • Loss of self-esteem.
  • Feeling sad, blue and down in the dumps that may be worse in the morning lifting
  • as the day goes on.
  • Crying for no apparent reason.
  • Irritability, impatience, anger and aggressive feelings.

Changes in behaviour

  • Withdrawal from social and leisure activities.
  • Failure to make important decisions.
  • Neglecting duties such as housework, gardening, paying bills.
  • Decrease in physical activity and exercise.
  • Reduced self-care such as personal grooming, eating.
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs (prescription and non-prescription).

How to Help

1. Help build social supports

The paradox of depression is that at a time when your loved one most needs to draw people close – they may want to avoid contact with others. However, most people find that the support of family and friends, participation in a self-help group or talking with a professional counselor can be very helpful in overcoming depression. Dealing with social isolation is an important part of healing and can help prevent further episodes of illness. Lots of studies show us that being part of a supportive family, being part of a religious group or being active in your community is an important part of health, wellbeing and improved quality of life. Encourage your loved one to join a support group for depression as part of their recovery.

2. Talk and Active Listening 

Talking and Active Listening can be very helpful in dealing with losses, solving challenging problems or dealing with the social impact of depression. Talking & Listening is a form of therapy that can help your loved one look at their thought patterns which may be negative and self-criticizing. Listening to someone talk can help them process their feelings, and it creates a sense of connection. It will also help them make the connection between their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. What they think affects how they feel and how they behave.

3. Consider Volunteering

Help your loved one find out about how to get involved in their local community. There are volunteer bureaus across the country that can help your loved one find just the right kind of activity to suit their interests and needs.

4. Encourage physically active

Recent research has found that moderate exercise and light weight lifting has a remarkable ability to treat depression in seniors. In fact, moderate exercise has been found to be as effective in treating mild depression as medication. Strengthening your loved one’s muscles has also been found to reduce the risk of falling and hip fractures – the number one reason seniors end up in institutional care. An exercise program should include active movement to build balance and coordination, stretching to improve flexibility by moving your joints through their full range of motion, ways to strengthening your muscles, and, finally, activities to get your heart pumping. Encourage your loved one to joining a senior’s exercise program in their local community to strengthen their social network as well as their body. Health Canada has a useful Physical Activity Guide to Healthy, Active Living for Older Adults (telephone 1-888-334-9769; website ). It’s free, easy to read in large type and provides useful tips for increasing physical activity for the elderly.

5. Exercise the mind

Along with aging often come subtle changes in brain functioning. It may not seem as easy to remember names. Learning new skills can seem harder. But just like your body, a healthy nimble mind requires active exercise. Think of ways to challenge your loved ones’ brain. Playing chess, bridge, computer games or crossword puzzles.

6. Monitor Healthy Eating Habits

Diet plays an important role in preventing illness and keeping us well. The absence of essential minerals and vitamins is associated with many serious health problems including depression. Many seniors neglect this important part of their health. If your loved one lives alone, it may not seem worth the effort to cook themselves a meal. Depression can also rob people of their appetite. Use a reminder such as a timing clock or phone call to tell your loved when to eat. Restore balance by starting to keep track of what your loved one is eating.

7. Music soothes and ignites the soul

There is nothing more stirring than listening to music – except perhaps playing it or singing along. In fact, music can help your loved one soothe anxiety and lift their spirit. They may want to join a choir or sing along to their favourite tunes through a MP3 or iPod device. Just make sure you download a large dose of music for their day.

8. Laugh, Laugh, Laugh

Research again shows us that there is powerful healing in laughter. It changes our brain chemistry in a positive way and helps us look at problems in new and creative ways. So go rent a comedy film or whatever brings a smile to their face.

9. Ask for help if you need it

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Working through concerns with a professional can bring out new ideas and offer a fresh perspective in solving problems. Having help can help your loved one stay in charge of making their own decisions.

Call the Tree of Life, we are here to help and only a phone call away.

Call us at (416) 786-6064/ (416) 567-5352 for a free, no obligation care consultation to learn how your family members can benefit from our personalized services

Strategies for enhancing your loved ones assisted living and long term care home experience

Some great strategies to ensure a positive outcome and fulfilling experience for everyone involved.

Moving is stressful to everyone. Moving a loved one into a long term care home or assisted living community can be an emotionally charged time for both the resident and their family.  These emotions can have a negative impact on the relationships with the care team at the home.  Developing a positive relationship with the homes care team can lead to a fulfilling experience for both the resident and their family.

1. Get to Know the Care Team

• Get to know the care team.  In Long term care homes and assisted living communities there are multiple team members with different responsibilities including personal support workers who provide most of the care, registered nurses, an administrator, director of care, social worker, physio therapist and a recreation aide.  Take the time to know the team members roles and responsibilities and how they can help to improve your loved ones quality of life.

• Identify a primary contact at the facility. If you have a chief contact and advocate for your family member your job will be that much easier. They will often be able to address many of your questions and concerns or, if not, then know where to direct you. The obvious choice is a staff member who has daily contact with your family member and is most apt to develop a genuine relationship with him or her.

2.  Communication 

Communication is essential for working effectively with people. This is particularly true when you’re feeling stressed or tense, which is not uncommon when you’re concerned about a loved one in a care home. Listening and communicating your needs and observations in a manner that can be heard by the staff.  If you’re courteous and practice good communication skills a good rapport will develop and will usually result in a positive outcome.

• Ask Questions Don’t be afraid to ask questions.   Get to know your loved ones community and what services are available.  Problems sometimes arise when  family members are hesitant to ask questions.   Families are afraid to ask questions because they fear it will reflect poorly on their loved one, that their loved one will not get the care they deserve.  Most homes want families to ask questions, to become educated about the community, and create opportunities for this to happen, but family members often don’t take advantage of these opportunities. Be prepared. Think about what it is you need to know and write down your questions beforehand so whether you’re in a group setting or one-on-one with your primary contact, you’re prepared and can then really focus on the information given to you.

• Active Listening Many times people don’t listen closely to what is actually being said to them (especially if the information is difficult to hear). Instead they’re distracted with other thoughts or more concerned about what they’re going to say next. If, however, you make a conscious effort to listen and try to understand what is being said, you’ll be in a much better position to develop a real rapport with that person. Actively listening involves summarizing what the person just told you so it’s clear you understand them, show your comprehension, and help create dialogue. It also means putting yourself in their shoes when trying to hear their point of view.

• Avoid Communication Stoppers Most of us already know this, but there are a number of things you simply should avoid saying. These include name calling, blaming, jumping to conclusions and giving unheeded advice.  Instead, frame your concerns with non-threatening phrases like “it concerns me…” or “I understand what you’re saying…” or “what if we tried a different approach…”

3. Help Staff Get to Know Your Loved One

Many caregivers say that one of the most satisfying aspects of their job is the relationships they develop with the residents in their care. It’s very common to hear caregivers and other staff refer to many of their residents as “family”.  When a caregiver develops a genuine relationship with a resident the care provided is enhanced and personalized resulting in improved quality of life for the resident.

Family members can help foster these relationships by helping the caregivers get to know your loved ones life history.  It’s important they know where they were born, where they work, there hobbies and family member’s names… The caregivers will see not just a resident but a person with unique talents, dreams and hobbies.  Consider putting together a memory box of items or a story book that let the caregivers know a little about your loved ones life.

4. Appreciation

Take the time to get to know the primary care givers.  Not just their names but where they are from, their children and their dreams.  Give positive feedback and say thank you when a caregiver goes above and beyond the call of duty for your loved one. Fostering an authentic relationship with the team results in a positive working environment for the caregivers, resulting in happier caregivers and happier residents.

Call the Tree of Life, we are here to help and only a phone call away.

Call us at (416) 786-6064/ (416) 567-5352 for a free, no obligation care consultation to learn how your family members can benefit from our personalized services

5 Handmade Gift Ideas for Your Loved One

Need a Loved one gift idea for a holiday or birthday? Here are suggestions to get you started.

Undoubtedly, you can buy a present for a loved one from a store, but they can be very impersonal. Why not make one? Your loved one will love having something homemade.

Create a Family Memory Placemat Collage

Grab your family photos and laminate them to place mats to send to loved ones. You’ll always be there with them bringing joy to each meal.

Create a Music CD

Record family stories telling your loved one about their favourite times, as a reminder of their importance in the family.

Film a Homemade Video

Grab the video camera and record family moments.

Personalize Family Fridge Magnets

Get some magnetic tape and put pieces on the back of family photos to create instant fridge magnets.

Puzzle It

Paste a photo of grandchildren on cardboard, cut it into pieces and send with instructions saying, “Put this together and see who loves you!”

Handmade gifts can be a tradition that your loved one can look forward to. This will make for a rewarding present the loved one won’t forget.

Call us at (416) 786-6064/ (416) 567-5352 for a free, no obligation care consultation to learn how your family members can benefit from our personalized services