Caregiving

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Expert Advice

Healthcare professionals answer questions about caregiving, long-term care and seniors’ health

Q) Who can we ask to care for the family pet if my aunt goes into hospital for a few days? She is stressed about it, and I can’t help, my daughter has allergies.

Some veterinary clinics will take care of pets while the owner goes into hospital or on vacation, or a nearby boarding kennel might be the solution if a family member or neighbour can’t help out. Ask your vet to recommend a boarding kennel in your area. You will have to provide an up-to-date vaccination record for the pet before it will be accepted by the kennel. In addition, it is highly recommended that dogs are vaccinated against kennel cough before boarding.

Q) Will smoking cause an overactive bladder? Also, I’m worried about cigarettes being a fire hazard in my parents’ home.

Smoking contributes to a number of different health problems. If your parent has an overactive bladder, he or she should speak with the family doctor about determining the cause. Smoking in the home is a fire hazard if cigarettes are left to burn or not completely extinguished, and there will be an increased risk if your parents have memory deficits or take medications that make them sleepy. It is important to continually review this with your parents and, in particular, to encourage them not to smoke in bed. If they are interested in quitting then they should ask their family doctor or pharmacist about community or clinic programs that will help on the way, as well as medications that can reduce the urge to smoke.

Q) I know that healthy diet with fibre and fruit is important, but I can only get my wife to eat crackers and cheese. She says she’s not hungry.

Lack of appetite can be related to a health condition or medication, so it would be advisable to speak with your wife’s family doctor/specialist. You might also want to arrange an appointment with a dietitian, who will be able to review your wife’s diet and make suggestions.

Q) What is the ideal time for an older adult to eat dinner and go to bed?

There is no ideal time for eating dinner and going to bed, although some experts suggest allowing at least three hours between eating and bedtime. A lot depends on the timing of the rest of the day. What time do you wake up in the morning? When do you eat throughout the day? Most older adults do not require as much sleep or food as younger people. Digestion slows down at night and the heavier the meal, the long it can take for the stomach to settle. In addition, lying down on a full stomach may cause discomfort, heartburn or acid reflux. Raising the head of the bed by six to eight inches can help prevent this.

Q) How can we avoid Dad wandering off? He’s often confused, but wants his independence.

This is a very difficult time for both you and your father, and you need to keep him safe while at the same time allowing him some independence. Has your father seen a physician for an assessment of his physical condition? His confusion could have a medical cause, and you will want to get that checked so your father can receive any necessary treatment. Does your dad live alone? Is he leaving his home and getting lost? A short-term solution is to have an alarm installed on the doors that is triggered when anyone leaves the home. This will alert whoever is in the house that your dad has left.

Q) Will drinking a lot coffee and wine influence the effectiveness of my sister’s medication?

Some medications are affected by the consumption of coffee and/or alcohol. If you have concerns, try to persuade your sister to take all her medications to a pharmacist or her family doctor for a review. It is important that she includes all over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements, and is honest about her alcohol and caffeine intake.

Q) Should we take our daughter with us to medical appointments? She has offered to come, but I’m worried about her missing work.

It is an excellent idea to take your daughter! If she has offered to accompany you then she has probably worked out a solution for her work. Having a family member present will help you to stay calm, remember any questions you want to ask and recall what you’ve been told. She can also help interpret any information provided and ask new questions.

Q) My mother is embarrassed and afraid to go out as she has incontinence issues. Any suggestions?

The first thing to do is to ensure that your mother is not suffering from a medical condition, such as an infection. Encourage her to visit her doctor. He or she will determine if your mother needs any medication or tests, and will discuss appropriate exercises she can do to reduce leakage. The next thing to do is to find an incontinence pad that your mother is comfortable wearing. There are many options available that are more discreet than ever before. That way, she will be protected if she has any difficulties while out and about.

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