Healthcare professionals answer questions about caregiving, long-term care and seniors’ health
Q) This past spring I taught mom how to use the internet. Now she spends hours on “health sites” and self-diagnosing. She’s even ordered pills and creams online. Surely this isn’t ok? How can I stop her?
There is a lot of great information available on the internet, but there is also a lot of bad information. Encourage your mother to be very careful about how she uses the internet. If she wants health information, encourage her to use sites that are promoted by reputable organizations such as Health Canada, or by a local health organization such as the Canadian Cancer Society or the Alzheimer’s Society. Encourage her not to rely on one source, but to validate everything with multiple sources.
Your mother’s local seniors’ community centre may have computer classes that are geared toward seniors and their vulnerability. You have opened the door for your mother—now she needs to learn how to make smart choices about the internet and the use of online health information.
Q) My dad has had a stroke and needs care, but is refusing help at home. He only wants my sister and she needs to get back to her family. Help?
Your father may be feeling vulnerable after his stroke and may not want strangers in his home. The most effective way to secure his agreement to outside help is to introduce someone gradually. Can your sister stay a little longer and have someone come to help while she’s still there? That would allow your father time to develop a relationship with someone new. Can any other family members, such as yourself, spend time with your father to allow your sister to get back to her family?
Giving your father some control over the choices that need to be made should also help him. He probably feels very secure with your sister, especially if she has been staying with him for awhile. He needs to be reassured by your sister, as well as by you, that he will not be forgotten. Your sister should tell your father that she will be back to visit, maybe even setting a specific day for when she will return. It will not be easy, but your sister needs to care for herself in order to be able to care for your father.
Q) Is it reasonable to ask our personal support worker to take my wife for a walk each day? My wife enjoys being outside.
It is very reasonable to ask your personal support worker (healthcare aid) to walk with your wife outside, especially if your wife is physically able. Work with the case manager or nursing supervisor to establish a plan of care that includes walking outside as part of the visit. This will help to ensure that your wife has the opportunity to be outside whenever possible.
Q) Our neighbour, a widowed pensioner, needs help with shopping. She’s also not keeping herself tidy. Is there a service we can call to get her help?
It is admirable that you want to help your neighbour. She may, depending on where she lives, be eligible for government-funded assistance, either through the local health authority or through a Veterans Affairs Canada program called VIP. This program promotes independence, while giving some support to veterans and their spouses for light housekeeping and, in many cases, shopping as well. Has your neighbour spoken with her doctor about a referral to the regional health authority for assistance? There are agencies in most communities that will help with shopping and light housekeeping for a fee, although your neighbour should be sure to use one that is reputable. Using an agency that has been accredited ensures that it meets strict standards of quality care.
Q) My mom refuses to wear her hearing aid when she’s outside for fear of losing it. How can I convince her otherwise?
It is very hard to convince someone to do something if they are fearful of a bad outcome, such as losing a hearing aid. Your mother may be worried about the expense if she does lose her hearing aid. You should encourage her to make sure the hearing aid fits correctly, which might help to ease her concerns about losing it while outside. Take her to where she got the hearing aid and ask them to show her how it fits, as well as to determine that it does fit correctly.
Q) Mom and dad have been at the doctor’s a lot recently, but they’re reluctant to tell us what’s going on. How can I encourage them to share? I’m worried.
As your parents age, they will probably see their doctor more often. Encourage them to talk to you, but know that they may be used to working things through without telling you because you are the child and they are the parents. They may need to know that you will listen and not try to push solutions on them.
Q) Bills are very confusing for mom now that she is on her own. Is there someone who can help? I live 200 miles away.
Is it possible for you to set up all her bills online? That way you can help in paying her bills, even if you are 200 miles away. You may need to go over her bills in person at the beginning, but if she gives you authorization to pay her bills through her account then once you have it set up, you can do the bill paying remotely.