Expert Advice

Cold and flu season
Is my mum more at risk for cold and flu in a nursing home?

Contagious illnesses such as cold and flu can spread quickly in assisted living facilities, where there are a large number of residents sharing space. In contrast, aging at home lowers risks of catching these illnesses. Assisted living facilities also have visitation rules dictating the frequency and length of visits and can even have lock-downs when too many residents get the flu, which can be distressing for your loved one and the whole family.

It’s best to discuss infection-control practices with the facility’s nursing team and get some prevention advice before the season starts—and, of course, be sure to get your own flu shot.

Planning

At what age should I begin planning for my later years?

There’s no set age unless you know you are ill, but generally this is something people undertake as they are approaching retirement. Consider your options early so that when care is necessary, a plan is already in place. Home is still the preferred place for most seniors to live, surrounded by family and their own belongings.

There will be transitions as you age, but they do not have to be disruptive if you have the freedom to maintain your independence and quality of life. The home setting is the “least restrictive” environment, allowing older adults to arrange for personalized care and stay engaged with their normal daily activities, including regular visits with family and friends.

End-of-life wishes

We’re having a difficult time getting our parents to have “the conversation” about their end-of-life wishes. Do you have any suggestions on how to broach the subject?

You’re not alone. A lot of people feel uncomfortable, awkward or embarrassed when talking about their end-of-life wishes. Unfortunately, this means that the subject often goes undiscussed and, when a crisis occurs, it’s too late for your loved one make their preferences known.

One resource that we’ve found to be helpful is a new mobile app called My Own Voice, which is trying to make “the conversation” easier for Canadians. My Own Voice asks nine questions that help people to consider, record and communicate their end-of-life wishes, including their preferences regarding life-prolonging treatments, resuscitation and funeral arrangements.

When you’ve finished, the app combines your answers into a video, which you can share confidentially with your loved ones, caregivers and healthcare professionals. The people you choose to see the video will receive a unique website address and a password; no one else can view your video, not even the app company. And if you ever want to change an answer, you simply record a new video.

My Own Voice is the creation of a small Vancouver-based start-up of the same name. The video is accessible anytime to those who have been invited to view it.

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