Healthcare professionals answer questions about caregiving, long-term care and seniors’ health
Q) When should a person stop driving? Mum is 90. She’s quite safe on the road, but a little frail when getting in and out of the car.
We all experience aging at different rates; however, we will all feel changes in our bodies as we get older. Many of these changes will not have a dramatic impact on daily living, but can affect our driving ability. In some regions, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation provides group education for senior drivers (www.mto.gov.on.ca or 1-800-387-3445). This might be a good way for your mom to learn how aging can impact her driving ability.
It might also be a good idea to talk to your mom about the benefits of other methods of transportation, such as cabs, volunteer drivers or catching a ride with a friend. Sharing journeys with others is a great way to socialize with friends and family, while saving money on gas and reducing air pollution.
Q) The lovely nurse that the agency is sending is afraid of our dog. He is very passive but she’s fearful. Any suggestions?
This can be a difficult situation as pets of any kind are typically a part of one’s family and are treated as such. However, for some individuals, dogs can be the cause of unnecessary anxiety and place avoidable stress on a situation. If the nurse is coming into your home for only short periods at a time, it might be a good idea to keep the dog in another room while she is providing care. If the nurse stays for longer, have a talk with her about your dog. Maybe together you can come up with a solution that works for everyone.
Q) My husband refuses to visit his dad at the nursing home. He says it makes him feel uncomfortable. His dad keeps asking for him. Any suggestions?
As parents become older and the responsibilities of care shift from parents to children, everyone involved experiences a variety of physical, emotional, social and financial changes. Learning to cope with these changes in a healthy way is important to ensure you, your husband and his dad can live in a mutually loving and giving relationship.
Is the move to the nursing home a recent one? No matter how smoothly the process goes, children often feel a sense of guilt when parents have to leave their own home. As a start, could you encourage your husband to call his father to see how he is doing? Alternatively, you could arrange for a home visit or short outing with his father, if possible. It’s best to keep all lines of communication open, but a chat with a social worker, chaplain or the family doctor might be in order if the situation continues.
Q) People tell me to take time for myself, but who will look after my older sister? She’s bedridden and we live outside of town.
Respite care is temporary relief for people who are caring for a family member or loved one who might otherwise require permanent placement in a long-term care facility or home. Connect with your sister’s family doctor to determine whether you are eligible for respite care through government funding. It might be possible for your government healthcare provider to send a support worker or companion for your sister, depending on her needs. You could also connect with local church groups or volunteer agencies to see how they can help.
Q) Will the government send someone to make lunch for my husband who’s recovering from a stroke. I’m at work in the day.
Start by connecting with your family doctor to see if your husband is eligible for support through the provincial government program. If he is not eligible, there are private home healthcare organizations that can provide you with a homemaker who will make a nutritious meal for your husband. Meals on Wheels is another possibility. For a nominal charge, a volunteer will drop off a meal to your husband while you are at work. Most Meals on Wheels organizations can meet a wide variety of special dietary needs, from low glycemic and sodium diets, to lactose- and dairy-free.
Q) Where can I get advice on memory loss? I’m noticing my husband’s forgetfulness has increased and last week he got lost on his way home. Should he get tested and what is the test?
When we see memory problems in a loved one, we often immediately worry about dementia. Unfortunately, there isn’t one single test that will confirm a diagnosis of dementia; rather, a series of tests are performed to rule out other possible causes of memory loss. Start by making an appointment with your family doctor. He or she will perform an initial assessment and then refer your husband to other healthcare providers, if appropriate. The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada has many resources and information that can help you understand the early warning signs of dementia and where to go for support.
Q) The refrigerator at my parents’ house is never cleaned out and the homemaker doesn’t seem to notice. Is it rude for me to mention it?
This is often one of a homemaker’s duties while working in the home, so you could start by having a conversation with him or her. If you are unsure if this is part of the plan of care for your parents, it might be a good idea to talk with the homemaker’s supervisor. He or she will be able to let you know what duties should be performed or add to the plan of care, where appropriate.
Q) Dad is taking too many pills and doesn’t follow a routine. Who can I talk to? He won’t give me power of attorney because he doesn’t want me to interfere.
Encourage your dad to ask his family doctor or pharmacist to go through his medications with him. Often, as people age, they do not realize the side effects that multiple medications can have on their health, especially when it comes to things such as balance and memory. The doctor or pharmacist can review your dad’s prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, and put them in blister packs or a dosette box to give him a schedule to follow. You might also suggest a cell phone reminder or another type of routine to support adherence.