Expert Advice

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

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

Q) Over the past year my mother has become afraid to go out, which has left her quite isolated. Is this a problem? She’s otherwise ok and doesn’t complain.

Has your mother fallen in her home recently? Is she eating ok? Have you noticed any other changes in her behaviour? Has she been to see her doctor recently? There may be a medical reason why she is reluctant to leave the home, or she might be worried she is going to fall. If your mother has fallen recently, talk to her about why the fall occurred and what can be changed to prevent further falls in the future.

Anything that can be done to reduce your mother’s isolation will be helpful. Can you arrange for friends or other family members to visit on a regular basis? She might also feel more comfortable leaving the house if others are there to support and help her.

Q) My aunt has frequent periods of confusion during which she is disoriented and doesn’t make sense, but she’s in denial and doesn’t want to talk about it. We are often out shopping when this happens.

Confusion and disorientation can be a result of issues with medication. Encourage your aunt to discuss her prescriptions with her doctor or pharmacist, as a review of her medications might help lessen her confusion. You might also broach the subject of more serious causes of confusion with the doctor.

Q) Who can I ask to take out the garbage for my uncle? It’s piling up. Can it be part of the personal support worker’s job? My uncle can’t carry it.

It is possible that this task could be part of your uncle’s plan of care. Your uncle would need to have a conversation with his personal support worker or his personal support worker’s supervisor. Together, they could come up with a plan that works for everyone. In the event that it cannot be part of your uncle’s plan or care, have you thought about asking a neighbour or paying a local teenager to help?

Q) How can I tell if my recently widowed friend is depressed and where can she go for help? It’s been eight months since the funeral but she’s still not herself.

Grieving is a very personal process and takes longer for some than others. Being there for your friend and encouraging her to seek out additional support is great; there are many community support and bereavement groups that help people who have experienced a loss. You could also speak with your friend’s family members or care providers and let them know your concerns.

Q) Can we arrange for a check-in call or emergency-call button, as well as a nurses’ aide? Who pays?

If you are using an agency to hire a nurses’ aide, personal support worker or healthcare aide (and we recommend that you do), you can ask the agency to set up a check-in call. In addition, there are a various pieces of technology that can serve as an emergency-call button, such as a Philips Lifeline alarm. Unfortunately, you will probably have to pay for this yourself.

Q) Do caregivers receive tax credits? How do I prove that I’m a caregiver?

There is a tax credit available for caregivers. You can claim the tax credit if you lived with a dependent who was one of a wide range of relatives. You can find information about how to set it up on the Canada Revenue Agency website (www.cra-arc.gc.ca). You might need to have a document signed by the doctor caring for your loved one.

Q) Is it okay to make jokes or tell funny stories to my grandma? My mum says it’s too much for her if we’re all laughing, but I think it might cheer her up.

It’s usually ok to keep things light when visiting with family, but make sure there isn’t a medical reason for your mum’s worry. Ensure that your grandma can understand the jokes and funny stories you’re telling. Most likely she will simply enjoy your company, whatever you talk about.

Q) Where is the best place to buy a raised toilet seat and how can I convince my dad to use one?

You can purchase one  from home-improvement and home health supply stores. Convincing your dad might take some time, but you could start with putting the seat on the toilet and asking him to try it. Ensure that the seat is installed correctly so that your dad doesn’t feel that he is going to fall.

Q) My father-in-law was recently discharged from the hospital and received homecare for a few days. It really helped him and I’d like to arrange more.  Would he qualify and who do I call?

Whether your father-in-law qualifies for government-funded homecare depends on where he lives. The best way to find out is to ask the agency that helped when he first came home. If they are no longer helping him, it may be that he no longer qualifies. However, he will still be able to get some assistance from a homecare agency in his community. Almost all agencies will do an initial needs assessment with your father-in-law and help to determine how much care he requires. 

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