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Why Elder Care Should Matter to You Too

24 Aug

I’m committed to finding ways to advocate for aging populations. And while I’ve been lax with original content for this space, I have been dutifully keeping up with the latest in issues relating to seniors, aging, dementia and elder care. I do so by reading as much as I can on these subjects whenever I can steal a moment.

With a rapidly aging global population and the likelihood of more individuals than ever before being afflicted with dementia,there seems to be a new study or report released every day. Many of these studies are from  highly reputable institutions. Others are from businesses looking to profit off the coming “grey tsunami” .
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Watch Out for Well-Attired Caregivers

21 Jul

Sadly, elder abuse is far more common than most of us realize. It’s certainly not an unfamiliar concept to me. Both my mother and my late uncle were victimized by paid caregivers.

A few years ago,  my brother and I were given three hours notice that my mother was to be released from hospital but would require around-the-clock care for several months. We didn’t have a clue how to hire a care giver. All we knew was my mother really wanted to go home and the hospital wanted its bed back.  Lorna was the only applicant I spoke with and I hired her immediately. She seemed trustworthy and competent. And she was immediately available.

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Every Day Should Be World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

15 Jun

Saturday, June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  Here in Ontario, the Seniors Secretariat is asking everyone to wear something purple today to raise awareness. I’m not convinced anyone is going to connect wearing purple with this important issue. So wear whatever color you want. Instead, check up on the seniors in your life.  And if a situation gives you reason for concern about potential elder abuse, do something about it before the situation gets out of hand and take action.

Elder Abuse is far too real. Of the 1.5 million seniors living in Ontario, research from the  Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse,  indicates four to ten percent (60,000-150,000) have experienced or are experiencing abuse of some kind. Hardly surprising, financial fraud is the most common form of elder abuse.

Seniors Crisis Lines exist in most metropolitan areas. If you live in Toronto and have concerns about a senior, the number is 416-619-5001. In Ontario the Seniors Safety Line can be reached by calling 2-1-1 or 1-866-299-1011. The line is manned 24/7 and the staff is able to provide service in 150 languages.

Just Exactly How Old is Old?

12 Jun

Old ladies aren’t supposed to run around and jump up and down and play games all the time. Old people are supposed to sit around talking about the weather…” *

One of my brothers likes to remind me about a time when I was 16 and I referred to his then 30-year-old boss as ancient. Now contrast my naive teenage words of wisdom with those of my seven-year-old:

The other night I was reading a book to my son in which a group of second graders were concerned their gym teacher would soon die if she didn’t start curtailing her many athletic activities. As I read the words “Miss Small is a quarter of a century old. That’s like ancient,” my son could be heard shouting “No it isn’t you dumb heads. She’s 25! That’s not old! Old is like 90!”

Obviously my son at seven has a better sense of  what it means to be old than I did at 16. I bet we all have a different opinion about what age we consider to be old.  So just exactly how old do you think is old? And do you really think age matters?

*Gutman, Dan. Miss Small is Off the Wall, Harper Collins, 2009.

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Is it Alzheimer or is it Selective Memory?

6 Jun

My mother is somewhere between stage five and stage six in the progression of her alzheimer disease. This means gaps in her memory and thinking have become more and more noticeable. She also requires increasing amounts of help with daily activities.  As long as I can remember my mother has had selective memory. As her dementia has progressed, her ability to remember things the way she would like to remember them has become even more so. For example:

She can remember an expensive leather suit she really thinks she ought to have with her in the nursing home, but she can’t remember it’s been at least 30 years since she wore it.

She can remember I haven’t shared a copy of her tax statement but she can’t remember her failing eyesight made it virtually impossible for her to read or understand any of last year’s.

She can remember wanting to call the police to have me arrested when she discovered I had removed all her lovely high heel shoes from her home. And she regrets not doing so. But she can’t remember tripping and falling repeatedly before her Imelda Marcos-like footwear collection was culled.

She can remember just about anything of value she’s ever owned. But she can’t remember that almost all of these items are no longer of use to her.

She can remember she has grandchildren. But she can’t always remember their names. Not that she cared much for their names anyway.

Most mystifying of all, she can remember she needs to see any number of medical specialists, but she can’t remember she has Alzheimer’s.

My Papa Didn’t Like the Rolling Stones

17 May

Jewish custom has it that when an individual visits a grave, he or she is supposed to leave a stone behind on the monument. I’m not entirely sure  about the origins of this ritual, but it most likely reflects the biblical practice of marking the site of a grave with a pile of stones. I didn’t have any when I visited my father’s grave last week so I left a hockey puck instead.

I haven’t mentioned my father before. He was the parent who did not get to grow old and for who aging issues would never be a concern.

I am already 10 years older now than my dad was in 1969. That was the year I was in the second grade and he died of cancer at 41. As the anniversary of his death was coming up and I was attending a funeral at the same cemetery, I stopped by his grave afterwards to pay my respects.  And as always, to have a good cry about the parent I wish had lived to old age.

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Does the CCAC Really Work for You?

22 Apr

If you live in Ontario and are responsible for overseeing the personal affairs of an aging relative, chances are you’re already familiar with the CCAC.

The CCAC received $2 billion from the province in 2012 which amounts to slightly less than 4.6 per cent of Ontario’s total health care spending. It is a centralized body created to connect individuals with health care services, some of which are subsidized and some of which are not.  The acronym stands for Community Care Access Centre.  Although CCAC exists to coordinate health-related services for all Ontarians, almost half of its clients are over 65.

If you were to read the CCAC website, you might think it is a wonderful organization staffed by highly qualified individuals who are committed to making the life of every Ontario citizen that much better.  I’m sure there are some excellent professionals employed by CCAC . I am just not convinced there are enough of them, or enough services, to properly meet the needs of an already increasingly aging population. Additionally, I find it alarming that postings for CCAC case managers ask for only one year of work experience.

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