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Caregiver Chronicals

When I was in High School I got in trouble a lot and there was an old person’s home near our campus. One time I got assigned  31 of hours community service by my principal. He thought it’d take up more of my time and keep me out of trouble… he was right.

Everyday for a month I had to go volunteer at the home. They asked me to read to this lady who couldn’t see the print in books very well. I read to her all sorts of things I would never read, like classic novels, tales of Epic Legends, a lot of Poetry. She never said too much. Always just listened to me read and thanked me for my time.

One of the last days I was assigned to read to her she had a gift for me. It was book I hadn’t heard of and on the inside cover there was a quote that said

“Do not let what you cannot do, interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden

I found out months later that the book was written by her. One day I went to visit her and ask her why she didn’t tell me that she was the author. When I walked in she was sitting by the window just looking outside. I asked her what was read to her today and she told me how there isn’t anyone to read to her anymore so she hadn’t listened to anything in a while. On my way out I left her my Ipad, headphones and a library full of Audio books I thought she would like with a note that read that same quote.

– Kelsy J, 32 Ct.


Elderly Care / Nursing Homes  / Elderly Care Services

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GOVERNMENT: The Upside to Canada’s Aging Population

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The fact that a third of all Canadians will be over the age of 60 by 2050 does not have to mean doomsday. The following is an excerpt from Adriana Barton’s article for The Globe and Mail

“An international team of researchers looked at Germany as a case study. Germany’s fertility rate of 1.4 and median age of 44.3 years make it the greyest nation after Japan. Nevertheless, the land of sausage and sauerkraut may not do too badly in its golden years, the researchers found. They identified five areas in which countries such as Germany could age like fine wine:

• Better health: As people live longer, they stay healthier longer. Projections suggest the average German man in 2050 will spend 80 per cent of his lifetime in good health, compared to 63 per cent today.

• Increased productivity: Aging populations tend to have higher education levels, which could help offset the decline in labour force.

• Sharing the wealth: As life expectancy increases, people will inherit at older ages and be better equipped fund their own retirement, or help adult children financially. And as families have fewer children, inheritance will be split into larger chunks.

• Good for the environment: Changes in age structure and a shrinking population size are associated with reduced consumption of energy-intensive goods and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

• Quality of life: The ratio of leisure, work and housework is expected to change in the future, with leisure time increasing on average.

The picture may sound rosy, but the new study isn’t the first to giving aging populations an A-plus. Back in 2003, the Government of Canada released a document entitled Population Aging: From Problem to Opportunity. The report outlined how policies supporting greater life-course flexibility might address the labour shortages associated with retiring baby boomers, and at the same time, provide people with more choices as to how they approach activities such as work, learning, caregiving and leisure over their lifetimes. As well, it cited Health Canada research showing that longevity is not a key driver of health-care costs.” BY: Adriana Barton’s article for The Globe and Mail

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GOVERNMENT: Baby Boomers Retire

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The following article outlines some startling statistics for the future of Canada.

“The baby boomers — those born from 1946 to 1965 — will reach retirement age over the next two decades. That will raise the number of seniors in the population to an estimated 23.6 per cent by 2030, the year the youngest baby boomers turn 65. That compares with 15.3 per cent in 2013.

By 2063, the number of Canadians aged 80 years and over would reach nearly five million, compared with 1.4 million in 2013.

That trend will put huge demands on the resources for long-term care and home care by 2030, and will continue for the next 30 years. Older seniors are more likely to have health problems or need help to stay in their homes.

At the same time, the number of people between 15 to 64 — those of working age — will decline as a proportion of the population from 68.6 per cent in 2013 to 60 per cent in 2030. It could remain around 60 per cent for the next 30 years.

Depending on the strength of the Canadian economy and how technology changes the workplace, that could result in a shortage of labour. Businesses that offer only part-time work, with no prospects of a permanent stable income or benefits, would be forced to change their labour practices.

Those left in the workforce will also shoulder much of the burden of supporting the health-care sector.”

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CARE SUPPORT: Dementia Carers Day

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The caregivers caring for loved ones with dementia deserve a grand round of applause and tools and ways to make the task easier. Judith Potts, in the following excerpt talks about some ways that could be helpful.

“Today is Dementia Carers’ Day – when the Carers’ Trust asks us all to remember the 670,000 unpaid carers in the UK, who are looking after relatives or friends who have developed dementia. The Carers’ Trust offers “action, help and advice”.

Two thirds of people with dementia live at home and, as the disease progresses, care becomes more difficult – and carers can begin to feel as isolated as the dementia patient.

Help and support come in several forms. Dementia UK’s wonderful Admiral Nurses – who are mental health nurses, specialising in dementia – support families and carers to better understand dementia by focusing on the needs of the carer as well as the patient. Family carers often need psychological support to understand and deal with their own feelings about dementia. The nurses will guide the family through the various stages of the disease and introduce a range of interventions that can help the patient live well with the condition – for instance, developing skills to improve communication which, in turn, helps to maintain relationships.

The Alzheimer Society’s website hosts an interactive map, which shows local support groups.

There are some very creative aides for use by carers at home, in a dementia café or a care home. The series of “Memory Bank” packs stand out as a stimulating resource for life story and reminiscence work and are highly recommended by those working with dementia patients.

The packs contain DVDs which use archive film footage of familiar scenes and themes, carefully selected to help dementia patients to re-discover past times with friends and family. Created and cleverly edited by the Yorkshire Film Archive, each DVD (which can be viewed on a television screen, a laptop, a tablet or a portable DVD player – or downloaded from the website) covers a different topic – from working life, schooldays, holidays, sporting fun, to fetes, fairs and fireworks. They come with “key discussion points” marked at the top of the screen – when a pause might allow the viewers to recall their own memories – plus guidance notes, and suggestions for activities. Background information on life and times over the past decades helps the younger carer and Memory Bank feeds into the requirements of the Care Quality Commission.

In May of this year, Ostrich – the website devoted to showing all the choices on care (money, legal matters, insurance, property, leisure, care, carers – “Taking Care of Life”) – launched Bob. Designed for people with dementia and endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Dementia Champion, Norman McNamara, Bob is a Locator Tracker, which can operate virtually anywhere in the world. It is monitored 24/7 by an accredited telecare centre, operated for Ostrich Care by the NHS.

Wandering is a common problem for people with dementia – whether out of the front door, out of a shop or just out of sight. Not only is being lost incredibly distressing for the patient, the frantic searching causes enormous stress for the carer. This device is the size of a matchbox and can be worn on a lanyard around the person’s neck. It stores the name of the next-of-kin or carer and any medical information relevant to the carrier.

Should someone wander away and become lost, the recovery process begins with a call from the carer to the monitoring centre, where the particular Bob can be located on the screen. If it appears that the person is in danger, the emergency services – who have worked closely to develop Bob – will be called. Each tracker has a unique number and it is the IME number and Sim card which will be used to track the user. Cards with these unique numbers are given to the carer or family.

Bob can be used, too, by someone recently diagnosed with dementia but who is still able to live independently. Giving great peace of mind, not only to the patient, but to his or her family, Bob is simple to use. Should the person become lost or confused, pushing the SOS button alerts the monitoring centre and the routine – previously chosen by the patient – is put into action or the emergency services are involved.” -Judith Potts

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SUPPORT: Hackathon tackles Dementia

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In a period of high tech and innovative ideas it is welcoming to see what transpired at an event hosted by Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone. Students, computer programmers, healthcare professionals and technology enthusiasts all came together and tackled the challenges facing individuals with dementia. The following, written by Calvin Dao and Andrea Vacillate outline a couple of the best entries.

“The software building competition — dubbed DementiaHack — was organized by the nonprofit programming organization HackerNest and the British Consulate-General in Toronto. The hackathon brought skilled people with an interest in developing technologies to make the lives of those living with dementia and caregivers easier.

The grand prize was awarded to the team behind an app called CareUmbrella.

Powered by Near Field Communication (NFC) connectivity, it allows patients of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to call up specific information on their phone by tapping it on an NFC-enabled sticker. This technology comes at the cost of just cents per sticker, according to Hayman Buwan, a physician who came up with the idea three years ago.

They demonstrated CareUmbrella by tapping their phone onto a sticker coded to bring up an instructional video on how to use a microwave.

One factor that he and his team kept in mind was the importance of letting patients be independent, regardless of their disease’s limitations.

Nitin Malik, an iOS developer who has a family member with dementia, won a runner-up prize with his team for a hardware innovation they called All the Pi.

It uses a single-board computer to play audio reminders to remind patients to complete tasks and sends push notifications to caregivers if a task was not complete at the usual time. For example, when a light switch with this system is turned on, a programmable recording is played reminding them to turn off the light.” -By Calvin Dao and Andrea Vacl

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