Choosing the right home

CARE: No Place To Age

long term care copy 2

“Retired provincial court judge Tom McMeekin became a bit of a minor celebrity a few years ago when he decided it was time the world knew what life was like in a local nursing home. McMeekin’s multiple sclerosis had progressed to a point where he and his wife couldn’t meet his needs at home. Like everyone else going into long-term care in Alberta, McMeekin had to take the first bed available. “Life was hell, quite frankly,” he recalls. “There were four of us sharing one bathroom: two women and two men. The staffing was so bad that I launched a petition. I described sitting and waiting, desperate to go to the bathroom, and so on. I got 1,500 signatures.” There was a brief media storm, and things got a little better, but for 16 months McMeekin had no space to call his own; his roommate wouldn’t even allow him to watch the tiny TV he had on his bedside table.

He’s now more comfortably ensconced at the Colonel Belcher Care Centre, one of Calgary’s newest facilities, where each resident enjoys the precious privacy of their own room. “When I moved in here, I thought I’d gone to heaven,” he says. Mind you, he only gets one shower per week, so he pays for two more at $40 each. That’s $80 per week out of pocket—or more than $4,000 a year—for something most of us take for granted.

McMeekin may be in one of the newest facilities in Alberta, but even here things aren’t perfect. “The staff are excellent,” he says, “but there aren’t enough. They’ve done away with registered nurses [RNs]. Licensed practical nurses [LPNs] do most of the work.” And there’s the regimentation of the institution: dinner at 5:00 p.m.—“One hundred ways to cook hamburger,” he smiles.

McMeekin’s experience, however, could be called cushy compared to the neglect many senior citizens experience in long-term care in Alberta. And even the limited resources being put into long-term care in this province are in jeopardy. The Alberta government, like those in most provinces, now proposes that many seniors currently in publicly funded nursing homes shouldn’t be there. Instead, they argue, these seniors should be in some other type of assisted living arrangement (including private facilities and “aging-in-place”) where necessary health services would be delivered by home care while other services—including “unnecessary” services like showers—would be paid for by senior citizens themselves.

It’s a proposal based on shaky premises. “Where is the data showing that those people don’t belong [in long-term care]?” asks Donna Wilson, professor of nursing at the University of Alberta. “The government hasn’t collected data for 10 years.”

Seniors advocates are also up in arms about the shift. “The [government] promises that care will be virtually the same, but they pass it off to investor-owned facilities,” says David Eggen, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “There aren’t the same regulations regarding nurses or the same provisions for training.”

The cost implications for individual seniors could be enormous, he adds. “Once you move from long-term care to assisted living, you’re not afforded the protection of price controls,” Eggen says. (Alberta seniors pay from $16,000–$20,000 a year to live in publicly-funded long-term care; they can pay up to $72,000 a year for private assisted living facilities.)

Also in the works is a new omnibus Health Act, which will supersede all current health legislation, including the Nursing Homes Act. The Nursing Homes Act sets out standards which guarantee residents a minimum level of care. Under the proposed new legislation no such specifics are laid out. “What is proposed is an Act with principles that are so vague as to be meaningless,” says Noel Somerville, chair of the Seniors Task Force for Public Interest Alberta (PIA).”   BY: HOPE SMITH


CARE GIVER SUPPORT: Don’t Throw The Nanny Out With The Bath Water

live in care givers

“Live-in caregivers are often a necessary support for Canadians, allowing them to go to work knowing that their babies, toddlers, aging parents or disabled family members are cared for at home.

Yet, the Live-in Caregiver Program has come under fire for its alleged misuse by Canadians (primarily of Filipino origin) as a proxy family-reunification program. The government has mused aloud about the program losing its integrity, hinting at an overhaul. Employment Minister Jason Kenney has questioned why caregivers are allowed to apply for permanent residence when other foreign workers are not.

Under the Temporary Foreign Worker program, caregivers are a rare group of low-skilled recruits who have access to permanent residency, with a major condition: They must spend 24 months working in Canada, living with their employer.

Despite this proviso, 6,242 people came to Canada in 2012, accepting the quid pro quo of live-in work for permanent residency. Given the program’s attraction to both caregivers and families, the government should retain the program and strengthen its integrity, rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Not only should permanent residency be preserved, it should be made accessible immediately. Live-in caregivers do not fill a temporary gap, in the spirit of the TFW program. They meet a long-term labour need for Canadian families. It is well documented that live-in care work does not appeal to Canadians, so this particular labour-market shortage is not regional, cyclical or seasonal, but structural.”An article written by Ratna Omidvar.

Unfortunately this system leaves room for abuse to take place, and not be reported by foreign caregivers, for fear of losing employment.


HEALTH: Dance away Dementia

dancing dementia away

The disease of Alzheimer’s can be anyone’s illness, especially after the age of 65. It is good to know that there are proactive steps in reducing the risk of getting this debilitating disease.

“The Ontario Brain Institute has looked at over 900 studies and has come to the conclusion that a little bit of physical activity each day can help minimize the risk of getting dementia by as much as 40 per cent.

There’s not a list of specific exercises that work a lot better than others, but there is one form of activity that seems to combine a lot of different factors that might be the most effective. That activity is ballroom dancing.

“The reason they think ballroom dancing is effective is because it engages you socially, so you’re doing this with other people,” said Nylen. “It engages your memory, so remembering steps and figuring out what you’re doing next, and it’s also physical activity.”

Being active isn’t the only thing that helps with dementia. Getting enough sleep, reducing the amount of stress in your life, and brain training (forcing yourself to think in new ways) can also help decrease your chance of getting the disease. These exercises can be done by those who already have it as well. Lower levels of depression and a higher quality of life is attributed to being active every day.” – Reported by Brant Hilton

Keeping our aging loved ones active is not only good for them but everyone. Perhaps by putting on good music and dancing the night away, we will be making good lifestyle choices.


CARE GIVER SUPPORT: Dementia affects everyone differently


When a loved one is diagnosed with memory loss dementia, what does the caregiver of that individual need to prepare for?

“Dr. Beata Skudlarska states that not every dementia is the same, and there are many other forms of dementia besides Alzheimer’s disease.  A proper diagnosis is important, and  the trajectory of the disease also varies from person to person.  Very few patients die directly due to dementia but medical and non-medical issues can  worsen the dementia.  Moving or any drastic changes in environment enhances the progression of the disease and being in the hospital is the worst.  Regaining mental and functional capacity after a hospital stay may take weeks, months or never happen.  Patients with dementia rely heavily on the familiarity of their surroundings and the faces around them.

Dr. Skudlarska also suggests it is very wise to be prepared.  Two things to give consideration too, first, what if the main caregiver gets ill?  There needs to be a well thought-out emergency plan: Who will take care of the memory impaired person and where will the money come from? It may be wise to see an attorney to talk about this and advanced directives.  Secondly, what if the person with memory loss gets really ill? What would they want and not want?  Almost no one wants to be a burden, live permanently in the nursing home, and not be able to recognize loved ones or be in pain. Yet we do not discuss this in advance often enough. We all need to remember that each medical illness is likely to make the dementia patient deteriorate.  At some point, staying home and never coming to the hospital may be the best choice and family needs to be involved.  This discussion may be unpleasant and painful but also much needed. Specific scenarios may need to be vetted.  Usually, for those who are prepared horrible things, happen much, much less.” – Dr. Beata Skudlarska “


SENIOR CARE: Seth Rogen responds to Dementia

dementia patient

Seth Rogen a Canadian and well known actor, testified before the a United States Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labour, Health,and Human Services to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. Seth’s mother-in-law at the age of 54 yrs old, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. He went onto say that by the age of 60 she no longer could eat, talk, dress, or toilet herself. Please watch the following video.

“After the clip went deservedly viral, Rogen point a fine point on his argument by tweeting out a picture of the senate during his speech. “All those empty seats are senators who are not prioritizing Alzheimer’s. Unless more noise is made, it won’t change,” he wrote.”