Getting assistive devices to keep aging parents mobile

Posted on May 2014 by

When does an aging parent or other loved one need to start using a cane or walker or other assistive mobility device?

From my experience and all those very many family and professional caregivers I’ve spoken with, our elderly parents will be pretty much the last ones to admit there is a need for some kind of device. They’d rather fall first, and even then resist the concept because of pride, the need for independence, or even to one up a fellow elder.

Getting assistive devices to keep aging parents mobile is important. If you see a need for your aging parent to have some kind of support for mobility, try these tactics:

1.     Explain—or have your parents’ physician explain—the actual risk of not using some kind of device. In fact, the physician can be even more assertive by saying it’s a necessity to use a cane, walker, or whatever device is needed.

2.     Allay the inevitable financial concerns by noting that if prescribed, most devices are well subsidized by provincial governments.

3.     Help arrange for a proper ‘fitting’ and sizing and ensure all paperwork is completed for the subsidy.

4.     Arrange for the assistive mobility device firm to provide an introductory session on how to safely use the device for your parents, and then ideally a follow up check.

5.     Keep a close eye on how the device is being used; learn and bear in mind that posture is a key determinant of how any device is managed and how an aging parent will be able to mange balance, comfort, muscle strain, and a host of other factors.

The proper assistive mobility device can give your aging loved one much more independence. All the more reason to get the right one, and use it the right way! 

Are white lies ok with those suffering from dementia?

Posted on May 2014 by

Here is a recemt article from Psychiatric Times that is relatively short and worth a read.

I leanred about these kinds of 'white lies' and deceptions at my mother's nursing home and at a few other sites where there was a fair number of residents suffered some level of dementia. 


On my mother's floor, for example, the elevator button was covered with a card that simply said, 'elevator out of service at the moment'. The card was always there. Visitors knew the rouse and reached under the card to press the down button. But residents never touched the card. Similarly, there was dark colored carpeting at the exit stairwells.

Clearly, these steps were taken to protect residents from potential self-harm, or wandering away. So are these 'white lie' actions alright and appropriate to take? If it's done at a nursing home, should you try it at home if you have a parent or loved one there with some level of dementia?

Don’t let spring cleaning become spring falling for the elderly

It just happened to my wife, an avid early morning walker. She does everything ‘right’ in terms of the ‘right’ shows, coat, scarf, hat—you name it –she does it. The only thing she does not do is make sure the weather is perfect and receptive to activities of middle, later age, and elderly individuals.

So she did her walk, it was still dark out, the temperature was below freezing and then according to her she was on the ground with lots of pain in her right arm. When she returned home clearly there was a bulge at her shoulder which the emergency room visit proved to be a fracture of her upper arm. The only silver lining was that it would be treated with a sling and immobilization and not surgery—with pain medication as required.

Spring is a wonderful time of year. The birds are chirping, the snow and ice is melting, and little shoots of green can be seen in the garden. But the eaves troughs are full of leaves and in our case pine needles, thereby interfering with proper water run-off from the usually heavy spring rains. Many walkways are uneven from the effects of ice, snow, salt, and shovelling. Many of us are chomping at the bit of “repair” and “ready the house and garden” for the full onslaught of spring.

A few simple tips: accidents are among the most common causes of injury among seniors. Climbing on ladders can be very risky especially if no one is actually holding the ladder steady. Many seniors stand on chairs, particularly in the house to change light bulbs or get things down from high cupboards. All are high potential situations for falls and injury.

Here are three key injury prevention tips:

1.     Hire someone or get a younger family member to do any outside ladder work.

2.     Get a small steady indoor ladder to assist in changing light bulbs and do not do it while alone in the room or house- a slip of even a few feet get be disastrous. After all, older bones do not heal easily.

3.     Make sure the bathroom has safety grab bars—the surfaces of bathroom fixtures are unforgiving. Getting out of a shower or tub should not be done without access to a properly installed grab bar; the towel rack will not prevent a fall, it will likely dislodge and just pull out with even a modest amount of weight.

So be careful, be prudent and be able to enjoy the next season which is summer!

Checking remotely on elderly loved ones: technology helps

This article is worth a read:

New technology is allowing for myriad remote monitoring of elderly loved ones. It's a mixed but good blessing for all, once aging parents understand the vlaue and benefits and their children know how to use it respectfully. 

Better manage limited time to help aging parents in need

We’re all pressed for time. Too much to do at work, too much at home and with our kids, and then there’s needed ‘self time’ too. Better manage limited time to help aging parents in need. Here are seven really important questions to ask yourself to see how you can achieve that goal.

·      If you can answer them honestly, you’ll find your personal roadmap to a better quality life. And only you will know if you are answering candidly. Good luck!

·      What can others and existing services do for you?

·      Who can help and what services can you engage to help relieve the pressure you are feeling right now?

·      What can you do less of?

·      What are you doing now for your parents that you can reduce in terms of your own hands-on involvement?

·      How can you best use your newfound free time? What can you do to best help yourself?

·      What should you stop, keep or start doing?




A parent is now in a nursing home?

Here are six important questions to ask yourself if a parent is now in a nursing home. Think this over and let your honest answers drive your actions.


·      Do you visit often enough? Are you spending quality time or just putting in time?  


·      Do friends of your parent visit him or her? How often?


·      Do you really know what kind of care and attention staff gives your parent?


·      Do you have at least annual formal review meetings with staff regarding your parent’s condition, status, prognosis, issues and challenges?


·      Does your parent have enough stimulation to keep her or him as mentally and physically agile as possible?


·      Should you have a caregiver spend time with your parent on a regular basis? What would be the added value benefit? 

Financial abuse of the elderly is a real issue

Financial abuse of the elderly is a real issue many people don't know about or elect to ignore.

Ensure your aging parents aren't sujbect to financial abuse.

The International Federation on Aging recently releeased an interesting and thought-provoking report that is Canada-centric that is worth a read. You'll find it here:

Prepare parents for a safe winter

In the same way that a car owner makes sure a vehicle is prepared for winter use, so to should we prepare parents for a safe winter. This includes doing everything for their “medical” safety while assuring that their environment is also safe.

Medical safety

Medical safety includes making sure that the risk of illness that are more common in winter are taken care of in anticipation of winter’s special challenges. On top of the list is vaccination against influenza which is necessary every year, as the strains of virus changes from year to year. Even though sometimes the yearly outbreak is mild you will never know in advance what kind of outbreak might occur. For seniors who may have  an array of chronic illness affecting their cardiac and respiratory systems or have impairments of their immune responses, a bout of influenza, can cause a very serious and debilitating illness  and at times can be fatal. As a child of an aging parent it might be your role to make sure that your parent and the treating physician are aware of the importance of such vaccination.

Other safety check points

Other safety check points include reviewing all necessary medications that are taken by your parents and review them with your parents’ physician. Make sure that there are refill orders already available so that there isn’t a chance that your parent may run out of necessary medications during inclement weather. If your parent are fortunate enough to vacation in the south for part of the winter make sure that they have the necessary supply of medications.

If travelling

Ensure travel insurance is in place; determine that should something medically happen while traveling that your parents are covered for that medical need. The general rule is that you must reveal to the insurance company all illnesses and any changes in medical status and medications prior to their trip.

What about the cold of winter?

If your parents will be staying put in the Northern United States or Canada the important steps for winter home safety should be taken. Whoever it is that takes care of your parent’s heating system should make sure that maintenance servicing is done well in advance of winter to avoid the risk of a breakdown during a cold spell that could potentially put them at risk. Determine what the network of family supports is and if there will be an periods of absence and what steps might be taken to fill in which could be very important should something unanticipated happen. Having access to help and if necessary a place to go while repairs take place is very important.

With the risk of power outages, be sure to have flashlights positioned around their house and purchase a few units that sit in outlets as nightlights that double as emergency lighting if there is a power failure. Get some flashlights that will last a few hours with sealed batteries so that your parents do not have to be concerned about batteries going dead. Avoid depending on candles for blackouts because of the risk of fire and make sure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are installed in the proper places.

Safety inside and outside

Make sure that safety is a priority around inside and outside your parent’s home especially if it is a private home and not an apartment where someone is responsible for assuring walkways and stairs are safe. Ensure they have a means (usually through another person) to clear snow and ice from walkways and steps and that there are secure handrails on steps, that salt or sand are available for slippery surfaces and that places that might become covered with snow or ice are well illuminated. Having an automatic light that goes on at dusk is one way of assuring that the walkways will always be lit when darkness falls. This will help you navigate walkways and steps.           

Preparing for a safe winter takes little time; not preparing can result in injuries that can take a long time to heal. So be prepared and prepare for your parent’s safe winter—wherever they are.


Care of the elderly a challenge that’s growing everywhere

Take a look at this short story on the BBC tonight:
It's an excellent example of the kinds of help and support shortages that will keep growing not just in England, but across Canada and the United States, too.
All the more reason to think about what kind of care our aging parents will need and likely when, and then plan now for how to get that help.