Make the time
One woman likened the experience to travelling in a foreign country where no one speaks your language. As a result, no one understands your gut-wrenching fear and frustration as you desperately seek answers to countless questions so you can reach your destination. Imagine if that "destination" was providing care and protection for those who spent a lifetime caring for and protecting you.
Today's world is far removed from our childhood days when, for the most part, relatives tended to live within a short distance of each other. Back then, if grandma or granddad became ill, mom or dad or maybe one of their siblings would look in a few times a day, attending to needs and ensuring meals were provided. In the event that health deteriorated, chances were the family elder would move in with one of the children.
Nowadays, traditional patterns of family are changing rapidly. Children and siblings hold down at least one full-time job and often live in another town if not another country. Single parenting and marriage break-ups are more common. All of these changes in the informal support structure can lead to stress, particularly as seniors are living longer. Better medical care and education in nutrition and fitness mean more seniors are living to age 85 and over.
So, how then do children provide for aging parents?
You know where the nearest hospital is, but you also know there are retirement and long-term care homes out there. You have heard there are lots of community support agencies, but who are they and who does what? And what about assistance and services you don't know exist?
Providing for elderly family members often means supplementing what you can do with what your community can offer. There is no other way to learn what is available than to head out on the information highway and do your own research. The time spent gaining a good understanding of seniors' care choices means steering a better course through various stages.
For example: initially, simple supports - a few hours a week of personal care; a hot, nutritious meal twice a week through the Meals on Wheels program - may be all that are required. If greater assistance is needed - maybe for bathing or personal care - the local Community Care Access Centre can help arrange for a personal support worker. Should more extensive care be required on an ongoing basis, the CCAC case manager may also arrange for the services of a nurse or other licensed caregiver to administer medication, change dressings or provide physiotherapy. There is also help for seniors who are coping with loneliness, depression, anxiety and such.
Along the way, you will also learn that caregivers need to pay attention to their own well-being. Respite care programs, such as adult day programs, benefit and provide quality time for both the loved one and the caregiver.
Your research may also identify potential potholes or special circumstances. For instance, seniors may need to look to private or company insurance packages to supplement services provided through our health-care system or they may qualify for health-care benefits under the Veterans Health Care Regulations.
Unfortunately, in this age of stress and busyness, children and their aging parents all too often find themselves in a crisis situation where multiple solutions are required and decisions must be made immediately. For many, it is like rocketing down a steep road, negotiating twists and turns on the fly - in the dark.
By making time now to plan for the future by identifying health-care sources and options for your aging parents, you will have an essential and powerful advantage - a road map for your family.