caring for spouse

The Challenge of Aging Alone

Aging alone is a challenge many people face. You may be one of them. Most pre-retirees and retirees know that, as they age, there is a single solid support system they can absolutely count on: their adult children. But what happens when they don’t exist?  What happens if they are too busy or unreliable?  What happens if they are prone to helping themselves to your finances?

A solitary old age is, for many, a threatening prospect, something to be contemplated with a mixture of apprehension and outright fear. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that there are strategies which can be adopted to minimize the impact of a solitary old age. You need a multi-faceted “Go it Alone” plan.

The 2011 Census of Population counted nearly 5 million (4,945,000) seniors aged 65 and over in Canada. Of these individuals, 92.1% lived in private households or dwellings (as part of couples, alone or with others) while 7.9% lived in collective dwellings, such as residences for senior citizens or health care and related facilities.

Most people aged 65 and over lived in a couple with either a married spouse or a common-law partner during their early senior years.

2011 Census data showed that about one-quarter (24.6%) of the population aged 65 and over lived alone.  The share of the population that lived alone was fairly low and stable until about the age of 50 for women, and until approximately age 70 for men.  After these ages, the prevalence of living alone increased for both sexes, but more sharply for women.

Older single and childless people are at higher risk than those with children for facing medical problems, cognitive decline and premature death.

Suggestions:

  1. Establish a “virtual board of directors” – a network of friends, financial advisor, daily money manager, lawyer, accountant or other professionals you work with. They can assist you with care and decisions.  Also develop a plan of action if cognitive changes occur.
  2. Expand your social network – for those aging solo, expanding a social network is essential, according to experts on aging. Isolation contributes to depression, cognitive decline and a decline in overall health.

 

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Proactive Seniors Article

Christmas is a great time to have a check-in to see how seniors and their children are each managing.  This is a conversation that should go in both directions, with consideration of everyone’s input and feelings.

Adult children can inquire about how their parent(s) are managing in their home or retirement community. Are they eating well and getting regular social contact?  Do they need any help taking care of the house, getting to appointments, managing their medications or with personal care such as bathing, dressing, cooking?  Is one parent the primary caregiver for the other? If so, how are they managing?

Conversely, seniors can inquire about how their adult children are managing. If the ‘kids’ are helping with any caregiving tasks, are they managing with those tasks?  Are they balancing their work, family and other commitments?  Do the adult children know who the parents power of attorney and personal directive agent are and where to find the will?  Are the adult children comfortable that they know their parents wishes regarding medical intervention or housing choices. Relationships are best preserved by making sure everyone is comfortable in their roles.

It is common for both spousal caregivers and adult children caregivers to under-recognize how challenging being a caregiver can be.  Providing regular support with meals, groceries, laundry, transportation to appointments, personal care and financial or household management can start to negatively impact one’s own health and wellness.  If the caregiver is feeling overwhelmed then it is important to seek help.  It might be time to bring outside support into the home and/or discuss options for care in an alternate location such as a retirement community.

Keeping the lines of communication open helps families to be proactive in making plans for the future and ensuring everyone stays healthy and happy.

An article from Proactive Seniors December newsletter – By Kathy Mendham

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Serving as Caregiver Takes Toll as You Age

Serving as Caregiver Takes Toll as You Age

Seniors Caring for Seniors

Experts urge training, support and rest for aging caregivers as seniors caring for seniors in retirement becomes increasingly common.

As people live longer, caregivers can expect to spend years caring for a spouse or even a parent. And older caregivers, many in their seventies or eighties themselves, often grapple with special challenges: their own failing health, isolation as friends die and physical tasks that can strain aging bodies.

Joe, 76, has been caring for his wife, Jane, 74, since she began showing symptoms of Lewy body dementia in 2012. Bedridden for the past year, Jane cannot speak, does not recognize her husband and has no control over her bodily functions. Searles opted to keep Jane at home because he says he believes “a nursing home is not going to take care of her properly. She needs me, and I am there for her.”

They have access to Home Care attendant, who helps out eight hours daily. But Joe, who is being treated for a spinal condition, still performs painful physical tasks caring for his wife. Although he sees a couple of friends, he spends most of his time alone. When Jane became ill, Joe gave up his work as a professional engineer.

Joe and Jane are part of what experts say is a growing trend: seniors caring for seniors. About 7% of caregivers are 75 or older, typically a woman caring for a husband or other adult relative, according to a 2015 report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute. In Canada, about 30,000 seniors spend about 34 hours a week helping with such arduous tasks as bathing, dressing and using a toilet.

For many older caregivers, physical chores, such as helping a spouse from a bed to a chair, can lead to falls and other injuries.  Wives will sacrifice their own health to keep their husbands at home.  Because they often put off their own care, they get sicker and die earlier than non-caregivers.  Also, changing colostomy bags, giving injections and performing other nursing tasks are daunting especially when you’re older and not getting enough sleep.

Caregivers should look to associations that focus on their loved one’s medical condition as these groups offer caregiver training, support groups and advice on how to address the needs of a person with a specific disease.

Home alone all day with a loved one, older caregivers tend to be more isolated—and thus more depressed—than younger caregivers. It is crucial to have a social network – to ask for assistance, to maintain contact with others, to run an errand, to get out to bingo.  There are many services in the city that you can arrange respite services with.  My personal favourite is Home Instead.  They will assist with whatever you need help with at home other than nursing care.  Letting someone else take over for a few hours provides the respite a caregiver needs to improve and maintain their mental health.

Because older caregivers need all the strength they can get, experts recommend that they eat well, visit their own doctor and exercise.  The caregiver is of no use to the ill individual if they become unwell.  ‘Just like on the airplane, the message is “Don your own (oxygen) mask first before assisting others”.

Tips for Older Caregivers

  • Reduce loneliness by joining support groups and seeing friends.
  • Seek occasional respite by hiring an aide or placing a loved one in adult day care.
  • Get training on the best ways to protect against falls and back injuries.
  • Ask a professional for instructions on cleaning a wound and other nursing tasks.
  • Use technology for reminders of medications, appointments and chores.
  • Register for informative emails

Head over to Life Matters to watch a short video on 5 Things You Need to Know About Daily Money Managers.

 

 

Posted by Admin-FCI in Seniors Health and Wellness, 1 comment