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Expert Advice

Healthcare professionals answer questions about caregiving, long-term care and seniors’ health

q) My mom was recently diagnosed with osteoporosis. Is it safe for her to exercise?

Exercise plays an important role in preventing and managing osteoporosis. However, your mom should talk to a physician or physiotherapist before starting or changing any exercise program, as some exercises might be unsuitable.

Three types of exercise are recommended for people with osteoporosis: Strength training not only increases muscular strength and endurance, but also slows mineral loss in the bones. Your mom should focus on exercises that improve posture, stretch her upper back and strengthen the muscles between her shoulder blades.

The term “use it or lose it” applies to bones, so weight-bearing aerobic activities such as walking and dancing are important. These exercises will help to strengthen the bones in your mom’s lower extremities and spine, thus slowing mineral loss.

Flexibility exercises help maintain posture and prevent injury. Your mom should avoid exercises that flex her spine or cause her to bend at the waist.

Overall, maintaining a consistent exercise program will greatly improve your mom’s quality of life.

Q) Uncle Al, who receives home care, recently gave up driving because of health issues. However, he desperately misses being on the road. I wish I could take him around town for an hour during the day; however I’m at my full-time job. Is it possible to have a paid caregiver take him out?

You can absolutely hire someone to take your uncle out. Make sure you use an accredited agency that has policies and procedures in place to ensure safety and risks are taken into account for any driver. In addition, be sure to make plans and find out where your uncle likes to go so that the activity is a good experience for him.

Q) After experiencing a stroke, my sister’s behavior and moods changed. Is this normal?

Yes. People often have emotional and behavioral changes after suffering a stroke because it affects the brain where behavior and emotions are controlled. Injuries from a stroke can make a person forgetful, careless, irritable or confused, leaving survivors with feelings of anxiety, anger and depression. Keep encouraging them. 

Q) No one in my family stays calm when it comes to decision-making. How can we sort out care for mom without fighting?

Family dynamics are always a factor when it comes to providing care for another member. The first question to ask is, “Is my mother still capable of making decisions about her own care?” If she is, then she will have the final say. The other question you need to ask is, “Has my mother chosen a Power of Attorney for Personal Care or Finances?” The person designated as POA will become the ultimate decision maker, when it is necessary, regarding your mother’s care. If more than one member of your family has been designated as POA, then it would be best to try and appoint someone as the lead. If your mother does not have a POA, then the power to decide would always fall to the spouse first and to the children next. It is also best to seek legal advice; to be sure everyone understands the laws and how they play in real life.

Q) I’m overwhelmed with caring for my husband. He’s demanding and quite argumentative with the homecare team and me. Should I put him in a home?

You need to work together with the homecare team and try to figure out what could be causing him to be so argumentative. It’s possible that he needs to be reassessed, as his situation may have changed due to his declining condition or side effects from medication.

Q) Dad doesn’t answer the phone anymore and avoids making calls. He says he just can’t be bothered, but we all know it’s because he can’t hear as well as he used to. What should we do?

There are several solutions that will allow your father to hear better. Maybe you could replace his current phone with one that has been specially designed for people with trouble hearing. Does your father have difficulty getting up from his chair? If so, perhaps using a cordless phone that sits next to him will make things easier as well. You might also recommend a hearing check by an audiologist.

Q) The lovely nurse that the agency is sending is afraid of our dog. He is very passive but she’s fearful. Any suggestions?

This can be a difficult situation as pets of any kind are typically a part of one’s family and are treated as such. However, for some individuals, the dogs can be the cause of unnecessary anxiety and place avoidable stress on a situation. If the nurse is coming into your home for only short periods at a time, it might be a good idea to keep the dog in another room while she is providing care. If the nurse
stays for longer, have a talk with her about your dog. Maybe together you can come up with a solution that works for everyone.

Q) When she’s talking about care scheduling and medication, the woman from CCAC uses terminology that confuses me. Can I ask her to explain?

As a client of the CCAC (Community Care Access Centre), you have the right to be knowledgeably informed in all aspects of care. If you do not understand something, you might find your plan of care changing without you knowing why. Ask the CCAC case manger or senior staff member to use simple language that you will understand and to share options, goals and treatment plans. This is essential for your ability to make decisions and plan ahead.

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