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Expert Advice

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

Q) Mom is in a nursing home and I desperately want my children to visit her, but they are reluctant. How can I encourage them?

The idea of going into a nursing home can be very frightening for children, no matter what age they are. Start slowly with weekly visits; limit them to no more than twenty minutes, and go at times when your children and mother aren’t too tired. Bring something that will help keep them busy. Encourage your children to take pictures of themselves or artwork they may have done that can be put in your mother’s room. It may take a bit of time to help your children feel more comfortable, but it’s well worth the effort.

Q) My dad is increasingly having trouble with stairs and we can’t afford a lifting device. What do you recommend to promote safe easier access?

How much trouble is your dad having? Has he fallen, or does he take a very long time to climb the stairs? Is there a sturdy banister to help him? If there’s a landing, does a chair fit so he has a place to rest if he needs it? Make sure the stairs are kept free of clutter and that he’s not rushing when he does go upstairs. Take all these things into consideration, and if he does have great difficulty then it may be time for him to move to the lower level. If there are bathroom facilities close by, you can make a bedroom out of a room on the main floor.

Q) My father-in-law, is recovering from a stroke. Apart from his condition, he is in good physical shape. How can we help him keep fit during his recovery?

Once your father-in-law’s doctor says he can safely resume physical activity, start with simple activities at first. These might include sitting and standing with assistance, walking from room to room or strolling around the neighborhood. Taking things in small stages will help him build exercise tolerance. Depending on your father-in-law’s level of fitness, he should speak to his doctor about participating in a medically supervised exercise programming at
a hospital or even on his own.

Q) My mother refuses to let her care provider bathe her. Just when she begins to get comfortable with a new person attending to her personal needs, the agency sends someone new and we have to start all over again! What can I do to improve the situation?

It is extremely difficult to have to adjust to a new person all the time! Have you spoken to the agency about your concerns? Why are they changing the staff all the time? You should be able to work together to find a solution that works best for your mother. The agency may be making the changes to try to find someone that your mother will allow to bathe her. What are your mother’s reasons for not allowing the care provider to bathe her? If you can figure that out, you may be able to find an easier way to have her bathed, so her needs are being met.

Q) My 65 –year-old sister loves her dog but is having difficulty taking care of him. Her nurse has offered to feed and walk Bruno. Is that okay?

It is not recommended for a nurse to walk and feed your sister’s dog. Some homecare agencies will provide this service through personal support workers. It would be worth encouraging your sister to participate in walking the dog so that she maintains a healthy exercise routine. If she is unable to walk, a companion could take her outside in a wheelchair. This would allow your sister to get some fresh air and enjoy nature.

Q) Dad’s personal support worker always turns on the television and listens to loud music. I know he hates it. Should I ask her to stop?

Personal support workers are in the home to help with the personal care needs of your father. They should not be turning on the television or playing music unless it is for your father’s benefit. You have the right to ask her not to do this and, if it becomes a problem, the right to request a new support worker from the agency.

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

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

Q) A homecare nurse visits my dad regularly while we are at work. However, when I ask him what she said, or if she left any special instructions, he always says, “I don’t remember” or “I’m not sure.” How can I be sure we are getting any important information?

One of the best ways to ensure that you are receiving important information is to ensure that you are on your father’s contact list. That way you can contact the nurse yourself and she will be able to provide you with additional information. As well, look to see if there is a home care chart in your dad’s home, usually on top of the fridge, which will have information that tells you what the nurse did with your dad when she was there. Is there any way you could arrange to be home for one visit so you have the opportunity to meet with the nurse yourself? That way you can see for yourself what is going on.

Q) What exercises or exercise classes could my aging mother and I do together to help us bond and get a good workout at the same time?

Before starting new exercises with your mother, make sure that she is okay physically to do them. If she has never had an exercise regimen before, you will need to start slowly. A walk around the block is always a good way to start. Check with your local community centre or seniors centre—they may have exercise classes geared towards seniors. Try to find something that both of you like so you’ll keep at it.

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