When Lee’s parents split up well into their retirement years, no one realized how dramatically that change would influence the degree of caregiving they’d ultimately require.
“My parents operated as a unit. My mom made and tracked his medical appointments and blood pressure. My dad handled things like filing her tax returns. They just sort of worked, until they didn’t,” Lee explains. “Because my parents were in their early seventies when they separated, at first we didn’t consider how much additional care they’d both need without each other to lean on.”
In the earliest days of their late-in-life separation, Lee’s parents required help on the logistical front. Condos had to be leased. Movers had to be hired. As time—and age—marched on, those surface-level supports evolved into much more complex requirements. That reality came into sharp focus when Lee’s father contracted COVID-19 while spending the winter in Europe.
“At first, we were just really worried about getting him the right medical care. We were working across the time difference, trying to figure out how to get him home,” remembers Lee. “It was complicated. But more than anything, it was eye-opening. Once he was recovering in Canada, we started to realize we didn’t want to be caught off guard as his needs change. Especially because my parents each live on their own, it became obvious we need to start planning now.”
While acute situations, medical procedures or accidents (think falls, the most common injury among older Canadians), families tend to look for care once a challenge arises. For Lee, that meant jumping in to connect the dots between different medical appointments, follow-ups, health records and tests in the wake of his father’s illness. Now that the dust has settled, he’s more concerned about how they’ll support his dad on a daily basis, from here on out.
“My father’s turning 80 this summer. He still wants to go out and do things. He still wants to travel, or sit on a nice patio and enjoy a beer,” Lee says. “My sisters and brother and I are all raising our own families and while we hope to spend lots of time together, it’s the smaller details of daily living and caregiving that concern me. Who is going to keep track of my dad’s medications? Who’s going to help him bathe as his mobility becomes more limited?”
Realistic about what’s coming, Lee hopes that a progressive approach to care will help create a trusted caregiving relationship sooner rather than later. One that can expand and his father’s needs change.
And that right there is key. A proactive approach can ensure seniors live safely and well at home, without disruptive interruptions or multiple moves. The best caregiving conversations start early and continue over time.
At Home Care Assistance Toronto, we recommend keeping core guiding principles in mind to create alignment within families, and find the best possible caregiving option for everyone involved:
- Start sooner than you think. Caregiving is not one-size-fits-all. It should be uniquely tailored to the senior you’re planning for. Open up the dialogue before a health issue, emergency or cognitive decline occurs. Get a sense of everyone’s expectations—especially the senior who requires caregiving support. Establish what everyone is looking for, and what the budget will allow. Caregivers can provide scalable service that usually starts around 16 to 20 hours a week, and expands to cover a range of different tasks and responsibilities. That could mean something as complex as monitoring medication and reporting back to the family, or simply sitting and playing cards with a senior who always loved poker. Think about what you need before you actually need it.
- Search for a genuinely committed partner. Deriving the most value from any caregiving relationship requires a great degree of trust. As you explore caregiving options, look for organizations that are interested in truly partnering with your family. There’s no room for transactional service when we’re talking about supporting a loved one’s health, well-being and quality of life. You want a collaborative team, ready to approach caregiving as a meaningful relationship between all involved.
- Prioritize clear, consistent communication. There are so many ways to measure the quality of life. How is a senior feeling? What gives them joy? Is their health changing in any way that should be addressed? You won’t know any of this without a fulsome communication plan. Seeking out a caregiver that’s equally invested in sharing information, and deliberate about communicating across clearly outlined channels, is absolutely essential.
What’s the net-net?
It’s never too early to begin drawing an informed caregiving roadmap. Start early. Partner wisely. Communicate effectively. Tackling these areas proactively can ensure the person you love the most gets the high-quality care they absolutely deserve.