Ready to Care

As we approach the challenges of an aging population, it is more important than ever for all of us to take an active role in caring for the seniors in our communities. Care can be as simple as running an errand for a grandparent, checking in on a neighbour, even saying hello or holding a door for a stranger. This kindness not only benefits the person it is extended to; it can cause a ripple effect that creates connections in the greater community.

Throughout our history, Home Instead Senior Care has worked within our communities to make an impact in the lives of older adults. The Home Instead Senior Care Foundation of Canada runs programs such as GIVE65 that match donations to local campaigns, and every holiday season we partner with local businesses and community organizations to provide gifts to vulnerable seniors through our Be a Santa to a Senior program. We have continued our mission to change the face of aging by launching Ready to Care, a social movement aimed at improving the lives of seniors through individual actions.  

It takes no time at all to become a part of the Ready to Care movement. Once you’ve signed up at, you’ll receive weekly care missions delivered directly to your phone. These simple, everyday acts of compassion and understanding go a long way to making a difference in a senior’s life. When you join the network, you’ll also receive tips and inspiration from others who are creating positive change in the lives of the elderly. 

Together, we can expand the world’s capacity to care for seniors. Join our movement today at and see how your actions can have a powerful impact.

Online Fraud Protection for Seniors

According to a recent survey by Home Instead Senior Care, 3 out of 5 seniors in Canada and the U.S. have been the victim of an online scam. ZNews Videographer Darrin Maharaj takes a look at what Home Instead is doing to help prevent Zoomers from being at risk. Take the the Quiz here:

Helping Hand Through Dementia

Helping Hand Through Dementia - East Toronto Home Instead Senior Care
Toronto, May 25, 2010 –Maria Freda could barely eat or sleep during the weeks her 77-year-old mother languished in a hospital bed, deemed too frail to return to her daughter’s east-end home, but not sick enough for the constant care of nurses and doctors.

Freda knew her mom needed a long-term care facility, but she was overwhelmed by the choice. She spent days scouring the Internet for advice, talking to hospital discharge staff and workers with Ontario’s much-lauded Community Care Access Centres, who are mandated by the province to help needy seniors connect with services.

“They were all very nice and gave me tonnes of pamphlets. All I remember them saying is, ‘You just have to choose three (nursing homes) and put in applications.’

“I didn’t know what to do, where to turn or what was the best option. One of the social workers at the emerg gave me a nice big book on retirement homes in Ontario and said, ‘This may make the decision easier.’ But I didn’t know any of these places. I didn’t want to abandon my mother. I almost had a nervous breakdown.”

In desperation, Freda sought out pricey help to get her, and her mom, through the maze of care options in Ontario. She hired one of the growing number of “geriatric care consultants” springing up across the country — private-sector “experts” who are helping frazzled baby boomers find care for their aging parents.

Freda felt comforted immediately by the reassuring voice and take-charge attitude of Jill O’Donnell, the founder of Iris Consulting for Seniors (

“I think a lot of baby boomers are the same — we want to do the best for our parents because they’ve done so much for us. But I wasn’t getting the information I needed. I was being expected to do a lot of the legwork myself, and in my gut I couldn’t tell what was the right place for my mother,” says Freda.

O’Donnell met with Freda and her mother at the hospital, took a look at medical records, then assessed the elderly woman’s needs based on her rapidly worsening dementia.

Within a week, O’Donnell gave Freda a list of suggestions, including Alexis Lodge on Ellesmere Ave., a 16-bed home specializing in the care of people with dementia. In the end, Freda opted for another of O’Donnell’s options, Harold & Grace Baker Centre, across the city from her Logan and Danforth Aves. home.

The whole thing cost $850 — although more complicated cases can cost thousands.

“I was prepared to pay anything, I was so frazzled,” says Freda. “This is not my area of expertise.”

O’Donnell was one of the first to start offering geriatric care advice back in 1981 after spending years working in hospitals and long-term care facilities and seeing families overwhelmed by both the lack of adequate resources, and knowledge.

In many ways, things are even worse know, says O’Donnell. The growing number of elderly, and especially those with dementia, is putting even more pressure on the limited number of long-term care beds, many older nursing homes are in need of updates and it can be difficult to know, even if you can come up with a shortlist and do a personal tour, whether the care provided is best for your relative’s specific needs.

O’Donnell has not only seen all the facilities she recommends personally, she knows the administrators and some of the staff. She knows their strengths and weaknesses. And sometimes a personal call can make the difference between a wait and a bed.

Increasingly, busy baby boomers, especially those who live far from their aging parents, will pay her to drop in from time to time and keep an eye on how their folks are doing.

“We’re like surrogate adult children,” says O’Donnell.

They’ve also become an alternative to public-sector social workers and CCAC staff who can be overloaded with cases. O’Donnell and her staff handle about a dozen cases at a time, which allows them to highly customize their efforts.

But a lot of people can’t afford her services — or the growing number of private home-care companies and retirement facilities that are springing up to pick up the slack as the first wave of baby boomers hits 65 next year.

“Families are often waiting until a crisis hits, rather than working proactively (to plan ahead for where their parents should go as they age),” says Jacqueline Campbell, of Campbell Consulting (

“What you hear from families is they’ve always thought the government would take care of everything, and (politicians) certainly do talk a lot about Ontario’s ‘aging in place’ strategy,” for providing services and supports to seniors.

“Families are often surprised to find that they can’t get what they thought they would for free, and they’re shocked to find how much money they’re having to spend.”

Campbell says geriatric-care consultants can be especially valuable if family members can’t agree on the best options for aging relatives, or have parents who are determined to remain in charge, despite their failing health. Sometimes an independent assessment, delivered by an outsider, can make the choice more obvious.

“A lot of people aren’t willing to pay for consultants because they don’t understand or appreciate the value that they bring. Or they tend to think they can handle it all themselves,” says Bruce Mahony of Home Instead, a private-sector company often called upon by geriatric-care consultants to provide interim care for frail seniors in their homes.

“In a sense, they can be a financial planner — if you don’t have the means, they’re going to help you find a place that is safe, affordable and sustainable. If you have lots of means, then there are more options. So they’re not just for the rich.”

The best consultants, Mahony stresses, are those who have worked in the health- and long-term care system.

“A lot (of people now advertising themselves as geriatric-care consultants) managed their parents through the system and consider themselves experts. The reality is that when you get into health care, it’s a life-long learning experience.”

Seniors Need More Help With Daily Tasks

Seniors Need More Help With Daily Tasks
Adult children are seeking private home-care for aging parents.

While many companies are struggling, those that provide home-care to Canada’s seniors say they’ve been surprised and delighted to find business booming.

“The trend over the last six months is that our client base has been growing – in fact, it’s grown by more than 25 per cent across Canada,” says John DeHart, co-founder of Nurse Next Door Home Healthcare Services.

The company, with 23 locations in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, says it’s adding two new locations a month and franchise inquiries have swelled 30 per cent, largely because of people looking for a new venture after losing their jobs.

Another provider, Home Instead Senior Care, says revenues increased by 24 per cent in 2008 and it projects similar growth for 2009 from 22 independently owned locations across Canada.

DeHart attributes the boost to families trying to defer assisted-living facility costs by keeping aging parents in their own homes as long as possible. When seniors need more help with daily tasks like dressing, cooking and housework, government-provided care is limited and goes only to those in greatest need, he says, leaving many families in search of a way to fill the gaps.

Seniors often plan to use proceeds from the sale of their home to cover retirement or nursing home fees when it comes time to make that move, he says, but a contracting housing market has removed that option for many.

Demographics is also boosting companies like theirs even as others falter, says Nurse Next Door co-founder Ken Sim.

“Our health care system is already stretched as it is and we aren’t sitting on a big pile of money that can be injected into the system on a sustainable basis to meet these changing needs,” DeHart says.

Particularly in this economy, home-care is an appealing option because it allows families to pay for only the help a senior needs on a flexible basis instead of the higher overhead costs of a live-in facility, he says.

Bruce Mahony, managing director of two Home Instead offices in Toronto, says more adult children are seeking private home-care for aging parents because they’re worried that dealing with those issues on their own could make them a target for companies looking to trim their workforce.

“You’re getting phone calls at work, you’re getting phone calls at night, you’re getting falls (by the parents) or nutritional issues or hydration issues,” he says of the fallout from dementia, which affects about 70 per cent of his company’s clients. “Fundamental issues that we take for granted start to emerge and it becomes very time-consuming.”

Gail Watson knows that all too well. The 42-year-old Vancouver resident lost a high-level corporate job five years ago when her performance began to sag under the weight of dealing with her mother’s emerging Alzheimer’s. Her mother is now living in a nursing home and Nurse Next Door provides six hours of care a week that allows her 85-year-old father to stay in his home. It also gives Watson enough time to devote to her young children and new e-mail marketing business.

“You need to be able to call (for help) because your life changes in a phone call,” she says. “It buys you time until you can get your resources straightened out with the province.”

Neil Prashad, president of Origin Retirement Communities, acknowledges that the company’s potential client base is “very, very spooked” by the economy, particularly because they live on fixed incomes.

However, Prashad says the fees charged by Origin, which has operations in Ontario, Alberta and B.C., are very reasonable because they include an array of expenses people often forget to account for. And he believes the quality of life is vastly superior to seniors living on their own.

“We know that this is a temporary thing; no one knows how long,” he says of the economic downturn. “Regardless of good times or bad, life goes on, and with seniors, we’re dealing with a relatively finite understanding of how long somebody has to enjoy their life.”

Prince George Citizen
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Section: Work Life
Byline: Shannon Proudfoot
Source: Canwest News Service

Who will care for Mom?

Aging population and high demand fuel the growth for seniors’ caregiving services - East Toronto

Who will care for Mom?

Aging population and high demand fuel the growth for seniors’ caregiving services

Toronto, January 13, 2009 – For the first time in history, it would seem that Canadian adults now have more parents than they do children.  One implication of this is that caregiving for seniors will be a high-growth occupation in coming years.  Despite the depressed economy, all indications are that the need for caregiving for seniors will only increase in the future.  It is already huge.

A newly released Statistics Canada study on eldercare says that some 2.7 million Canadians aged 45 and over were providing care for elderly family members or friends in 2007, which was up from 2 million in 2002.  Most of these caregivers were women, and more than half of them were working.  Thus, these people need help.  Professional caregivers can provide it.

“The needs of seniors drive the demand for our services, which in turn, creates more caregiving jobs,” said Bruce Mahony of Home Instead Senior Care.  “Surveys consistently show that seniors want to remain at home.  As aging occurs, staying at home without help can become more difficult, which is why many older adults need caregiving assistance.  Our caregivers don’t just care for seniors, but also care about seniors, many of whom are suffering from loneliness, depression and anxiety.”

Home Instead Senior Care is an international organization whose professional caregivers go into the homes of seniors to help them with such needs as companionship, meal preparation, light housekeeping, medication reminders, errands, palliative care and shopping.  It has 21 locations across Canada, and employs about 2,500 caregivers from coast to coast.

The fact that Canadians are living longer and the population is aging propels the need for caregiving for seniors. What’s more, the first Boomers will turn 65 in 2011 and will soon need caregiving services for themselves.

“The potential for the caregiving industry is absolutely huge,” says Dr. Amy D’Aprix, Founder and President of The Caregivers’ Coach, and an expert on aging, caregiving, palliative care and retirement issues.  “The non-medical, home care business is going to explode.  Boomers come from a culture of independent choice and freedom, and as they get older, they will want to maintain that for themselves.  Hiring an outside professional caregiver will let them do that as they age.  Boomers already want these services for their own parents.” D’Aprix says an increasing number
of family caregivers are stressed out caring for aging parents, and that professional caregivers provide a “partnership” with the family in need.

“The goal is better care for seniors and less stress for the family,” she said.  “Professional caregivers fill three needs – allowing seniors to remain independent in their home, providing emotional support, and providing family support. 

The advantages of elderly care at home include (home helper services):

  • Direct cost saving – A visiting nurse, home health aide, or personal and home care aide are all cheaper than a senior staying in a seniors’ residence or a long-term care facility.
  • Convenience – It’s much more convenient to leave a hospital sooner when all a senior might need is assistance with their daily activities.
  • Quality of life – The senior still lives in the comfort of their own home.

The advantages of a career in caregiving are that:

  • The job is a viable option for those taking care of their own families, or for individuals who are looking for a second job in homecare in Toronto.
  • It is a flexible career since you can do it on a full-time or part-time basis.
  • The demand for caregivers will be high for many years to come.
  • Education requirements are not high, so it may appeal to someone who is new to the country or to one who wants to put off their post-secondary education for the time being.

A 2002 Statistics Canada study called Balancing Career and Care said that more than 1.7 million Canadian adults aged 45 to 64 were providing informal care to almost 2.3 million seniors with long-term disabilities or physical limitations.  Of those caregivers, most were employed and many felt they were being pulled in two directions.  Another Statistics Canada study called the General Social Survey, which is from the same year, said that 2.6 million people between the ages of 45 and 64 had children under 25 living with them, and that 27% of those people – or 712,000 – were also performing some type of elder care for aging relatives.  This is the so-called ‘sandwich generation.’

The history of healthcare in Canada over the past three decades demonstrates the obvious need and subsequent growth for home care services.  In 1970, the province of Ontario first established a publicly funded home care program, and by 1988, every province and territory in Canada had done the same.  According to the Canadian Home Care Association, the number of Canadians receiving home care benefits almost doubled from 1995 to 2006, and today there are an estimated one million Canadians receiving home care services.

In 2002, the Romanow Report examined Canada’s healthcare system, and described home care as the next essential service and “one of the fastest growing components of health care” in the country.  Two years later, the Romanow Report’s 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care said that “home care is an essential part of modern, integrated and patient-centred health care.”

Jim Beck, who is Director of Public Affairs at Home Instead Senior Care, recently spoke on the State of Aging in Canada at the Summit on the Mature Work Force.  He observed that:

  • Worker to retiree ratios will be cut in half.
  • In the next 20 years, Canadians older than 65 will increase from one in ten to one in four.
  • The needs of older citizens will shift medical care from treating communicable diseases to providing chronic care for the old.
  • Three- and four-generation families will become the norm.
  • The cost of caring for an older population will place enormous pressure on governments.
  • Present senior care systems will be overwhelmed, and the family will bear the burden.

About 90 percent of Home Instead Senior Care caregivers work part-time, and while no formal education is required, the company offers a multi-phased, safety and caregiving education program.  This involves case studies, senior illness information, stimulating activities, nutritional recipes, and tips for coping with stress, all of which are followed by testing.  In addition, the company offers an industry-leading Alzheimer’s training program to caregivers.  The Alzheimer’s training program is the first of its kind in Canada for non-medical caregivers.

“Our primary mission is to keep seniors independent for as long as possible, and that means making sure that caregivers have the tools they need to provide seniors with the highest quality of care,” said HISC owner.  “We offer resources and experiences that will benefit our employees in many future endeavors they might choose.”

Home Instead Senior Care has developed a caregiver career self-assessment to help people gauge whether caregiving is a good career option for them.  Anyone is fee to try the self-assessment

Do you have what it takes?

Home Instead Senior Care and Dr. Amy D’Aprix have prepared a list of questions to ask when searching for a professional caregiver:

  • Have they been adequately trained as a caregiver?  Dealing with people who suffer from such illnesses as dementia or Alzheimer’s is very demanding.
  • Are they experienced?
  • What are their limitations?  Some caregivers, such as independents, may not be willing to perform certain functions on behalf of seniors in need.
  • Can they pass a background check?
  • What about backup?  If the caregiver is sick, it is important to know that another professional will cover for them.
About Home Instead Senior Care

In Canada, Home Instead Senior Care has 21 independently owned locations in seven provinces. There are 11 in Ontario — eight in the Greater Toronto Area, as well as in Ottawa, Peterborough and Waterloo. Five are in B. C. — Kelowna, Port Coquitlam, Vancouver, Victoria and White Rock. There are also locations in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Halifax and Charlottetown. Services include companionship, meal preparation, medication reminders, light housekeeping, and escorts for errands and shopping. Home Instead Senior Care services are available at home or in care facilities from a few hours per week up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Home Instead Senior Care prepares its caregivers to look for signs of abuse in the elderly and provides caregiver training that is unmatched in the industry. Recently, Home Instead Senior Care received the Best Employer Award for 50-Plus Canadians from The Workplace Institute. Home Instead Senior Care also offers an Alzheimer’s training program to its caregivers; this training program is the first of its kind for non-medical caregivers.

Home Instead Senior Care is the world’s largest provider of non-medical home care and companionship services for seniors with more than 800 independently-owned-and-operated locations in Canada, the U.S., Japan, Portugal, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the U. K., Spain, South Korea, Austria, Finland and Taiwan. For more information about the company and its owners click here.

Mind games for the older brain

When it comes to staying sharp,
it’s use it or lose it

Remember the ’60s and ’70s, way back in the past century, when “playing mind games” had a distinctly unpleasant connotation? Of course you do. The problem is, if you’re like many of us, you can’t remember where you left your glasses 10 minutes ago.

And that’s why mind games are becoming a strongly encouraged activity for people as they age, including the Boomers and those older. Mental calisthenics are especially good for those who have retired, who have no daily mental activity at work to keep them engaged, who wish to stall what researchers call “cognitive decline.” The benefits of regular physical exercise are well-known. Now, the emphasis is on exercising the brain, giving it the mental equivalents of brisk walks, swims, bike rides, weight training, pushups, etc.

Indeed, playing mind games may not just be a way to help keep people mentally fit in day-to-day activities. In many cases, they almost certainly can help ward off Alzheimer’s and other kinds of dementia.

So, it’s no exaggeration to say mind games can be a matter of mental life and mental death.
The Alzheimer Society of Canada, which launched a two-year awareness program called “Heads Up For Healthier Brains,” believes that varying one’s routine and doing puzzles and memory games can help keep the disease at bay.

On the front lines of elder care in Canada, the message is the same. “Our caregivers, as well as our owners and staff across Canada, know firsthand the value of keeping the minds of seniors active,” says James Cooke, owner of a Toronto franchise of Home Instead Senior Care, which provides non-medical care services for seniors at 19 locations across the country.

While crossword puzzles –my main daily form of mental calisthenics — and other low-tech exercises such as Sudoku, Scrabble and bridge are still the favourite pastimes of ageing Canadians wishing to exercise their brains and also have some fun, computer games such as Brain Fitness Program 2.0, MindFit and Brain Age are gaining ground, among the older set.

Home Instead Senior Care suggests the following ways to help engage seniors in mind-stimulating activities:

  • Interactive video games, like those mentioned above, have become popular for all ages, but can be crucial for seniors. Even those who are intimidated by the computer can still play online and try simpler games. Help them get started by playing Solitaire or joining an online bridge game.
  • Board games offer a great avenue for mind stimulation. Encourage seniors to get a few friends together to join in the fun. Bridge and Scrabble tournaments for seniors are springing up around the country. Check with your local senior centre or encourage older adults to join a local bridge group. Hasbro recently introduced faster versions of classic board games, including Monopoly Express and Scrabble Express.
  • Bigger can be better, with large-format crossword and jigsaw puzzles great pastimes, especially for seniors who need a mind-stimulating activity when they are alone.

People should be encouraged to read all about it. Many older people maintain an interest in politics and current events. Reading newspapers and magazines beats the couch-potato TV approach to getting news by making the mind work.

The Alzheimer Society says 300,000 Canadians over the age of 65 have the disease, which is the most common form of dementia.

Researchers are hopeful that great strides are possible in better understanding the disease and helping to devise more effective treatments.

Meantime, individuals can help themselves (and those who care for them) by engaging in mental calisthenics on a daily basis, whether it be formal or informal. I think the formal approach is better for most because, like physical exercise, a daily routine demands consistent involvement and gets better results. Let the mind games begin.

William Hanley
Financial Post
Saturday, September 29, 2007