Newsletter May 2008

Elder Care Advice From The Managing Director

After a harsh winter in Toronto, I look forward to the sunny days and warmer temperatures of spring. The winter months have afforded me time to spend thinking about the challenges that are faced by today’s caregiver.

New research and current census data provide us with a mixed picture – the good news is we are living longer and there are more elderly today than ever but their caregivers are suffering from strain and stress in their attempt to balance their caregiving and work responsibilities. These issues aren’t new. An article I wrote in 2006 addresses ways to balance work and caregiving (see “Interesting Links” to review this article). With the increase in the senior population, more attention and research dollars are being put into caregiving and related issues in terms of aging at home.

Spring is always a time for new hope, and caregivers need to be reminded that there are many possible solutions for balancing their care load. Geriatric Care Managers can help caregivers plan for the future – before issues become a crisis.

The Geriatric Care Manager Solution

New census data (Census 2006) indicates that a record 1 in 7 Canadians are 65 years and older. With life expectancy also continuing to increase, (82.5 years for women and 77.7 years for men), issues of care giving are becoming a predominant issue and one that cannot continue to be pushed to the back burner. The family caregiver spends an average of 4 hours per week on care giving related tasks. This type of care giving saves the Canadian government significant amounts of money. But the real cost is to you.

With 70% of these caregivers still employed in the workforce, it is no wonder that many of these caregivers report high levels of stress and strain. In a national sample of employees from medium to large workplaces, 26% reported high levels of caregiver strain related largely to eldercare. (Lero, D. 2007 Integrating Work and Care, Canadian Healthcare Manager Vol. 14:4 pg 3) These employees are struggling to balance care issues of parents, their children and their work which often requires them to make adjustments to their work life. According to the General Social Survey (GSS), in 2002, of employees aged 45-64 who were caring for seniors, 27% of women and 16% of men changed their workplace patterns (for example, they came in late or left early); 14% workers reduced their work hours; 3% men and women declined a promotion; and 1.6% quit their jobs altogether.

A Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) can be of great assistance in helping to reduce strain by coordinating care and helping family members find and employ services within their community in order to reduce caregiver strain. In a recent study conducted by the National Alliance for Care Giving found that employees who accessed Geriatric Care Manager Services rather than the standard database EAP referral program found that “presenteeism” (not missing work for caregiving issues) improved over time for users. “Essentially, this indicates that people who used the GCM program were more focused on work after using the program than they were before using it.

Additionally, GCM program users were less likely than the other groups to self-report deterioration in their health over time.”
Providing paid access to Geriatric Care Managers can ensure that your valued employees are getting the support and practical guidance and assistance that they require.

Tips for Spring

With tax season upon us, you may be wondering about what you can claim in terms of payments made to a retirement home or to a personal caregiver. The Federal Government allows you to claim the entire amount paid to a caregiver and any payments made to a retirement home for personal care. Both of these costs can be claimed under Medical Expenses as an Attendant Care Benefit. To find out the portion of the fee that you are paying to the retirement home in personal care costs, contact your retirement home’s administration. To learn more about the Attendant Care Benefit and what you can claim, contact your accountant or go to the Canada Revenue Agency website or call them at 1- 800-959-8281

With the exit of snow and ice and the brighter days and cleaner walkways that spring brings, many older adults are ready to get out and about in the better weather. This time of year is ideal for addressing mobility issues. Because of declines in vision and hearing as well as the increase in the prevalence of chronic disease, seniors are at a greater risk of poor balance, falls and injury as well as poor mobility. Caregivers should take note of their older family member’s gait and balance and should try to eliminate any clutter from walkways. Because of the uneven ground associated with being outside, mobility aids such as walkers and canes should be considered for those with an unsteady gait or balance issues.

For folks with a mobility aid, this time of year is a great time to ensure that these items continue to be in good working order. For canes, this means that the rubber grip or spikes at the bottom are still in place and that the cane is at an appropriate height for the user. If using a walker, the braking system, handles and seat should be checked to ensure that they are functional and working well. Wheels on these walkers should be lubricated and turn with ease. Spring is a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors.

Phone: 416-658-8887 Toll Free:866-473-8887

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