How to find help for your aging loved ones in your community

By Wendy Johnstone
November 21, 2014

Are you confused or unsure about what kind of help you or your aging loved one is eligible for in the community?

Congratulations! You are among the many Canadians who find navigating the healthcare system overwhelming and even a little scary. Many caregivers find the co-ordination role (similar to that of a case manager) the most stressful part of caregiving even though it takes less time than providing personal care or helping with other household tasks.

Let’s say, you think your Mom or wife is showing signs of memory loss but you aren’t sure if it is serious. Or you aren’t sure where to go to find out if it is some type of dementia.

Although finding out the answer to this question is very important, it only helps with one part of the issue.

If it is memory loss, your Mom or wife’s ability to drive is affected, so is her self-care and feelings of safety in her home. Caring for someone with memory loss causes additional stress for family and this needs to be of top concern too.
Before you enter the healthcare maze, gather the following information:

Once you have a better sense on what your Mom or wife needs, your next step is to understand how she gets what she needs through the community she lives in.

Services are provided both publicly and privately. In this case, having your Mom or wife further assessed for her memory loss is best by bringing forward the concern with your Mom’s family physician.

The family physician makes the decision to refer her to Seniors Health through Island Health. Your Mom or wife would be visited by a team that included geriatric and psychiatry specialists to provide an assessment and recommend treatment plans. If she was unable to care for herself physically or having difficulty with remembering to take medications, a direct referral could be made to Home and Community Care program to determine if she was eligible (based on a standard assessment) to receive community-based health services in her home. Services provided through the public stream may be subsidized depending on income.

It doesn’t end there. In fact, it is just the beginning. But, I’ve run out of space. Come on back in two weeks to see where we go from here.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Planning. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC

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