New series: Navigating the health care system

By Valerie
January 6, 2012

Mr. Jones is an 83-year-old widower living in his own home. When asked, he’ll tell you he is doing “fair to middling.” He’ll go on to tell you his legs are tired and wobbly and he doesn’t get out as much as he’d used to.

He has a scooter, which gets him to town and back, but his vision is getting worse and he’s not sure how much longer he can safely use it. He likes listening to books on tape and watching sports. He has children but they all live out of town. They worry about him. Mr. Jones has Lifeline, a housekeeper to clean every two weeks, regular meal delivery and relies on friends to help with grocery shopping and other tasks.

Mr. Jones knows that he needs a little more help to stay in his home and is a little worried about his future care needs but doesn’t know where to go to find information or what’s available in his community.

Maybe one of your parents is like Mr. Jones. Or perhaps you feel a little (or a lot!) like Mr. Jones.

Either way, there comes a time when an aging loved one requires more support and care to keep them as independent as possible. For some of us, caregiving becomes a part-time job and a full-time worry.

Knowing that you or your aging loved one needs more help is one thing. Navigating your way through the health-care maze is another. Health care is very complicated and it can be challenging for seniors and family caregivers to understand the ins and outs. Many of us are confused as to whom to call to find assistance to help ourselves or an aging loved one manage at home. It’s also tricky to figure out what services are needed, eligibility for publicly funded home support and where to go to access services in the community.

A good sailor knows how to use their map and compass to navigate the open seas. The same applies to caregivers navigating the health-care system.

I’ll start 2012 with a series on “Navigating the Healthcare System”. I’ll pull out my map and compass and we’ll tackle the public healthcare system together and review what it offers and how to access services.

Next up will be understanding who’s on the deck crew and what role they play in health care. I’ll also provide tips on how to be a good advocate; either for yourself and for an aging loved one and how to get the right services at the right time.

Finishing up the series will be information on do’s and don’ts of hiring private providers providing services for seniors in their homes.

If you have a specific question related to “Navigating the Healthcare System”, please e-mail me directly at .

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