March 19th, 2013


The difference between a Personal Support Worker and a Home Support Worker

Here is a link to the Ontario PSW Association's website which details PSW duties for homemaking:

Here is an excerpt of that:

"Light Housekeeping Duties and Other Duties

Light housekeeping may be performed by Personal Support Workers. The service is not to be mistaken for a housekeeper. Here are duties a PSW can help your family member with:

~All light housekeeping duties are decided and approved by PSW supervisors and the home care agency.~

  • go to a store for small grocery needs
  • provide in home laundry service. Washing, drying, folding and putting away of laundry
  • hand wash delicate items
  • tidy the bedroom and bathroom after personal care duties are performed. (I.E. clean tub after use)
  • change bed linen. Re-making the bed
  • provide light surface dusting, sweeping and mopping of floors and vacuuming
  • water your loved one's indoor plants if they live alone
  • wash dirty dishes
  • dispose of any expired foods
  • in some cases (especially in apartment buildings) dispose of garbage and recycling
  • collect mail
  • remove unnecessary clutter from hallways and pathways that could potentially cause falls
  • assess any hazards in the home - the PSW will communicate with you if he or she has concerns about any changes that could be made to improve safety in the home of your loved one.

The purpose of performing light housekeeping duties is to help your loved one remain in their own home, keeping it tidy and safe.

However having a housekeeper will keep their home well kept and overall clean. If your family member lives in your home, light housekeeping performed by the PSW keeps you from cleaning up after personal care is completed and helps you with smaller housekeeping duties. Giving you a little more time to spend on yourself and all your loved ones.

Housekeeping Duties NOT performed by PSW’s

Your loved one's home is assessed by the PSWs supervisor and the lighthouse keeping duties are stated in what is called a Care Plan. The Care Plan Outlines your family members needs and the duties preformed by the PSW. Below are examples of housekeeping duties that a Personal Support Worker DOES NOT perform.

  • clean cupboards and/or re-organize their contents
  • dusting of home
  • pet care (I.E. changing cat litter)
  • garden maintenance
  • household repairs or any kind or renovations (I.E. painting)
  • snow removal
  • wall washing
  • cleaning carpets, furniture or mattresses
  • moving any household furniture
  • any form of heavy lifting or moving
  • changing light bulbs, ceiling lights, lamps or appliance lights
  • waxing/re-coating floors
  • polishing furniture
  • total clean of large appliances (I.E. freezers, fridges, ovens)
  • cleaning under large appliances (I.E. fridge)

When you are a loved one's full time caregiver, having a PSW through a home care agency can be an essential service. The home care service is to care for and keep seniors living in a home setting. Also helping their caregivers cope with the new and or current situation.


March 14, 2013


I love the energy and resilience of seniors who refuse to conform, thrive on still living no matter what age and defying what is the stereotypical impression of seniors. Attached are some links to some great You-tube videos that show "you are only as old as you feel" and "it ain't over til its over" "My Generation" not done by The Beatles  Smarter than you think!  Michael Jackson isn't Dead!  Gangnam Style transcends the Aged

Enjoy friends



May 28, 2012

In our industry, helping is what we do. It is what makes it possible for seniors to stay in their homes, physically challenged clients to accomplish their activities of daily living and families to spend more time together.

There is a dangerous side to helping though, that families often don't recongnize. The more you help and your loved one lets you, the less they are doing for themselves. Although we could say "Isn't that the point?" we must understand the impact on those we are helping.

The ability to continue doing things for ourselves is part of what gives us confidence as humans that we are useful and productive. It gives us purpose, and importance. It allows us to maintain our dignity by doing it our own way, and by our own hand. When we suddenly realize that our family no longer thinks we are capable of completing basic tasks, it creates a sense of being a burden. When we feel that we are no longer able to pull our own weight, we begin to question what is left for us.

Maslow taught us that beyond meeting our physical needs for food, water and shelter we need next to be safe and then to feel loved and a sense of belonging. Our families are often accomplishing these things for us, but they are necessary activities for us to accomplish for ourselves, for us to reach the next step of esteem and self-esteem. To hold ourselves in high regard, we must have a reason. To perceive that our families hold us in high regard, there must also be a reason. Only then can we fully reach our fullest potential of living.

As you can see however, the downward spiral emotionally from not acheiving these things on our own is to one of not being needed or wanted. Our family members are trying their hardest to help us with everything they can, to make life easier for us, but with every task they take away, that feeling of "being a burden" grows. When we realize we have nothing left to give and no reason to live, we may find ourselves sitting day after day in boredom with nothing to do and no reason to go on. This sounds like a truly harsh way to describe the outlook for our senior years. It is and it can be.

The best things that we can do for our seniors is not to do it for them, but to do it with them for as long as they safely can. When they can't, then we provide that support, protecting their dignity and sense of self.


April 19, 2012

Using Your Resources

There are many resources in the community. Finding the right ones can be difficult though. Knowing that there are companies that provide services to assist seniors with remaining independent in their homes is important. More important is where do access them. Here are some things that you may not realize as an example

Alliance Security provides Personal Emergency Response Systems, that give security with a two-way alarm button that is worn or carried. In the event of an emergency you can have help with the push of a button. Although there are many systems out there, this is one of my personal favourites.

Did you know that there are some really dedicated hair stylists out there who will come to your home to look after your hair? Mobility and accessibility to transportation are two very real issues for many of our clients. Finding a hair stylist that can accommodate you at home can really help make personal hygiene and maintaining pride possible. I have been using Jennifer Munro both personally and professionally for some time. For cancer patients who are experiencing hair loss, she will come to the privacy of your own home to cut your hair.

For many seniors, there are a lot of documents that need to be completed for the government. It could be anything from your passport documents, to filing for your OAS or CPP. Most people don't realize that your local federal and provincial politicians will provide assistance with these documents. Look them up in your phone book or try the links below

Ontario MPPs

Federal MP's


January 30, 2012

Most families don't plan to provide constant care for Mum or Dad, especially if they have shown no physical symptoms or illnesses, but Alzheimer's will over time cost more than most other illnesses.  

The cost of medications, supervision, time off work for appointments, assistance with Activities of Daily Living, equipment for safety, and eventually, 24 hour care and supervision can add up.  Without some idea how to cover those expenses, families put off making decisions.  What people often don't realize is that while not needing assistance with bathing and dressing, a patient is not eligible for CCAC assistance in home.  This means families will need to find a way to ensure that someone is with Mum or Dad all the time. 

The next step is to move them somewhere safer where there is supervision.  Retirement homes with assisted living can provide this, but not all are equipped to handle all stages of Alzheimer's and you may need to be prepared to move them again.  Also, these type of facilities are not covered by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.  Prices on a monthly basis could run anywhere from $1600.00 for the low end to $3000.00 to $5000.00 a month for very nice.  If the desire is to move Mum or Dad to a Long Term Care Facility or Nursing Home, you may be surprised to find out that although it is covered by the Ministry and would provide additional supervision and care, your loved one may not qualify.  Plus, the wait to get into such a place may take weeks, months and sometimes even years. While you wait, the additional expenses either in home or a retirement home are the burden of the resident and family. 

Talk to someone today about how to plan financially for long term care.



January 19, 2012


Mum or Dad In the hospital and feeling frustrated?

 Its stressful enough when your parent or elderly family member is sick, but when they are hospitalized, a whole new set of issues present themselves.  Although our universal health care system is envied around the world, it is far from a perfect system.  The truth is that  unless you address Mum or Dad's hospitalization like a job and act as their forceful and demanding advocate you will find yourself confused and uninformed. A large team of professionals are individually handling one or two aspects of their care and they are rarely, if ever, in the same room at the same time as one another.  Even less likely is the possibility that they are in the same room as you.

What can you expect?  You can expect a rotating nursing staff that is overburdened with patients.  They aren't always fully debriefed on what is happening with each patient, don’t know or recognize family members expecting updates or have time to spend with every family member who comes in.  Physiotherapists visit to assess the physical ability of patients to sit-up, stand, walk, weight bear, and lift and muscle control.  Occupational Therapists need to assess a person's ability to accomplish the activities of daily living.  Using the toilet and shower, making food or getting around in a home. A social worker is assigned to each area of the hospital and should be part of the communication and discharge planning process.  A discharge planner with also be part of the team making the decisions about Mum or Dad's return home or to alternate accommodations if necessary.  Internal CCAC reps will also work with the discharge planner to organize home care if they require bathing, or wound dressings, as well as the PT and OT visits.  Some hospitals use Hospitalists who are intended to lead the care and the team.  There are of course always a number of doctors who also will be involved depending on the reason for the hospitalization and any continuing therapy, tests or monitoring that needs to be done.

 As you can see there are a lot of people who are attending to various parts of patient care.  However, the most common thing that I hear is that families are confused by conflicting information from different health care providers, they can’t get the full story on what is happening with the care plan, they don’t know when Mum or Dad can come home and by far, the worst is that when Mum or Dad does come home, they have no idea how he or she is going to function there alone. 

 You need to take control of the situation.  The larger the family the more challenging it can be to get a system in place to ensure everyone is informed.  One or two people should be the lead and likely have Power of Attorney in the event that Mum or Dad can’t make decisions for themselves.  Attending at the hospital regularly is not enough, you need to ask for calls from the doctor who is leading the care plan.  If you are uncertain or feel that actions are not being taken you can have the social worker to organize a Family Conference.  This would usually include the charge nurses, OT and PT, the doctors and the social worker at the very least.  You need to hear from each of them in the same room at the same time to get a clear picture.  You also need to be able to ask all of the questions, of the right professionals, to help you understand and make good decisions. 

Families who feel that do not know and understand what is going on with Mum or Dad, will find it harder to cope with the anxiety of the hospitalization, organizing the care of them and their affairs when they are released, and finding ways to keep the entire family informed and working together.  It may take several visits and several different family conferences to get what you need, but don’t give up.  Continue asking the questions, forcing the health care team to address your concerns and to give you answers.  You are the best advocate for your loved one.



January 11, 2012

Ignoring the early signs of demetia can have a lasting and negative impact not only on the person suffering from the illness but the family having to cope with the patient.  I often hear that Mum or Dad has been showing signs for a while, but not everyone in the family saw it, or felt that anything needed to be done.  If you know someone in this situation, put this blog in front of them. Not only does the person being affected have the challenge of dealing with the frustration of the memory loss, confusion and withdrawl, they also are often at the mercy of feuding, complacent or ignorant family members which puts them at greater risk for hospitalization, injury and mental instability. 

If families would simply recognize the signs in the very early stages, they could get medical help on board and in place.  This would allow the patient to be a part of creating the plan to keep them safe and supported, before a crisis situation forces the family to make a decision.  When the family is forced to make a decision, it is generally under the stress of worry and is very emotional.  These decisions made for the patient tend to cause resentment because they don't understand, or simply cannot cope with it, and this can exacerbate the issues they are already experiencing.  It also can create a great deal of tension and stress among the family members.

In most instances, the medications that patients take have side effects.  Some particular medications cause memory loss and/or confusion.  Unless the doctor is made aware of the side effect, he or she cannot help find an alternative medication or solution.  A simple mini-cognitive test which can be administered in the doctor's office, can help identify the level of memory deficit.  This gives the family doctor a baseline on the patient's current state, and can be re-administered at any time to judge the improvement or decline when medications are changed.  There are also a number of medications that can be prescribed, that slow the memory loss, giving family valuable time with their loved ones.

If the memory deficits are not as a result of medication or other illness, the decline in memory can be slowed, but not stopped. This is the time to talk with your loved one and make plans for how and where they will be cared for, as well as educate the family on what to expect along the way. 

Why is this so important? Planning ahead for where Mum or Dad will be living is a huge undertaking. Their needs will change constantly and this can mean a difference in home support, medication monitoring, personal care and activities of daily living, financial responsibilities, physical activity and mental stimulation.  Their current home may not be a safe and supportive environment to address all of these needs.  If they still drive, they cannot continue doing so indefinitely and alternate transportation arrangements need to be thought out.  Taking medication independently can become dangerous, if they dose themselves incorrectly, which can result in hospitalization.  Paying their bills and taking care of their finances in general is often one of the first tasks that need to be taken over by family, meaning that Power of Attorney should be arranged while the person can identify for themselves who they trust to look after this for them. A POA can be drafted for Personal Care, Medical, Financial and Property.  Seeking out some legal help during this process is extremely important so that the family understands the legal expectations and the triggers for the use of these POA.

What if Mum or Dad stays in their own home?  What's the worst that could happen?  Dementia patients often leave home with a direction in mind when they leave, but forget where they are headed and how to get back home. Worse they may leave the house without a winter coat in the coldest temperatures or without water in extreme heat.  Its not uncommon for them to put something on the stove and walk away forgetting it, and cause a fire in the kitchen.   They forget to follow food safety, and eat foods that have gone bad or expired or they take their medications incorrectly.  Door to door scam artists recognize confused seniors as an easy target.  They allow people into their homes, giving them the opportunity to steal items, or they convince patients to sign contracts and provide cheques or credit cards for payment on something they do not need or may never benefit from.

Unfortunately, one of the worst impacts of leaving it to the last minute is that change and learning is very, very difficult for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia.  This means that if you have to move them they can become very combative, or worse experience an exacerbation of their symptoms because of the extreme change to the few things they do understand and remember.

To sum it all up, don't stick your head in the sand if you suspect memory deficits in your loved one.  Act immediately and with direction.  There are many resources in the community and it is much easier to put plans together and execute them before crisis or worst-case-scenarios become your reality, than to try and find solutions to every issue as it comes up.



December 20, 2011

 Helping Seniors Live Independently at Home

How many times have you heard one of your elderly family members declare "They will have to carry me out of this house in a box"? 

Many seniors want to stay in their homes until the end.  That can be a wonderful experience or the most difficult and challenging thing your family will ever deal with.

Planning ahead is the key to ensuring that aging at home is successful and fulfilling for your family member and not stressful for for the rest of the family.

Know and understand the medical, social, spiritual and emotional issues that may impact your family member in the near future, and the distant future. 

Will their medical condition worsen and require increased physical assistance? 

Will they be isolated and alone if they remain in their home where others may not be able to visit? 

Do they feel its important to be able to attend church services or have visits from their faith leaders?

Does the home environment allow for sufficient stimulation to keep them from becoming bored, lethargic and depressed?

There are many resources in the community to help you plan and implement care plans for your loved one.  Here are some of the commonly used government resources and their website links for you to access.

Community Care Access Center  CCAC
Information and locations of community and health care services, long-term care placement and referrals.

Veterans Affairs Canada  DVA
Information for Canadian Forces, Allied Veterans, War Navy Veterans, Merchant Navy Veterans, Families & Survivors & RCMP

Ontario Assistive Devices
The objective of the Assistive Devices Program (ADP) is to provide consumer centered support and funding to Ontario residents who have long-term physical disabilities and to provide access to personalized assistive devices appropriate for the individual’s basic needs.

Ontario Drug Program
If you qualify, Ontario’s drug programs will pay most of the cost of some of your prescription drugs. These programs are separate from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). OHIP pays doctors and other health care providers to provide certain health services.

These are a great place to start the learning process about how you can help ensure your family member is set up for success in their plan to live independently at home.