Sorting out the ‘healthcare maze’ for elderly care

Finding out what kind of help you or your aging parent needs is the first step

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

Don’t worry! You aren’t alone.

Knowing the who, what and how is challenging when you are at the start of any maze. Before entering a maze, it’s helpful to have clues at the start to help find the end.

Let’s say, you think your Mom is showing signs of memory loss but you aren’t sure if it is serious or where to go for an assessment. Although finding out the answer to this question is very important, it only helps with one part of the issue.

Memory loss may be affecting your Mom’s ability to drive, to care for herself physically, to feel safe in her home and it may be causing additional stress if your Dad is caring for her or if she is widow.

Before you walk into the maze, some of the “clues” to gather include:

• What does your Mom think she needs to maintain or improve her daily life? Perhaps your Mom is most worried about falling at night or perhaps she has mentioned that she is uncomfortable driving longer distances or appears to be more stressed when travelling.

• What are her current health problems, in addition to the perceived memory loss?

• Would your Mom give permission to accompany her to a doctor’s appointment to be an extra set of ears?

• What kind of support does your Mom already receive and who is doing it? For example, she might have family in town that have her over for supper once a week or a neighbour or family friend may take her grocery shopping.

• Can family members do more for their Mom?  What can they do and how often?

• If your Dad is caring for your Mom, find out what support would help him.

• What is your Mom’s financial situation? Can she afford to pay for additional services?

Once you have a general idea on what your Mom needs (and your Dad if he is caregiving), your next step is to understand how your Mom gets what she needs through the community she lives in. Services can be provided both publicly and privately.

The difference between publicly and privately funded services is based on type of service and eligibility. In this case, having Mom further assessed for her memory loss would be achieved through the public stream by bringing forward the concern with your Mom’s family physician.

The family physician would make the decision to refer to a psychogeriatrician based on his or her assessment of the situation. If your Mom was unable to care for herself physically and/or having difficulty with remembering to take medications, a referral could be made to The Home and Community Care program of the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) to determine if she was eligible (based on a standard assessment) to receive community-based health services in her home.

Services may be subsidized depending on your Mom’s income. Private providers offer a variety of services such as housecleaning, meal preparation or delivery, home support, companionship, and transportation, just to name a few.

Private providers range in their qualifications, services and costs. It is not uncommon for seniors to use a mix of publicly funded and private pay services to meet their needs.

Take some time to collect your “clues” about your needs or for someone you are caring for. Our next column will talk about entering the maze and putting those clues into action to become aware of publicly funded services for seniors and how to go about accessing them.

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

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