Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mending Fences

By Sharon A. O'Brien, SC; RN, PG; BSW, RSW; CG 
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
at Senior Watch 

Family rifts are nothing new!  Remember Cain and Abel? Few families escape unscathed, and unfortunately, there seems to be no easy solution. One thing for sure, years do not necessarily mend breaks in family fences.

If we find ourselves in this situation, perhaps a new insight can help us take a new look at our fences!

Often, as we get along in years, we feel a need to make things better. If there are any doubts as to the benefits of taking the risk, be assured that even if we are rebuffed, we will know we at least tried.

The real key is to FORGIVE! Contrary to popular thinking, we do this for ourselves and not for the other person! This involves letting go of grudges that we’ve carried around for too long! It also may involve forgiving ourselves for some dumb remark made 30 years ago!

Remember the line in a Robert Frost poem: “good fences make good neighbours”? They make good families as well!

Mending and maintaining good family fences makes good sense at any age. Simple steps like making sure our wills are current, explaining decisions to appropriate family members, preparing a list of items to be left to specific people, informing relatives of preferred funeral arrangements and involving those concerned in decision making are all important.

Do you have some family fences that need to be mended or maintained?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

AD Strikes Next Door!

By Sharon A. O'Brien, SC; RN, PG; BSW, RSW; CG 
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
at Senior Watch 

Alzheimer Disease affects an estimated 200,000 Canadians.  Perhaps a neighbour is one of its victims.

All too often families struggle to cope on their own.  They juggle work schedules, place their own mental and physical health at risk, or become isolated.  What can you do to help?

First, you can become aware of the challenges of caring for a person with Alzheimer Disease.  Information is available from a local Alzheimer office.  Talk to the caregiver about his or her situation and together identify the specific ways you could offer support.

The next step requires courage and commitment.  Let your neighbour's family know you are serious about your offer of support.  A phone call or a visit to encourage the caregiver will mean more than you can ever imagine.  Offer to stay with the family member while the caregiver runs errands, keep appointments or have lunch with a friend.

If you are making cookies, biscuits or a meal, prepare a little extra and offer it to the caregiver.  You could offer to look after a car maintenance appointment, to pick up items needed or even to plan a special time for the caregiver away from the home.  A little creativity can go a long way!

Until you have been “the caregiver” you cannot imagine how much even the smallest gesture of support can mean.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Struggle to Grasp Health Information

By Sharon A. O'Brien, SC; RN, PG; BSW, RSW; CG 
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
at Senior Watch 

You have just been given information on a medication, a diagnosis, or a necessary procedure and you do not have a clue what it means.  You are not alone!

A recent issue of the Canadian Nurse stated that “60% of adult Canadians lack the capacity to obtain, understand, and act upon health information and services and to make appropriate health decisions and maintain basic health”.  This is a scary statistic.  Then again, it could make us feel we are not alone as we walk out of the appointment in a fog!

Have you ever had a surgeon explain the eight things that could go wrong should you decide to go ahead with the surgery he/she is recommending?  Have you ever had a diagnosis elaborately explained along with the treatment options, but you tuned out when you heard the word “cancer”?    

It is critical to our overall health and our recovery that we understand what is happening to us. There is nothing wrong with requesting a slower, clearer, simplified explanation! 

What can we do. We can start by taking responsibility for our health.  We need to take a trusted friend with us to remind us of questions we wanted to ask and to take notes.  We need to advise the health professional of “invisible” disabilities; e.g., hearing problems.  We need to be honest and admit when we feel confused about the directions being given.  We can even ask to have a procedure or a medication be written down for us.

As consumers of the health system we must be active participants in service delivery.  We need to help those who are serving us to understand our need to grasp the information being given to us.  Our health providers care deeply and they depend on us to play our role in our journey towards wellness.