Mavencare offers personalized home care services with convenience and transparency to keep seniors safe and independent at home. Mavencare is a tech-enabled home health company dedicated to supporting seniors and their families to promote aging in place.
It’s not uncommon for seniors to feel resistant toward the idea of receiving home care - and if we put ourselves in their shoes, we can surely understand this feeling. Few of us would be elated by the idea of welcoming a person we hardly know into our homes (perhaps every day, or even overnight), giving up the privacy of a space that was once solely ours, dealing with changes to our established routines, and coming to the realization that the independence we’ve enjoyed throughout our adult years is diminishing.
None of these changes are necessarily easy, but they can be made easier by approaching your senior loved one’s resistance to care from a place of sympathy, and using the following methods to facilitate a smooth transition from their current routines to routines they will share with a caregiver.
Reframe the conversation
The goal of home care is not to decrease your loved one’s level of independence - in fact, one of the objectives of home care is to maintain seniors’ independence to whatever degree is safe and comfortable for them.
It might be useful to approach your elderly loved one with statements like these:
“Mom, I know you love this house, and I want you to be able to stay here. That’s why I think you could use a bit of help in the mornings.”
“Grandpa, I know how much you enjoy playing bridge at the community center on Fridays. I don’t want you to stop going - I just think it would be better if someone could drive you there and home again.”
“Aunt Sarah, I’ve been worried about you since your fall. I know you don’t feel like you need any help, but it would make me feel better if there was someone there for you overnight, just in case. It might make you feel more comfortable too.”
The way you frame your conversation about home care will depend on your loved one’s individual needs and circumstances, but no matter how you intend to start the conversation, remember that when is also important. Pick a “non-eventful time” - holidays might be some of the few occasions your whole family is together, but they’re not necessarily the best time for a serious conversation about a major change.
Additionally, try to avoid having conversations about care immediately after a tragic event. You might be worried about how your mother will fare alone in her home after your father’s death, but it’s best to give your loved one time and support to face one significant change before confronting them with another, even if life circumstances mean that you can only manage to put off the conversation for a few days.
Reframing the conversation - as well as the other strategies listed here - may be inappropriate if your senior loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Confusion or disorientation can make these conversations difficult, or even impossible, to have. If your loved one has dementia, it’s a good idea to speak with their doctor about the best way to approach the topic of home care with them.
Don’t exclude your loved one from their own care
It’s unlikely that your elderly loved one will play a large role in setting up home care; research, financial planning, and conversations with the insurance company will probably fall to you and/or other family members. But don’t exclude your loved one entirely by merely telling them they will receive home care - seek their input and find out their preferences. If you are choosing between two caregivers, present their information to your loved one and ask for feedback. Ask your loved one if they would like assistance in the kitchen, or if they’d prefer that someone else took over the cooking entirely. If your loved one has acknowledged that they need some help, ask them what parts of their days in particular would be easier with the presence of a helping hand.
It might also be useful to let your loved one know how their acceptance of home care will be a helpful act. Let them know that it would help you if a caregiver could come into the home four days a week so that you no longer have to work from home, or just how much knowing that a caregiver is present in the evenings will keep you from worrying.
It may be obvious to you that your father needs assistance from a caregiver everyday, but wanting him to acquiesce to that proposal immediately is quite a big ask. If possible, start off your loved one’s home care experience with a trial period.
For example: propose that for the next month, a caregiver will visit your father for five hours per day each Tuesday and Thursday, and at the end of the month, the two of you can revisit the conversation. Your father might not be particularly pleased by this proposal, but it’s a far less overwhelming arrangement than abruptly adding another person into his life and into his routines every single day. A trial period will give your loved one time to adjust to receiving care, and while they might not be brimming with enthusiasm about home care by the end of the trial period, it’s very likely that they’ll have a much better understanding of just how useful help from a caregiver can be.
Don’t just find a caregiver - find the right caregiver
One of the best ways to make your loved one comfortable with receiving home care is to find the caregiver who is right for them. When you’re looking at potential caregivers, your first concern will be your loved one’s health and their daily needs, so you’ll want to seek out caregivers who have experience caring for seniors who have dementia or Alzheimer’s, or who are trained to use Hoyer lifts, or whose references say they’re highly skilled at getting their clients to eat three meals a day - or whatever else the case might be.
Once you’ve identified a shortlist of caregivers whose skills are right for your loved one, look past the things they need from a caregiver, and think about the things that would make a caregiver a good match on a personal level. Perhaps your loved one enjoys telling stories about their past experiences, and would be fulfilled by spending time with an outgoing caregiver who can easily keep up their end of a conversation, or perhaps your loved one has always been rather reserved, and would prefer a caregiver who also has a calm, quiet demeanor, and can spend a couple hours each evening in companionable silence.
Mavencare always aims to match clients with a caregiver who ‘fits.’ We look at health and care needs, and then we look at lots of other things too, like whether there is a caregiver available who speaks your loved one’s first language, or who is skilled in cooking their favourite cuisine, or whose cultural values align with their own, or who enjoys playing chess, or who also loves cats - the list goes on. Often, seniors and caregivers end up spending quite a bit of time together. At Mavencare, we want all those hours to be as enjoyable and relaxing as they can be, so we take the time to look at all the factors that make that possible.
Meet with care coordinators and potential caregivers
Mavencare’s care coordinators are aware of all the various reasons your elderly loved one might be resistant to the idea of care, and are empathetic toward both seniors who have reservations about receiving home care, and toward their families who wish to see them healthy, safe, and happy in their homes. Because of this, Mavencare care coordinators are more than happy to help you navigate conversations with a loved one who does not wish to receive care.
Care coordinators can assist by supplying reading materials that might help families better understand their loved one’s resistance and reframe the conversation around home care. If you and your family feel it would be helpful, care coordinators can also arrange to meet with you and your senior loved one at their home, where they can answer questions and address concerns. If you and the loved one you’re seeking care for live in separate places, care coordinators are able to organize conference calls so that each family member can have a voice in the conversation.
If your loved one is hesitant about what kind of relationship they might have with their caregiver, Mavencare care coordinators can also arrange meet-and-greet sessions in which your family will sit down with each of the caregivers on a carefully selected shortlist to determine which caregiver’s demeanor will complement your loved one’s personality best.
It’s important to everyone at Mavencare that your loved one’s care arrangements are suited not only to their home health needs, but also to their level of comfort when it comes to home care. Just like you, Mavencare care coordinators want your loved one to continue to live in their home peacefully, happily, and safely - and a big part of this is making sure their home care experience is a comfortable one.
Eating healthy food is important at any age because it is the fuel our body uses to maintain health and function. As seniors age, their nutritional needs may change, but the importance of eating healthy does not.
Meeting their nutritional needs helps seniors maintain their quality of life. Unfortunately, aging seniors may lose their appetite, or develop health challenges that make it difficult for them to cook their own healthy meals. In these cases it is important to help your senior loved one with meal planning, cooking, and enjoying their meals.
Warning signs that could mean your loved one could potentially be malnourished:
Their fridge is usually empty when you visit.
They’re losing weight.
They’re taking medications that can cause a loss of appetite.
There are many reasons why your senior loved one may be struggling to eat nutritious meals each day. They may have difficulty grocery shopping on a regular basis, they may be afraid to use their kitchen, or they may feel lonely during meal times.
Difficulty Grocery Shopping
Seniors may struggle with grocery shopping for any number of the following reasons:
They have lost their driver's license and no longer have a means of transportation
Their mobility is limited and they struggle to push a heavy shopping cart. Baskets in the cart can also be difficult for seniors to place and retrieve their items.
Seniors may struggle to walk through large grocery stores to find all their items. If they have questions for staff, they have to walk through the entire store in search of someone.
Limited mobility and strength can make it difficult for seniors to reach items on higher shelves or deep into frozen food cases.
At the end of a grocery shopping trip, bags can be very heavy. Seniors may struggle to carry their heavy bags to their car and into their home.
How can you help your senior loved on with their grocery shopping?
Some seniors enjoy grocery shopping because it is a way to interact with other people. Others will be okay to have someone do their shopping for them. It’s important that you ask your senior loved one what they would prefer.
Talk through what they enjoy eating and buying. What stores do they like to shop at? What budget are they working with?
If your senior loved one wants help grocery shopping, make sure they’re in charge at the store and you are only there to help. Even when you’re checking out, allow your senior loved one to speak with the cashier and pay for their groceries. You can be helpful with bagging and carrying the groceries.
When you get the groceries home, you can help put them away, but always make sure you put things away in the place that your senior loved one prefers.
The Kitchen Becomes Dangerous
The kitchen is the heart of most homes and cooking is an essential part of our lives.
Unfortunately, kitchens can become dangerous for seniors to use. Memory issues can cause a senior to walk away from food cooking on the stove, turning on the tap and walking away, or leaving the oven on. This can potentially be catastrophic.
Kitchens are not only problematic for seniors with memory impairment.Additional issues that make the kitchen potentially dangerous for seniors include:
Heavy pots that seniors have trouble lifting. This makes transferring pots from the stove to sink extremely challenging and can lead to spills that cause fires or fall hazards.
Clothing with long sleeves, like robes, can put a senior at risk for catching their clothes on fire or the fabric could get caught on a pot handle and cause hot food to spill.
How can you make the kitchen a safer place for your senior loved one?
Pots with two handles can make it easier for a senior to transfer them from sink to stove and back.
Alarms and lights that alert seniors to the stove and oven being on will help seniors with memory issues to turn off the stove before leaving the room.
Encourage your senior loved one to never leave anything on the stove. This includes oven mitts, dish towels, wooden utensils, paper items, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, cans of cooking spray, etc. These items can catch fire easily. They should be organized for easy use, but never left on the stove.
Test smoke detectors to make sure they’re working properly.
Make sure there is a fire extinguisher within easy access to the kitchen, and a safe distance from the stove. Also make sure that your senior loved one knows how to use the fire extinguisher in case of emergency.
Eating Together is More Enjoyable
Enjoying a meal with others is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Many seniors become isolated in their homes, and eating meals alone increases their feelings of loneliness.
It is important to know the difference between being alone and loneliness. Many seniors can spend time on their own and enjoy their day, however, others may feel sad and empty without a certain level of connection.
Seniors may become isolated in their home if they lose their spouse, their children move away, they experience mobility issues, they have an illness, or they have difficulty communicating due to a hearing challenge or language barrier.
How can your loved one enjoy more meals with companionship?
If family members are able to join your senior loved one during mealtimes, that is a fun way to enjoy their company and make sure they’re eating enough nutritious food to keep them healthy.
Your family can also hire caregivers who specialize in meal preparation and companionship so that your senior loved one is always looked after. With Mavencare, you are always kept up-to-date and our caregivers can record important health information such as fluid intake, what they ate, and how much they ate.
Senior centres often offer at least one meal along with activities. If your senior loved one doesn’t have a means of transportation, our caregivers can offer transportation as a supplementary service to personal care.
If you are concerned about your senior loved one’s nutrition, consult their doctor for tests that can be done to identify chronic malnutrition or other nutrition-related health concerns.
Caring for a senior loved one is a rewarding, yet challenging task.
Aging seniors need a varying degree of care from companionship to assistance with all activities of daily living such as getting out of bed, getting dressed, using the washroom, and cooking meals.
If you have your own full-time job and other family responsibilities, adding in the role of caregiver for your senior loved one can cause you to burn out. Not because it’s a burden on you, simply because you only have so much energy to expend in any given day.
What is Respite Care?
Respite care is a way for you to take a break from being the main caregiver for your senior loved one so that you can return to the position healthy and rested. Mavencare can provide your loved one with a care team, a customized care plan, and a certified caregiver.
Caregivers can provide your loved one with 4 hours of care or more depending on your situation and when you need a little extra help.
Why Respite Care is Needed:
When you’re the primary caregiver for a senior loved one, your other responsibilities do not change. You may simply need time to do work projects, cook for your family, spend time with friends, or de-stress and take care of yourself.
No matter the reason, it’s important that you don’t make yourself feel guilty for needing help. Caregiving is a professional career because it is a challenging job that requires mental and physical energy.
How to Know When You Need Respite Care:
Burning out as a caregiver is a real possibility. We have measures in place to prevent our professional caregivers from burning out, which means that you, as the family caregiver, should also put your own measures into place to identify when you need extra help and how to get it.
Burnout is a state of stress that lasts for a long period of time. It can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, negative or neutral feelings, or lack of motivation.
If you’re starting to feel tired all the time or having trouble focusing, you could be starting to burnout. If you haven’t arranged respite care before these feelings start, arrange a caregiver as soon as you can.
How to Arrange Respite Care:
Mavencare care coordinators can assist you in hiring a certified caregiver who will be matched with your loved ones needs, personalities, and interests. You can call us anytime at 1-800-85-MAVEN.
You can also consider using services in your community like adult day programs. Some facilities will run a range of activities where seniors can enjoy time with others.
Some family members may be able to help out and provide you with the break that you need. You should keep respite care as regular as possible so that everyone involved knows when they are needed and can be depended upon. Regular respite care also allows you to book appointments or make other plans.
Caring for a senior loved one is a wonderful opportunity. However, it can be difficult emotionally and physically.
Respite care allows you to destress from being “always-on” as the caregiver. It gives you a chance to catch your breath and it will allow you to be a better, more focused caregiver.
There are a lot of demands placed on you within any given day. Becoming a caregiver for your loved one places even more demands on your time and your energy. It isn’t a burden to care for a loved one, you are happy to do it, but in order to be the best caregiver and person that you can be for your loved one, your family, your friends, and your coworkers, you need to schedule respite care.
Imagine for a moment that you’ve been robbed. You’ve walked into your house to find that many of your belongings have been taken. In this scenario, you would most likely be panicking and desperate to get your belongings back.
Now imagine that the robbery has happened within your own mind. This is one way to think about what it can feel like to have dementia. One moment your memories are there, and the next they’ve been stolen. Worse than that, the precious memories that you have left are ignored or you’re not allowed to think about them for fear that it will hurt you more.
One of the biggest mistakes that family and professional caregivers can make when caring for a person who has dementia is to assume that their personality and experiences have been wiped clean, essentially giving their life a clean slate; it has not. A senior who has dementia is still the same person at their core, even if they drift in and out of memories at times.
When caring for a person who has dementia, there are four strategies you should keep in mind:
1. Active listening to signals and signs for what a senior’s behaviour is trying to tell you.
2. Assume a reactive behaviour is a clue to something bigger going on.
3 Review each client’s case history.
4. Think outside the box for how you can keep them connected to the past they love.
Two examples below will explain why using these strategies are so important for seniors with dementia to maintain their highest quality of life.
A Story About Phyllis - Clothing Choices Can Matter
Let’s take the example of a woman, for example purposes, her name is Phyllis. For many years she was an executive secretary in a large law firm. She never went anywhere without looking professional. She dressed in business suits, pearls and high heels, and had her hair done once a week. Clothes were, in a sense, the base of her identity.
Flash forward forty years, and Phyllis is battling Alzheimer’s. She’s now in a long-term care (LTC) facility. Her attendants and PSW’s take good care of her, and they dote on her, and, she appears quite happy. However, her caregivers are puzzled by one disturbing behaviour on her part; huge rages that happen whenever they try to take her down to the dining room to eat.
The occupational therapist (OT) is consulted, and goes through her case history and discovers Phyllis’ history as a highly placed executive. After investigating further, the OT inquires what Phyllis wears when she is brought down to the dining room. The answer? Track pants, t-shirts, sweaters and sneakers.
Realizing that Phyllis was trying to communicate her frustration, the OT suggests that the LTC contact Phyllis’ family and have her collection of couture suits brought in. This was done, and every night before bed, Phyllis’ caregivers asked her what clothing she would like to wear the next day. Phyllis would go through her collection of clothes, selecting scarves and blouses, and suits with obvious pleasure, and make her choice. The next day, she would arrive in the dining room, dressed to the nines and beaming, all smiles, with not a responsive behaviour in sight.
Phyllis may not have been able to sit down and tell others who she was, but that did not mean she did not know.
A Story About Cleo - Our Profession Can Become Our Whole Identity
In another case, another woman (we’ll call her Cleo) had worked nights as a night nurse in England for many years. As a result, when she developed dementia and was moved into a long-term care (LTC) facility, she was up at all hours, late into the night, long after the other residents had gone to bed.
This might not have been an issue except that she had developed a habit of wandering into other residents’ rooms late at night and startling them out of their sleep. Concerned, the staff devised a convenient way to both keep her happy and allow them to keep an eye on her. They asked her if she would like to accompany the night nurse on her rounds as she checked on the other residents.
They gave her scrubs and she happily accompanied the night nurse on her rounds. To her way of thinking, she was still a nurse, even though she hadn’t actually practiced for years. The staff was able to keep an eye on Cleo, while allowing her to maintain an important aspect of her identity.
These stories are just two examples of common issues that can happen to a senior who is unable to communicate who they are to caregivers, and what caregivers can do in response to help remove the anxiety, confusion and frustration a person living with dementia can experience when faced with the inability to live their own identity.
The largest and perhaps most important part of the caregivers’ job is active listening. Listening to signals, to signs and to behaviours are key to understanding what is going on inside someone who is battling dementia. By talking to a client’s family, doctors, friends, and reading their files, caregivers can educate themselves on the history of their clients, when the clients cannot do it for themselves.
Responsive behaviours are often times the result of frustrations and an inability to communicate needs. Caregivers look for obvious physical signs; hunger, illness, pressure ulcers, incontinence, temperature, etc., but sometimes forget that even if a person is physically fine, their emotional discontent may arise out of our inability to understand who they were, and who on some level they still know themselves to be.
Ninety percent of seniors want to stay in their own homes as they age, often referred to as “aging in place” but the majority cannot accomplish this. Senior home care typically involves services performed in a senior’s home to help them when they are struggling to perform daily tasks, chronically ill, or recovering from surgery. They need reliable caregivers and/or nurses to assist them with activities of daily living to keep them healthy and safe at home.
Typical home care agencies provide caregivers to assist your loved one with their activities of daily living to prevent them from being forced to move into an assisted living or nursing facility.
Mavencare offers more than the basics. We help families set up home care with certified caregivers and nurses who assist your senior loved one with aging in place. With Mavencare, you get a dedicated care coordinator who not only helps you set up care with the best caregivers for your loved one, they also manage your loved one’s care schedule on an ongoing basis to ensure that every shift is covered.
You can arrange your own home care with a caregiver, but you’ll have to do your own criminal background checks, verification of their qualifications, scheduling, arrange the necessary insurance, and backup plans if your caregiver gets sick or goes on vacation.
With a home care agency, we take care of all the work to get you qualified and compassionate caregivers and nurses who build relationships with your loved one. At Mavencare, we take home care a step further, we offer personalized home care services from a team of health professionals with convenience and transparency.
Personalized home care services to fit your needs.
Every elder is unique and every case of aging is unique, showing in different ways and progressing at different rates. We understand that, so when you begin home care with Mavencare, one of our nurses will conduct a home assessment with your loved one to determine the best form of care that they require and develop a customized care plan for their needs.
We use our proprietary technology to find the best caregiver for your loved one based on their needs, interests, and preferences. You and your loved one will have the chance to meet with potential caregivers to personally assess who would be the best fit.
We are also able to personalize your loved one’s care plan. Our advanced clinical technology allows our nurses to monitor your loved one’s care and recognize small shifts in their health that could lead to serious health complications if not treated promptly. With our technology, your loved one’s nurse is able to update their care plan and follow up with their caregivers to ensure the entire care team is up-to-date on any care plan changes.
Expert Care Team and Caregivers
With Mavencare, your loved one’s total wellness is supported by a team of health professionals, including a certified caregiver, clinical manager, care coordinator and social worker as needed.
We keep you connected to your loved one’s care through an easy-to-use app so that you can book or monitor home care appointments anytime, from anywhere. If you prefer calling us, or you need assistance with anything, our support staff is available to assist you 24/7.
We use our proprietary technology to find the best caregiver for your loved one based on their needs, interests, and preferences. Our caregivers go through an extremely rigorous screening process. As a result of our commitment you receive caregivers that are: highly skilled, compassionate, screened, licensed, fully insured, and doing what they love.
With our advanced clinical monitoring technology, registered nurses are able to monitor your loved one’s care to assess and address any inconsistencies. Even small health changes can cause big issues. With clinical managers monitoring your loved one’s care, we can adjust care plans to keep your loved one healthier and safer at home.
Your care coordinator assists you from the very beginning and throughout the entire home care process. They work with you to arrange the best caregiver for your loved one, and they guide you through the necessary steps to begin care. Your care coordinator continues to manage your loved one’s home care schedule to ensure all shifts are covered and both your loved one and their caregivers are satisfied with their relationship.
Social workers can support your loved one and your family through the home care process with the goal of maintaining and improving your loved one’s quality of life from a holistic perspective.
Your loved one’s needs are our first priority, and we employ an entire care team of health professionals so that your loved one’s total wellness is cared for to maintain their highest quality of life.
At Mavencare we focus on total wellness because this is the best way to help your loved one get stronger, healthier, and happier when possible.
Connected Home Care
Our technology not only makes it easier for our care team to do their jobs, it makes it easier for you to stay connected to your loved one’s home care and their entire care team.
You get real-time access to daily GPS check-ins, photo and video messages, shift details and more.
Our caregivers communicate care updates and completed tasks through our app so you are always kept up to date.
Keep track of your loved one’s care through GPS verified check-ins and check-outs.
Communicate with your Mavencare care team or family members all within the app.
View and update upcoming care appointments.
View invoices, make payments, and manage your billing information.
Our team will provide you with an overview of the app, and if you have any questions about using it, we are able to provide training.
Consistency of care is imperative for senior home care. With Mavencare, you know you’re getting the highest quality of care and our technology enables full communication among the entire care team.
We Are Dedicated to Guiding You Through the Entire Process.
Finding quality home care can be difficult. We understand that life is busy, and arranging care when you need it most can become challenging.
We are passionate about providing the highest quality home care and dedicated to guiding you through the entire process.
Our senior care coordinators are available 24/7 to discuss your current situation and our care services with you. You can reach them at 1-800-85-MAVEN.
While pets offer these positive health benefits for seniors, they also involve a lot of responsibilities, and they can pose certain risks for the elderly.
Pets can pose a variety of concerns for your senior loved one, such as:
Additional/Unforeseen Care Needs
Additional/Unforeseen Care Costs
Restriction on Living Arrangements
Distress/Grief with Loss of a Pet.
A pet may not be a safe idea, but if your senior loved one is interested in adopting a pet, this article can assist them in considering all of the lifestyle and health related factors that go into adopting a pet.
1. Injury risk
Pets pose injury risks that a senior must consider before adopting a pet. If your senior loved one already has a pet, you will want to understand these risks as well to help prevent injury.
Pets can be a fall risk for seniors. They may not see their pet and accidentally trip over them, or the pet may startle them and cause a fall. Some pets, such as dogs, can be trained to stay out of the senior’s way when walking or moving around the home. If there is a concern that your senior loved one is a high fall risk and may experience a fall with a pet such as a dog or a cat in the home, hamsters or guinea pigs that are caged and off the ground are a great alternatives and offer the same pet therapy benefits.
Dogs that require a walk despite cold or rainy weather also pose a risk that a senior may slip and fall while outside walking their pet.
If your senior loved one is able to walk a dog, they should still consider the potential that a dog may pull on their leash. A large dog that pulls constantly can cause injury to a senior’s shoulder or cause them to lose their balance and fall. Smaller dogs can be safer for seniors, however, even a small dog that suddenly runs after a squirrel can injure their owner. Your senior loved one may need to consider hiring a dog walker if they cannot safely walk their dog themselves.
A potential risk of injury that is not the fault of a pet, is a medication mix-up. If your senior loved one has a pet that requires medication, it can be tricky to keep track of a pet’s medication dosages on top of their own personal medications and dosage schedules. Mixing up the timing of medications or mixing up the medications themselves can cause serious harm to the pet and the senior. If your senior loved one struggles to remember what medications to take or when to take them, a caregiver can assist them with reminders or a nurse can ensure they take the appropriate type of medication.
Finally, pets can pose an injury risk to seniors with delicate skin. Both dogs and cats have claws that need to be trimmed. If your senior loved one has easily damaged skin, they will have to be very careful to keep their pet’s claws cut short, either by doing the trimming themselves, getting assistance from a family member or friend, or taking the pet to a groomer. Though declawing cats has been determined to be an inhumane practice, many shelters do have cats who were declawed by previous owners and are looking to be adopted. These cats can be great companions for seniors.
Your senior loved one may have a lifelong allergy to dander, or they may have developed allergies over time. Seniors with mild allergies may tolerate mild symptoms associated with owning a pet in exchange for the benefits of pet therapy and ownership. For most seniors with dander allergies, pet ownership is not ideal. The majority of seniors are on a host of medications, and it is an unnecessary burden to add allergy medications into the mix.
While most diseases that infect pets are not communicable to humans, pets can and do carry and shed certain bacteria. Seniors should make sure their pet sees their veterinarian regularly and prior to owning adopting their pet to ensure that they are in good health.
Seniors with weak immune systems may want to have a conversation with their doctor before committing to pet ownership. Pets that go outside - dogs and outdoor cats - tend to bring bacteria into the home; while this is not a major concern for most people, it is something that might impact seniors with weakened immune systems.
3. Additional/Unforeseen Care Needs
All pets require a degree of care-taking and a time commitment.
The time commitment required by pets varies depending on the type of pet - a hamster, for instance, is less time consuming than the care for a dog - but every pet has needs that require time from their owner. Feeding, grooming, picking up waste, play and/or exercise time, along with the occasional veterinary visit, are necessary to keep pets healthy and happy.
If your senior loved one has several health concerns of their own or other time-consuming commitments in their everyday lives, a pet may not be right for them. Unfortunately, a senior who spends a great deal of time at doctors’ appointments or physical therapy is unlikely to have enough time to dedicate to a pet.
Seniors who tend to travel fairly often or who spend most of their time out of the home volunteering or socializing may also not be suited to pet ownership - while pets can be wonderful sources of companionship, if your senior loved one is finding fulfillment in other parts of their life, they should not sacrifice their visits to friends and family or attendance at social gatherings in order to stay home with a pet.
Even if your senior loved one has the time for a pet, are they physically capable of caring for the pet? If a senior’s mobility has decreased to the extent that walking a dog would pose difficulties or is potentially dangerous, a cat may be a better option. But there is mobility involved in caring for a cat as well, including bending over to fill food dishes and scoop the litter box. These are important factors to keep in mind when considering adopting a pet.
Talk with your senior loved one to seriously consider if they are able to provide the additional care that a pet requires. Can they keep their pet’s eyes, ears, nails, and teeth clean? Many pets run and hide from these types of hygiene routines; can your senior loved one bend over to retrieve them from under a couch?
If your senior loved one is struggling to complete their own daily activities, such as getting dressed and bathing, adding another task of brushing and bathing a pet can become a heavy burden.
4. Additional/Unforeseen Care Costs
Pets are wonderful companions, but they have basic needs that cost money, and they may require additional spending for emergencies. Your senior loved one needs to acknowledge the costs associated with a pet and if their budget has room to care for a pet in addition to caring for themselves. Seniors who are retired are typically on a fixed income, so it’s important for them to be realistic. Can they afford pet food, flea products, vet appointments, pet sitting services, and emergency care?
For seniors who live in houses, condos, or apartments, owning a pet is usually possible, though some condominiums and apartment buildings have rules that restrict or forbid pets on the property.
Retirement homes or assisted living communities typically have ‘pet policies.’ Traditionally, these forms of senior housing do not allow pets on the premises. But as studies have revealed the benefits of pet ownership for seniors, more retirement and assisted living communities are allowing residents to have pets.
If your senior loved one is living in a rental or any kind of seniors’ community, be sure to look into these policies.
Whatever the situation may be, it’s worth thinking about how your senior loved one’s future will play out when contemplating pet ownership. What is the plan for the pet if your senior loved one’s health declines?
It isn’t pleasant to think of a future in which your senior loved one loses a degree of their independence or mobility or suffers from an illness, but as a responsible potential pet owner, it’s important to think through these possibilities. It would be unfair to the pet, and likely heartbreaking for your elderly senior loved one, to have to send their beloved companion to a shelter.
6. Personality Mismatch
If your senior loved one is considering adopting a pet, they may soon find that the pet they choose does not match their lifestyle. A dog that barks at every noise can be alarming for a senior, cats who prefer not to be touched may scratch and cause infections. A small bird can be a good match for seniors, but they must be able to clean out their cage regularly and have someone to call on if the bird escapes their cage.
When adopting a pet, talk with the staff at the shelter about the animal’s personality and if they offer a foster-to-adopt program to ensure the match is a positive one.
7. Distress/Grief with Loss of a Pet
Your senior loved one will be going through health and lifestyle changes as they continue to grow older. If they adopt a senior pet, that pet will also go through their own health and lifestyle changes. Older pets can lose their sight and hearing, and develop ailments like arthritis. Seniors may find it hard to cope with caring for an aging pet. Pets also age more quickly than their owners, and the loss of a pet can be an emotional burden that the senior is not ready to face.
If your senior loved one would benefit from spending time with a pet, keep in mind that some of these complications are manageable.
A family member or friend may be able to help out with tasks like dog-walking, and there are automated, “self-scooping” litter boxes on the market for cats. There may even be volunteers in your senior loved one’s area that can help out with pet care - Elderdog, for instance, recognizes the importance that dogs play in their owners’ lives and to assist seniors in putting the right resources in place to keep their pets even if they have mobility struggles or health concerns. Elderdog's volunteers assist owners by walking dogs, carrying heavy bags of food, providing transport to the vet, and even helping out with hygienic care for dogs, all throughout Canada.
The Middle Ground
If, for whatever reason, pet ownership isn’t a possibility for your senior loved one, that doesn’t mean they can’t experience the benefits of interacting with a furry friend. Many community programs, such as Therapeutic Paws of Canada and Pet Partners in the US, facilitate visits between seniors and dogs in seniors’ centres, assisted living communities, retirement homes, and nursing homes.
Even if there is not an official volunteer program which organizes interactions between pets and the elderly in your senior loved one’s community, that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy some quality time with a pet. If you know someone with a good-natured cat or dog, ask if they might be willing to visit your senior loved one, or have your senior loved one over to their place. An hour or two spent curled up with a cat or walking through a park with a dog still offers mental and physical benefits - with the bonus that there is no waste to clean up, no chewed-up bones or messy hairballs, and no vet bills to pay.
Whether your senior loved one already has a pet, or is interested in adopting one, a pet can be a positive presence in a senior’s life because they offer companionship and provide many health benefits.
Some of the health benefits senior pet owners experience include:
For seniors who live alone, particularly those who are widowed, a pet provides companionship that staves off loneliness and depression, and, if the pet is a dog, the senior owner is encouraged to get out into the community to fulfill their pet’s exercise needs.
Pets can also provide mental stimulation. Reading about the pet’s breed and/or needs, making sure the pet’s needs are met, engaging in play with the pet, etc. All of these activities are beneficial to seniors’ mental health and also serve as mental activities that can fight cognitive decline.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that seniors should partake in at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week (around 21 minutes a day), and dog ownership is a great way to meet this goal or even surpass it.
Playing fetch with a dog at home and entertaining a cat with a laser pointer may not be a source of physical activity for the senior owner, but it is a source of entertainment, amusement, and enjoyment. Providing for a pet can also help a senior feel like they continue to have a purpose in their life.
In times of ill health or injury, pets can be a great comfort. Pets are good at reading human emotions, and will often cuddle up to their owners to provide support when it’s needed. The presence of a pet in these moments can bring solace to a senior who is unwell and may be feeling as though they are alone in their suffering.
All in all, pets can do wonders for seniors’ health if they want a pet, and are capable of caring for their pet.
Since every individual is unique, and every process of aging is unique, always consult your loved one and their doctor before making a drastic change to their lifestyle.
Choosing a Pet
There are many factors to consider when deciding on a four-legged companion, regardless of the owner's age. For seniors, there are even more considerations, since there are some elements of pet ownership that can pose challenges for the elderly.
When exploring options for your senior loved one, the following questions can be useful in guiding their decision, both before and after they have a potential pet in mind.
1. How mobile is your senior loved one? Simply put, cats require a lot less involved activity from their owners than dogs do. If walking a dog each day is not a manageable task for your loved one, a cat is likely the better option.
2. Have they owned a pet previously? Bringing a pet into the family often involves a learning curve and a period of adjustment. If your loved one has never had a pet before, they may find this adjustment somewhat overwhelming. Ideally, seniors who are looking into pet ownership will have had previous experience with animals. If they don’t have any experience but are still very interested in having a pet, a calmer, quieter pet, such as a senior cat, would be a good choice.
3. Are they in a position to financially support a pet? Pets are a financial commitment. The cost of their food, their toys, waste bags, leashes, and cat trees - it all adds up, and that's before veterinary bills are factored in. Your senior loved one should review their budget to make sure they can manage both the expected costs and any emergency expenses.
4. How old is the pet they’re considering? Puppies and kittens, while heartwarmingly adorable, are also mischievous, highly energetic, and prone to accidents. For these reasons, they are not the best choices as pets for seniors. Shelters and adoption advocacy groups generally recommend that seniors choose pets that are also in their senior years, or at the very least in middle age. These pets have calmed down, settled into routines, and are generally house-trained.
5. What is the pet’s temperament? The staff at most shelters can speak to the temperaments of their resident animals, and should be able to recommend a low-energy pet with a relaxed attitude who would love to cuddle up in front of the television at night for a senior who struggles with mobility, or a dog that enjoys two twenty-minute walks per day for a senior who is looking to get out of the house regularly.
6. Does the pet have any health conditions? Like people, animals have a greater chance of developing health problems as they grow older. Adopting a middle-aged or senior dog is the best choice for a senior person, but this choice does mean that the adopted pet may have some pre-existing health conditions.
Some pet illnesses are easier to deal with than others - a dog who will easily scarf down a pill hidden in a treat is much easier to medicate than a cat who fights every time it needs an injection, for instance. Just because a pet needs medication, that doesn’t automatically make that pet a bad choice for a senior; rather, it just means that the senior needs to have a full understanding of what treatments the pet requires in order to determine if they are able to provide that care.
The Middle Ground
If, for whatever reason, pet ownership isn’t a possibility for your senior loved one, that doesn’t mean they can’t experience the benefits of interacting with a furry friend. Many community programs, such as Therapeutic Paws of Canada and Pet Partners in the US, facilitate visits between seniors and dogs in seniors’ centres, assisted living communities, retirement homes, and nursing homes.
Even if there is not an official volunteer program which organizes interactions between pets and the elderly in your loved one’s community, that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy some quality time with a pet. If you know someone with a good-natured cat or dog, ask if they might be willing to visit your loved one, or have your loved one over to their place.
An hour or two spent curled up with a cat or walking through a park with a dog still supplies mental and physical benefits - with the bonus that there is no waste to clean up, no chewed-up bones or messy hairballs, and no vet bills to pay.
Next week on the blog we’ll dive deeper into the potential cons of pet ownership for seniors.
At Mavencare we provide a full range of home care from companionship to nursing care. With such a wide range, this means that we serve senior clients who differ greatly in ability to care for themselves.
Some clients arrange their own basic care needs, while others require a care lead. When we discuss the topic of care lead, we are often referring to the member of the family that has been appointed to make medical or healthcare decisions. The formal term for this is referred to as a Medical Power of Attorney. This person is appointed by the client for the purpose of making healthcare decisions, but only if the client is not able to make decisions for themselves.
How Do You Know When a Care Lead is Required?
When a senior client calls in on behalf of themselves to coordinate care, their needs are often basic such as: homemaking, assistance with groceries, and companionship. As a standard, we do request the person calling on behalf of themselves have an emergency contact in the event that something happens and they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves.
When a care lead calls in to arrange care for their loved one, it is often because their loved one is no longer able to make healthcare decisions on their own, or it has been recognized that they are no longer safe in their home alone.
Sometimes the senior is the one who recognizes their mental or physical health is no longer strong enough to make decisions, or their doctor has noticed changes and requested that a Medical Power of Attorney (care lead) be appointed. Depending on the situation, the care lead will independently arrange care for their loved one, or they will assist them in arranging care.
How Do You Appoint a Care Lead?
Most clients have a care lead in place prior to arranging care with us. However, if it is recognized that a client does not have any plans in place, we can assist them in accessing the appropriate resources to ensure they have a plan and support in place.
Traditionally, the care lead is appointed by the client. However, in emergent or catastrophic circumstances, if a care lead has not been appointed, a family member may assume the role.
Whether you are appointed or must assume the role, you should be familiar with your loved one’s wishes. This means asking some difficult questions, but ultimately becoming someone that your loved one can trust and depend on.
A few questions that you need to know as a care lead include:
Does your loved one want to age at home, move in with a family member, or move into a nursing facility?
What is their financial situation and how do they plan to pay for the care they’ll need as they age?
What medical treatments do they want if they become necessary and do they want to sign a do not resuscitate order?
These and many other difficult questions can be brought up in the creation of an Elder Care Plan. This plan will give you peace of mind, and it will allow your loved one to maintain some control over their life if there comes a time when they can no longer make healthcare or lifestyle decisions on their own.
Responsibilities of a Care Lead
The duties of a care lead can vary, especially if there are multiple family members involved in the care of their loved one. However, the general duties of the care lead are:
Organization of Care and Maintenance of Care: They become the primary point of contact to set up care for their loved one. They are also the main point of contact for communications in regards to the maintenance of their loved one’s care and any issues that may arise during this time.
Advocacy: They become their loved one’s voice and ensure that all of their healthcare and basic needs are met.
Decision-Maker: They become responsible for the care decisions and potentially medical decisions of their loved one.
Caregiver: Often times, the care lead is the primary caregiver of their loved one.
Overall, a care lead is in place to advocate, support, and assist their loved one through their health challenges, and they work in collaboration with our entire care team.
Our care teams consist of certified caregivers, care coordinators, registered nurses, and a social worker as needed. Our care teams work together to maintain consistency of care for your loved one.
It is important for each client to have a care lead they can trust so that we are able to communicate with a single point of contact. When decisions need to be made, it is important that the decision-maker has all of the information about their loved one’s care.
If you have any questions or concerns about your loved one’s care, please reach out to one of our senior care coordinators anytime at 1-800-85-MAVEN.
As the weather warms up, it is a good reminder to drink enough water each day to maintain healthy fluid levels and avoid dehydration.
Your body uses water to power all of its cells, organs, and tissues. Water is used in many of your body’s daily functions, even if you don’t notice them happening. One example is regulating your body temperature, water helps in this process, but it is a bodily function that you don’t notice until it isn’t working properly.
Seniors are at an increased risk for dehydration because age related challenges can impair many of their bodily functions. There are signs you can look for to detect dehydration, and strategies to keep seniors hydrated, as well as safety measures that Mavencare takes to protect senior clients.
Signs of Dehydration
By the time a senior feels thirsty, they could already be dehydrated.
There are other physical signs that can signal dehydration:
Dry mouth and/or dry skin
High heart rate
Low systolic blood pressure
Less frequent urination
You should always consult your senior loved one’s doctor or geriatric care manager to better understand their specific health conditions and the signs that could be predicting dehydration.
Strategies to Stay Hydrated
It is important for seniors to stay hydrated by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water.
If your senior loved one dislikes water and refuses to drink it, offer it to them at different temperatures (i.e. cold, room temperature, or warm with lemon). If they still refuse, you could try mixing fruit juice with water to provide better tasting fluids without too much sugar. Pre-flavoured water or fruit infused water are two other water-based options to try.
Water is the healthiest fluid, but it’s not your only option. A summer treat like popsicles can be a fun way for your senior loved one to increase their fluid intake. Milkshakes and smoothies are other fun options.
Alcohol is a dehydrator and does not offer health benefits. If your senior loved one insists on drinking alcohol, try mixing it with water to dilute it, or encourage them to drink one glass of water for every glass of alcohol.
Coffee and Tea
Coffee and tea can cause more frequent urination, but they do offer hydration benefits that counteract their diuretic effects. If your senior loved one enjoys their morning coffee and/or afternoon tea, you can feel good about serving them something that is keeping them happy and healthy.
Serving your loved one beverages in easy to see and easy to hold cups can increase the amount of fluids they’ll drink in a day. This can include cups with a lid and straw for seniors who may struggle to hold a cup without shaking. More specialized drinkware may be necessary for seniors who have difficulty swallowing, arthritis, or other health conditions.
Fruits and Vegetables
You can also increase fluid intake with fruits and vegetables!
Fruits tend to be filled with more water compared to vegetables, but both sources are valuable. Adding a few handfuls of fruit to a yogurt snack, and cutting up celery and cucumbers to have on hand will help you keep your senior loved one hydrated.
If your loved one is incontinent, unable to control their urination or bowel movements, they may limit their fluid intake to avoid accidents.
Offer to help change your loved one’s briefs at regular intervals and do your best to make it a regular task that isn’t embarrassing. If your loved one continues to struggle, consider reaching out to a trained caregiver and/or therapist who can work with your loved one to better understand their resistance and how to reduce it.
How Mavencare Protects Seniors
At Mavencare, our compassionate caregivers are trained on hydration strategies and assisting seniors who have incontinence. If your senior loved one is at a high risk of becoming dehydrated, our nurses and clinical team will build specific health protocols into their care plan to prevent dehydration.
Certain medications can cause a higher risk of dehydration, so it is important that all risk factors are noted in your loved one’s care plan and taken into consideration by their caregivers and their doctors. With Mavencare, your loved one’s fluid levels will be closely monitored by their caregivers and our clinical team will be alerted if their fluid levels decrease. This means a seemingly small health update can help prevent an emergency.
If your loved one needs high quality home care, call one of our care coordinators today at 1-800-85MAVEN (1-800-856-2836).