Thursday, 19 March 2020

Care Partner Wednesday--Social Isolation, Elders and the Joy of Technology

The world grinds to a standstill. Roads remain empty, transit systems echo, churches provide online services only. Stores which are still open display hand sanitizers at every corner and mask-wearing customers lurk and disappear. Our present reality. Confined to quarters, staying home, forcing this virus to die the death of having no host. Isolated, we wonder how to entertain ourselves at home.

The everyday reality for many elders.

A 'digital divide" exists between younger and older generations. Seniors 65-75 often use technology at the same rate as their younger counterparts. However many over 75 currently don't use computers or access the internet at all. This great resource holds many treasures for them.

We think of wheelchairs and walkers as assistive devices. But computers have been shown to improve an individual's social skills and increase levels of self-determination. There's nothing like the feeling of success on a device. Smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers can all make the connection, but portable is often helpful.

Computer technology connects seniors socially, provides a sense of safety and makes everyday tasks more convenient.

Social Connection

Imagine the look of wonder on an elder's face as they connect with an out-of-town grandson via Skype.

Computer technology creates opportunities for elders to link with family and friends everywhere in the world. Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime allow for sharing text, video calling, photos and videos. A tablet with pictures of a great-grandchild's first birthday replaces photo albums.

Safety At Home

Feeling safe and secure at home matters at any age but it is never more key than for elders. Technology can provide them with a sense of security. Light timers, voice-activated light systems in stairways, personal medical alarm systems and voice-activated phone dialling can all provide elders at home with a sense of safety.

Accessing the Community

Amazon, grocery delivery services and movie streaming like Netflix can make daily living more convenient and less isolated, bringing access to the global community. Grandma may order her groceries online, but when Great Grandma does, the younger generation is impressed. Having choice and the ability to select products from home can bring a sense of purpose and independence.

How Care Partners Can Help

None of this matters if elders can't figure out how to use the devices. Care partners are essential to the process. Adjustment to suit individual needs and promote easier access is possible. Change the size of text and the colour contrast.

Simple, clear, easy-to-read instructions can be created by care partners to guide individuals who may be living with dementia and require cueing. Care partners can provide elders with verbal and written instructions and a demonstration to ensure the successful use of technology. In some cases, many times over!

Has this week given you a tiny taste of the isolation of social distancing? Take that information and add technology to an elder's life.

Once we can all come outside again!

Leigh Coutu is the Resource Coordinator for the Courtyard at Christie Gardens. Thank you, Leigh, for this great information.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Care Partner Wednesday--4 Ways to Find Joy in the Garden With Your Elder

Try my fun quiz!

  • Do you think winter should end December 26th?
  • Do you live in a place where winter ends June 1 (maybe)?
  • Do you start looking at seed packets and garden magazines when there's still snow on the ground?
  • Does growing things give you a rush like a whole cup of sugar?
  • Do you feel peaceful in a garden, especially if you don't have to plant or maintain it?
  • Are you feeling smug because you live where flowers are blooming in March?
No matter what your answers, there are few people who don't enjoy a garden in some form. If you're like me, you like nothing better than dirty knees and hands (I will not wear gloves) and participating in the experience of growing things. Others just like to smell the roses. 

The benefits of some form of horticulture therapy are impressive.

Really? Prove it! If you're a doubter, read the attached link, which substantiates all the facts.

My mom, an avid gardener, used to quote this to me ⇢
all the time. The theology is shaky, but the sentiment is clear. Gardens are good for you!

So how do we make use of this knowledge with elders?


The most obvious answer, this works for the more physically able who enjoy it. If they were gardeners in their earlier years, they may long for the house they left with the gorgeous plants, flowering trees and summer vegetables. If you have a space, these elders will not only help you plant, but sit with seed catalogues and dream, and go to the garden centre and want to buy everything they see. They will weed and water and feel incredible purpose doing so.

Container Gardening

When I first moved to my townhouse 36 years ago (gasp!) I called myself a frustrated gardener, because townhouse gardens rival the size of postage stamps. Since then, container gardening has changed the landscape. You can double or triple or more the size of your garden with containers. However, for those of us in the north, container gardening brings our love of growing things indoors when the outdoors is frozen and white. Try planting just about anything in a pot with elders with limited function. An amaryllis grows almost before your eyes in the winter and flowers with extravagant colour. Buy several when they are available and plant them one at a time. Start seeds together. Put together a terrarium with succulents. Be creative.

Flower arranging

Although she had dementia, Rita remembered that she didn't "do" gardens. Truth be told, she was a bit of a snob about the whole thing. She'd travelled, had a business, socialized. The clear message her north-pointed nose gave was that she felt above gardening. Way above. So when invited to join a group of ladies flower arranging, she made her feeling clear. Humph!

After several minutes, Rita appeared and pulled up a chair. Her frown spoke volumes, but she said nothing. Then the lady beside her made a weak attempt to arrange the flowers in the vase in front of her. Rita leaned forward and began to make suggestions. In a few minutes, they were working together, and the flowers weren't the only things arranged. Rita's face and a friendship were also in better shape.

Time in the Garden/Park/Patio 

For elders at any stage of function, time spent outside when the weather is pleasant is beneficial. Fresh air, growing things and a chance to socialize benefit everyone. People sleep better and feel more positive. It's a win-win-win.

No matter what you answered to the quiz, look for ways to introduce some form of gardening into your elder's life. They may not thank you, but they may start arranging the flowers. 😀

4 Ways to Find Joy in the Garden With Your Elder

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Care Partner Wednesday--This Brilliant Visitor is the Best!

My name is Scrappy and I have a job.
I make smiles.

Now, I know that everyone doesn't like dogs. To tell you the truth, there are some people I'm not too crazy about. If elders don't want a visit or are afraid, I just pass them by.

I wish the people I'm thinking about knew those rules.

We are a team

You need to know Eleanor. She's my grandma. She doesn't have a dog so she borrows me. Don't get me wrong, Eleanor isn't one of "those people" mentioned above. She's had lots of dogs and loves them. But she thought maybe she was getting too old for a dog. I think that's nonsense, but nobody asked me. Anyway, once or twice a week, Eleanor comes and gets me, and we go and do our job together. We've been doing this for seven years, but who's counting?

Job application
When I'm at home, I'm Mommy's baby and I can be goofy and even borderline naughty sometimes. But when Eleanor and I go to work, that's serious. I had to apply and pass a test.  I don't growl, I'm patient and take treats nicely. No grabbing. No getting spooked by loud noises or all those rolly things they call wheelchairs.  I passed the test and I get to wear the scarf of a St. John's Ambulance Pet Therapy dog.

Pretty cool, huh?

Each week, we go to a building where a lot of people live. I know exactly which rooms to go to, and they wait for me.

My friends
Sometimes when we come in, it's noisy. Someone might be upset and yelling or crying, so I go to work. I look at them and give them a paw and calm them down. They smile, and they know that someone cares for them beyond their family. Sometimes there isn't a lot of family, so we become theirs.

One room I go in is a couple who only speaks Italian. I only speak dog. Eleanor only speaks English, but we get along just fine.

Lots of people used to have dogs at home, but now they can't look after one, and that makes them sad. I get that. So I become their dog for a few minutes, and the sadness leaves.

Some of them do silly things like pretending they are going to eat my dog treats. Really? I know you don't eat dog treats. I sit patiently, and eventually, the treats come to me.

When my friends are sick
One time, I went to visit one of my regulars, but she wasn't doing well. She lay on the bed and her voice sounded weak. When she saw me, she wanted to sit up, so Eleanor helped her. We got nose to nose and she kissed me. She had the biggest smile. I didn't see her after that. I wonder where she went?

Another time I went in and my friend lay in the bed with the whole family around. They sniffled and blew, but I went right up to my friend. His eyes were closed but I nuzzled his hand. He woke and did his best to reach out to me. I put my paws up on the bed and kissed him. He smiled and closed his eyes again.

That's something odd that happens. I know the rooms where my friends live, and I head right to them. But sometimes they aren't there. They didn't move, they're just--gone. I stand at the door and Eleanor has to pull me away. It puzzles me. They should be there.

Other service animals
It's a given that dogs are the best service animals (just my opinion, of course) but I've heard of cats, pigs, goats and even horses. Look at this!
An Apple A Day
Fred and I were old friends. He used to go out to the store and make sure he had an apple for me when I came. He'd cut it up and feed it to me every time. Fred was the best! Then he was in hospital and rehab and I missed him (and my apples...) When he came back, he couldn't go to the store for apples so Eleanor would bring a cut-up apple which he could feed to me. Sometimes, we'd even share it.

It's all about me
Recently, Eleanor attended a volunteer appreciation event without me. (Honestly, the nerve!) They didn't recognize her and kept asking her what she did to volunteer. They missed the most important part of the team.

My name is Scrappy and I have a job.
I make smiles.

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Care Partner Wednesday--This Brilliant Visitor Is The Best!