Thursday, 19 October 2017

Advice You've Never Thought Of! Tips for Travelling with an Older Parent

My Mom grew up summering in Kennebunk Port in Maine - all her best memories are of playing in the sand and surf with her brothers and sister there. Now at 95, she has a powerful wish to return, but I am nervous about travelling with her. This guest post by writer Gary Simmons gives me (and I hope you!) a roadmap for success in vacationing with our older loved ones. NB: If you are caring for a loved one with disabilities, this post is for you, too! Same advices applies. :) 

Taking your parents on a trip is a wonderful opportunity for you to have an engaging experience. Whether your parent lives alone, has home care coming in or lives with you, you’ll have to think through how to travel safely and comfortably.
Going on trips with your older parent can present a unique set of challenges. But it doesn’t have to be challenging if you prepare properly. You’ll find that some of these ideas will work anytime you take your older parent out for a trip to the store or elsewhere, but let’s focus on being away for a week or two — or more.

Don’t be spontaneous
Trips with older parents need to be planned carefully, even if you’re going to the family vacation home. Allow more time for each step of the trip than you would if you were going alone.
I have friends whose vacation home is normally four hours from their home when they go themselves. When they bring his mother along, they allow five hours at least from her home, which is a bit closer to the destination. They know they will have to take more breaks on the road, and the process of getting mom into and out of the car will take longer.
If you fly, you need to consider layover times. You may be able to get from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 at O’Hare Airport in 15 minutes, but your older parent can’t, even if you can get wheelchair or tram service (which you should request). Crowded airports add to delays.
If you’re driving, think through how many hours in a day your older parent can tolerate in the car, and how often you’ll need to stop for breaks.
When you make hotel reservations, ask about rooms with raised toilets and easy access to the shower. Request rooms specifically set up for mobility-limited guests.
Request approval from their physician
If your parent has any major health conditions, make sure you request approval from a physician. Their doctor can also advise you on any limitations, and if additional vaccinations for the destination will be necessary.  
Have all your paperwork
Even if your elderly parent or parents are no longer driving, keep their driver’s licenses available or make sure you have their permanent state-issued ID cards. To board planes, and some trains and buses, you will need some form of identification. Making sure their passports stay current is also an excellent idea.
You should make at least four photocopied sets of the all the paperwork you bring with you. Having copies of passport, driver’s license/ID, Medicare and insurance cards, tickets/itinerary, and prescriptions will prevent potential hassles. Include one set in your carry-bag, while your elderly relative will carry two — one in his or her carryon, and one in checked luggage. If you are visiting relatives or friends, also forward a copy onto them in advance so they also have a record.  

Pack lightly and appropriately
With flying, the question of checked versus carry-on baggage always arises. If you have a large family group traveling, you may want to combine items into one large checked suitcase, with everyone also having a rolling carry-on suitcase. Heavier items, such as coats and sweaters, can go in the checked bag or bags. Make sure your elderly parent keeps at least one sweater out for the plane, however, because planes can be chilly.
If you’re driving to the family vacation home, you’ll have a better idea of what to bring — you know the weather there, as well as the availability of laundry.
Take advantage of what’s available
Airports are required to provide cost-free wheelchair service. Make sure you’ve coordinated that with the airlines. If there’s a meal service onboard, arrange for dietary needs in advance.
Make sure your elderly parent knows and understands what to expect during the airport security process, and wears shoes that can be slipped on and off easily.   
As part of your planning, make sure you have enough of your parent’s medication with you for the entire trip. If you’re going to your vacation home, of course, there may be a drug store nearby, which will help. Pack your medications in the carry-on baggage.
If you are flying, keep the medications in their original bottles. Liquid and gel medications must comply with the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule, but medications which don’t fit are still allowed — they will just be screened separately.
Maintaining a complete list of the medications your older parent takes will be helpful at all stages. If your parent’s primary care physician can put that list together, it’s even better.
Daily planning
Plan the trip with your elderly parent. Everyone wants to be included, and including your parent in the planning will help. Choose a hotel close to sights you want to see to limit the amount of time in the car or when walking. Research hotels with special amenities for the elderly, such as complimentary wheelchairs. 
Planning together is the most important in a sightseeing type of trip. Everyone’s ideas of places to see are different, and some activities may be too strenuous for the elderly. Expect to remain in the same lodging several days in a row; most people don’t want the strain of repacking every day.
Your elderly parent will probably want a private bedroom, which provides privacy and the ability to rest quietly, while the rest of the family gets involved with something else. Make sure your hotels have elevators, and if you can, arrange for your elderly relative to be on the ground floor, especially if they have mobility issues.
Try to coordinate your meal times around their medication. Some medication must be taken with food and at the same time each day.

Be patient
Most senior caregivers know that the greatest trait they need is patience. You will have to be patient throughout the trip, as will everyone else in the party.
Make sure the trip is planned so everyone can enjoy the travel. Different trips involve different types of planning, of course. If you go to your family vacation home, then you know the routine. If you’re going sightseeing, your program should have something for everyone. Regardless, you will need to be patient with your parent.
Time for yourself
Make sure you have left time for yourself on the trip. You should not be a caregiver for the entire trip. You should also be a daughter or son, mother or father, wife or husband, as well as yourself, providing some relief.
You may want to consider finding a reliable home care agency in places where you’ll be spending multiple days. When your elderly parent has a rest day, you can sightsee if you have a companion engaged for the day. Your parent will feel less of a burden on you, as they will know you can enjoy yourself on the trip as well.
Traveling isn’t impossible with your elderly parent. It just requires more planning than you might do for yourself and your own family. But if you work through all the details, you should have no problem ensuring everyone will have a wonderful time.
Gary Simmons is a Certified Senior Advisor and Case Manager for A Hand to Hold. He strives to make the home care experience a better one for seniors and their families. Gary lives in Atlanta, GA with his family and loves taking Disney vacations with them.

Monday, 16 October 2017


Trying to describe our son Nick's seizures to his neurologist was really difficult until we realized we could film them and use our appointment time to watch the real thing. Nothing captures what really happens during a seizure like recording the event on video. The same goes for unusual or difficult episodes of behaviour in someone with dementia or mental illness. Showing a medical professional what is happening at home with your loved one puts him or her right there in the room as a witness to the event. A professional will diagnose and prescribe more accurately if they know exactly what they're treating.

If you're not sure how to set up for filming a behaviour or seizure, check out this article for some great tips. A moving picture is worth a thousand words.

Using a camera to take photos of skin rashes or bruising is a great way to track recovery and work with a treatment team to get the best results. After all, everyone is looking at the same photo and no one is trying to imagine based on one person's memory. Daily pictures of an infection site can help you determine if a wound is healing or getting worse, too.

Images of skin abrasions or films of concerning behaviours can be shared with the care team so that everyone responds in the same way, according to an agreed treatment plan.

Phones can be a really helpful tool to bridge what's happening at home to the clinic or doctor's office.

Saturday, 14 October 2017


Last week I walked into my Mom's seniors' residence and did a double-take. In the foyer, a woman wearing a white lab coat and paper face mask was peering into the mouth of a seated resident, the elderly woman's teeth illuminated by a headlamp on the examiner's head. 

I touched the arm of the home's manager and whispered, "Cathy, what's going on over there? Is that the doctor?" "No!" she smiled, "That's the dentist. She comes over once a month or so and takes care of all the ladies' teeth right here in the front hall." 

"What a fantastic idea!", I thought, and promised myself to find out more about this mobile dentistry service. Mom lives in Montreal, so the website of her terrific service is in French only, but the mobile dentists are all bilingual. 

I decided to look in other cities for similar services. Bingo! Look at this Mobile Dental Clinic in Toronto. And House Call Dentists meets a range of home dentistry needs in New York and San Francisco. Google your city using the search words 'mobile dentist seniors'. Most locations have a similar service. 

House Call Dentists even has an impressive focus on caregivers. From their webpage: 

House Call Dentists travel to our patients’ homes and residences to bring them expert, compassionate care. In doing so, we not only bring health to those patients, but also provide invaluable assistance to the family members and caregivers who are responsible for their welfare every single day.  As a family member and/or caregiver for an elderly person or someone with physical or emotional challenges, your commitment very likely goes beyond "responsibility" to something stronger. By bringing our dental services to you, we minimize the physical and emotional discomfort of the person you're caring for and minimize or eliminate your travel problems and logistical concerns.

Our entire staff has extensive experience working with elderly, infirm and phobic patients, including patients who are wheelchair bound and those with dementia.  Our expert and compassionate dentists and dental assistants treat our patients with genuine concern, making sure they are as calm and comfortable as possible. This, of course, is vital to your piece of mind, as well. 

Looking through the website of Toronto's Mobile Dental Clinic, I found other home visiting services too, such as mobile haircuts and denture fitting. Home visits by medical and other service professionals are just a fantastic idea for all caregiving families. 

And all of these mobile dentistry clinics offer treatments in supported living environments as well, including long term care homes. Pretty amazing, don't you think? 

Thursday, 5 October 2017


A couple of weeks ago, an article about a new caregiving technology for families caught my eye. BookJane is a Toronto based app available across Canada. It's a platform that enables families to book both child care and senior care on a single site. Such a whole family life-lens is unique, but what's really special about BookJane is their corporate program to support caregiver employees. 

Working caregivers struggle to balance responsibilities at home and at the office. Employers are encouraged by governments and caregiver support researchers to 'offer flexible hours and leave arrangements'. 

But BookJane's corporate offer is something I've never seen before. Corporate solutions for the home care needs of employees include embedding BookJane into existing corporate benefits program and even the bulk purchase of hours that corporations can hand out to employees as needed.

Curtis Khan is the visionary CEO of BookJane. I asked him to tell us more about BookJane's range of services for caregivers. 

The Caregivers' Living Room: 
Tell us about Book Jane – what are the benefits for family caregivers who are at home, at work and what are the benefits for employers?

Curtis Khan: 
BookJane has significant benefits for caregivers, families and employers.

BookJane is an on-demand care service that provides significant benefits for families, caregivers, and employers. For families, our ability to provide caregivers at a moment’s notice is just the start of what sets us apart from traditional caregiving companies. BookJane fully vets all of our caregivers, using a 4-stage verification process, to ensure that caregivers have of their documents, are certified in their field, and have the “spark” to provide quality care. Our method for booking caregivers is an extremely simple and seamless process. Families can use our app to filter caregivers, find a caregiver with the right availability and skill set, book the caregiver, and pay for the caregiver. The app is extremely intuitive and we recommend everyone should try it out for themselves.

BookJane is also an amazing application for our caregivers. We are able to pay caregivers between 10 and 30 percent more than our competitors. We let caregivers set their own schedule and they only receive shifts when they are available. Caregivers receive extra incentives for working more shifts and have many opportunities for bonuses. We work with highly respected professionals in the industry to create important learning modules for all of our caregivers. This way our caregivers can learn, get higher ratings, and become the best caregivers in the industry. We recognize our exceptional caregivers at our annual BookJane award ceremony, and have various other events for our caregivers, as well as their families, throughout the year.

Employers can use BookJane as part of a corporate program. Through providing BookJane they can give their employees peace of mind, and allow for a more productive work force. Employees can often feel guilt when leaving loved ones that are in need of care. But BookJane provides a way for employees to continue with their job while knowing that their loved ones are taken care of in the comfort of their home.

BookJane also works directly with senior homes, and child care centers. For child care centers we have a full roster of Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs), and Early Childhood Assistants (ECAs). Our staff are trusted in these institutions, and we have a very thorough vetting process for all of our caregivers. We don’t approve anyone that we would not trust taking care of our own loved ones.

The Caregivers' Living Room: 
What kind of health and social care professionals do you have on your roster?

Curtis Khan: 
BookJane currently offers Personal Support Workers (PSWs), Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs), and Registered Nurses (RNs) for both in home care and to senior homes. Currently, we do not have any social care professionals on our roster, but there are plans to introduce these services in the future. 

The Caregivers' Living Room: 
Do you accept clients who have complex needs? Health care needs? Mental health needs?

Curtis Khan:
BookJane strives to help clients that have various and complex needs needs. Our caregivers are often the same caregivers working in senior homes, hospitals, and other institutions that specialize in caring for clients with complex needs. BookJane even goes an extra step to ensure all of our caregivers have knowledge on how to a care for clients by creating learning. These learning modules cover many topics including how to care for patients with common mental health needs in senior populations. Through these learning modules, and our thorough hiring process, we are consistently able to provide caregivers with the skills capable to care for our clients.

The Caregivers' Living Room:
What is the approximate cost to families who use Book Jane independently? Can you give us an idea of the personal cost for caregiver employees who use your service as part of a corporate benefits package?

Curtis Khan:
The price is dependent on the type of care needed, but does not differ for employees or families.

Our prices are as follows:
$25 per hour for PSWs
$38 per hour for RPNs
$47 per hour for RNs

The Caregivers' Living Room:
Is your service designed for long term use by families as well as on an as-needed, occasional basis?

Curtis Khan:
BookJane is flexible enough to be easily used for an on-demand, occasional, or a regular basis. The app is designed to accommodate for the desires of any frequency of bookings. Anyone using BookJane on an as-needed basis knows that they can rely on us when they are in a pinch. Often, due to unforeseen circumstances, families need care at the last minute but know that we can provide a caregiver with just a few clicks. BookJane is also good for occasional use, as families can favorite the caregivers they love, and still have other exceptional caregivers available. When families use BookJane they have access to our full roster of caregivers, and can browse through to find the caregiver that fits their needs. Lastly, BookJane provides convenience for those making regular bookings. All payments are done through the app, there is mobile tracking to see where the caregiver is slightly prior to the shift, in app messaging and video calling if you need to get ahold of the caregiver, and a complete history of all your bookings for your records. So, no matter how often you need to make a booking, BookJane can support your caregiving needs.

The Caregivers' Living Room:
For long-term clients, how do you manage situations where regular paid care staff are sick or on holiday?

Curtis Khan:
BookJane has policies to prevent caregivers from unnecessarily canceling shifts as well as giving both us and the clients as much notice as possible. However, unforeseen events can always happen, even to our caregivers. In the case that our caregiver needs to cancel a shift, they will do so on the app. BookJane will then start to find a replacement caregiver immediately. Our app is very good at finding caregivers at the last minute, so given any notice we should have no problem finding an equally qualified replacement for the client’s booking.

The Caregivers' Living Room: 
Thank you for sharing your model of caregiver support for all caregivers (both employed and those who are at home full-time). It's great to see that you offer care for families across ages and abilities as well. I hope that other home care providers in North America follow your lead and that eventually, anyone working in Canada can expect home care support as a standard company benefit.

Monday, 2 October 2017


Choosing between supportive living options for our elder loved ones can be confusing and overwhelming. Here, guest writer Becky Susko of explains all. Thanks, Becky!
When exploring long-term care options, two of the most frequently asked questions we hear is “What is the difference between regular long-term-care facilities versus memory care facilities?” and  “How should I choose which one of these facilities is best suited for my loved one’s needs?”. There are many factors to consider when making this decision.

First, let’s discuss the differences in the facilities and the services they provide:
Long –Term Care Facilities:
In short regular long-term care facilities are designed for individuals who are, for the most part independent and cognitively aware enough to take care of themselves in everyday self-care and can complete everyday tasks.  They may however require access now or in the near future to support systems to assist them in completing these everyday tasks.  Support systems may include but are not limited to services such as transportation, medication management, and physical assistance services that are designed to enable independence not detract from it.  While constant care is provided the need for 24 hour supervision may not be necessary but it is available if the resident feels they need it.
Memory Care Facilities:

Memory care facilities provide the same services found at long-term care facilities but are further specialized in their care and services to make life easier and more enjoyable for those afflicted with memory loss disorders. The staff members at memory care facilities are trained specifically on how to care for and respect individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s. In fact the nurses on staff are trained specifically in ‘memory care’ nursing.
At memory care facilities 24 hour supervision and care is provided.  This again is not to prevent independence but rather provide the maximum access to assistance necessary that may be needed by the residents since the effects on memory that dementia and Alzheimer’s cause . They may no longer have the cognitive ability to care for themselves or complete everyday tasks therefore they require more care to ensure they maintain a great quality of life.
Memory care facilities even consider the layout of their facilities and adapt them specifically for those with memory impairment.  The physical features make the facility easier to navigate and are designed to decrease wandering behavior.
Second, when determining what facility type will be best for someone ask yourself this, “What type of care will best preserve my loved one’s quality of life?”
We all know that our memory can be affected as we age, so depending on where they are at currently and by assessing their current needs you very well can start with care provided at a long-term care facility then reassess later with current staff members to decide the next best fit which could very well be a memory care facility depending on the care needs. Just the same if memory loss or if disorders that cause memory loss drastically begin to decrease the quality of someone’s life, it may be time to consider a memory care facility directly.  Keep in mind that the overall goal is to preserve their current quality of life and independence.  
The decision to place a loved one in a long-term care facility or memory care facility  is never an easy one and coming to the realization that their independence or decreased ability to take care of themselves can be a tough one to come to terms with. Whether the realization is sparked from a physician recommendation based on diagnosis or from a self-assessment during a home visit.  Rest assured that there are plenty of resources out there that can help you through this journey. is one of those resources, not only does it provide all sorts of care reviews but it also can help you through this very tough process by providing one on one over the phone personalized help. You’ll be connected with someone who knows your area and who will not only listen to your concerns but help you assess current needs. They then will provide further direction to more information on care options that would be the best fit for you or your loved one. We at understand that there are so many care options to navigate during this emotional time and we want to be there to help.
If self-assessment is more your style or you are just starting to navigate these waters check out this helpful tool here:
Becky Susko Bio :

As someone who is very close to their grandparents and feels that family is a valuable part of an individual’s life, I recognized the importance the services of could be to the elderly and their loved ones.  I’ve been with for a year now in the business development department and am now transitioning into a content writing role as I set out to travel through South America.