How to know when aging parents need extra care & how to combat the signs of frailty

AgingHow to know when you need extra care?

The “sandwich generation” is increasingly caring for both their children and their elderly parents  (many say they do not feel totally confident about these responsibilities).

How do we know, for example, if and when a parent or elder friend needs help to remain in their own home, or whether they require professional supports or even long-term care?

In Ontario, this type of help and answers are available. Registered nurses (RNs) working as care coordinators for the province’s 14 Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) are there to assist in these situations.

All Ontarians have access to the skills and care provided by this network of highly skilled registered nurses, nurse practitioners and other health-care providers.

Using their highly honed skills, RNs can help you determine the care needs of an aging parent or anyone who needs help. A care coordinator will thoroughly assess their patient, measuring both their cognitive and physical condition, and then arrange for the services they need to remain the healthiest they can be.

Signs of Frailty

Seniors who become frail are at greater risk of falling, getting hurt, becoming disabled, and being hospitalized. For older adults and their families, symptoms of frailty seriously detract from a good quality of life and enjoyment of those “golden years.”

Frailty, however, is different from simply ‘growing old’, since some individuals live to an old age without becoming frail.  The term “frail” generally refers to “older adults or aged individuals who are lacking in general strength and are unusually susceptible to disease or to other infirmity”.

What can be done to combat the signs of frailty?

Research evidence, summarized on the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, has shown that certain interventions may prevent or delay frailty, and perhaps even treat it once it has occurred. These interventions include:

Exercise – muscle strengthening and aerobic exercises. Walking is a popular, accessible and low-risk physical exercise that can contribute to improved health. Tai Chi is practiced worldwide and is an appropriate physical activity for older adults due to the low risk of injury. Here is a link to the current LA Centre for Active Living Calendar to help you get planning.

Proper management of multiple medications. Adults are advised to regularly review their medications with their family doctor. Certain drugs, such as those for sleeping problems, depression and anxiety, increase the risk for falls and confusion, particularly in older adults who are already prone to falls and cognitive issues. Reducing or stopping these medications can help decrease risks and improve mental function.

Improved diet – added protein and calories. Adults should be sure to follow a healthy diet, with guidance from their doctor or dietitian.

Early detection of chronic disease. Early intervention and better management of chronic disease can help prevent or delay frailty.

For more information about healthy aging that you can trust visit www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org.

WTSS Case Management

If in doubt about where to start, try calling our Case Management team.   They will offer information and support to individuals and those that care for others to meet the needs of remaining independent at home. They assist with short and long term planning to determine which service may be best for them.

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