Help me help her
December 1, 2009 9:39 AM   Subscribe

How to help an elderly family friend with homecare, meals, transportation and other general stuff? What services are available in Ontario, Canada and how best do I navigate them?

A close family friend is in need of help. Mary is elderly (86) and lives with her husband (95). They have virtually no family to help them, and she is doing everything herself. She's got osteoporosis and a bad back (along with the other issues that tend to accompany old age). Her husband is worse off. He had been battling a bad cough for a couple weeks and recently ended up in the hospital for 5 days. He's been home now for a week and a half and improving, but Mary is in a desperate situation...caring for him all alone.

There are a few issues I want to help her with. We are in Ontario, Canada.

- Home care for her husband. He is a veteran so entitled to some benefits. She’s been in contact with someone from the veterans’ affairs office, but it seems like a long process to get something concrete established. Does anyone have any advice on getting through this process quickly?

- Home help for Mary. She has difficulty doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. I will be calling CCAC this afternoon to find out what public services she might be entitled to. Can anyone tell me what I can expect? Services provided, frequency of visits, etc.

- Meals. Her husband is entitled to Meals on Wheels though his veteran's benefits, but Mary is not. Do you know of any other services that might help them in this regard?

- Transportation. Her 95-year-old husband still drives them to doctor’s appointments. Are there services for this?

Lastly, what can I physically and financially do to help her? She has always been very proud and independent and hates to ask for help, but is incredibly grateful when she gets it. I live 1.5 hours away from her so I can visit her about once a month for a whole day. Besides doing her groceries, cleaning up the house, cooking for her, and leaving her with gift cards for groceries and gas, what other little things might help her? I’m fortunate to never have been in the position of caring for an elderly or sick person; I don’t know what I’m missing.

Yes, I know this can be sensitive territory, but I will not be stepping on anyone’s toes (i.e. her children are not in the picture). She has no advocate and virtually no support. She called me because she needed someone to vent to. I offered to help her with this and she readily agreed.
posted by yawper to Human Relations (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You might already be there, but's seniors page and it various regional versions are good places to start looking for information. Being their advocate and helping them navigate the array of services available is a vital thing you can do for them.
posted by girlpublisher at 9:48 AM on December 1, 2009

Best answer: You could be speaking about my dad.
There are services available for your friends here. I would recommend (I believe you have already started) Ontario's Community Care Access Centre website. There are locations across Ontario, and they can provide lots of help.

Also, please take them down to their local Veteren's Affairs Office (start here), and get the husband registered. Once he's registered with them, then he can be assessed and given the help he needs. It's important to go in person, and let them know he is an "overseas" veteren, if this is the case.
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to focus on VA. They (at least at my local office) have provided lots of services, and have done everything quickly. From hospital beds, to wheelchairs, to paying for medication, medical treatments, and even paying up to $6k a year for his care in a nursing home, they have been great. And all at no cost, of course.

Good luck, and good on you for helping out.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 10:06 AM on December 1, 2009

Best answer: Try the Victorian Order of Nurses. They often do such things. Given his age and military affiliation, is/was he a Freemason? They also tend to have a very good support network. You may also wish to try the United Way.

Look for locals who can help out. High school kids who can drop by for an hour a day, do some dishes for ten bucks or something. Local schools may even have volunteer/outreach programs for this sort of thing.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:06 AM on December 1, 2009

Meals on Wheels generally operates in Ontario - I had them assist my grandparents for awhile.
posted by jkaczor at 11:02 AM on December 1, 2009

Best answer: One caveat that I'll add - make sure Mary is responsible for making the decisions. Give her as much info, details, and options (of course!) but let her or her husband be the one to sign on the dotted line, agree to X, Y or Z, and retain as much control as possible.

The CACC is generally the best place to start, as noted, to get info about services, needs assessments, help filling in forms, etc. and to ultimately get any government-sponsored care or support.

You can also check out the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) which represents a large number of non-profit agencies in Ontario. There's also the Home and Community Support info here.

If they have a family doctor, seek guidance there. The doctor can speak of community resources, generally, and probably knows agencies or organizations that can help with specific issues. Keep in mind that the doctor probably won't speak directly to you without releases being signed or without Mary and/or her husband present.

If the couple was ever active in a church or community organization, get in touch as soon as possible. Most groups are very happy to help (short and long-term) and, in many cases, there's a "young elderly" population who are specifically looking for things to do and ways to help. In addition, if Mary and her husband are religious in any way, spiritual companionship is always good.

Is there any chance that they'd consider moving into an assisted living community? There's a huge variety of them out there and it might be worth investigating - there a lot of factors involved. More info at the Ontario Retirement Communities Association web site (ORCA). A lot of people have the view point that they're "just places to go and die" or have seen 60 Minutes-style reporting about the negatives, but a lot of the retirement homes are surprisingly cheerful, allow for a great deal of independence and privacy, and still offer a lot of customized personal support.

You noted that you're about 1.5 hours away - is there someone local who can keep an eye on them? One issue I had with my own grandparents, as they became elderly, was that I missed a lot of what was going on - they were able to hide difficulties from me during my visit because it was only a few hours each week.

And, I can't say it strongly enough, but kudos to you for stepping up. Our society, as a whole, rather sucks at how we handle aging and our elderly population; it's stunning how many people turn a blind eye.
posted by VioletU at 7:06 PM on December 1, 2009

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