Eldercare Counselling: Providing Support for Those Who are Caring for Aging Relatives

  • October 25, 2016
Our own Michael McCleery, who runs the Eldercare Counselling service at the Kanata Psychology and Counselling Centre​ was recently interviewed about this topic for the Kanata Kourier, Stittsville News and West Carleton Review. Click the link, or read below to learn more about some common questions people ask when faced with the challenge of caring for aging relatives.

Ottawa Community News Eldercare Counselling Article

“Is there support for me as I care for my aging family?”

The Kanata Psychology and Counselling Centre has been providing psychological assessment and treatment services to Kanata and its neighbouring communities since its opening in 2014. In these few short years, it has served the mental health needs of hundreds of children, adolescents, adults, families, and couples. One of the goals of the Centre has been to help meet the needs of all members of our community. To this end, they are pleased to be able to offer a unique, and much needed service, Eldercare Counselling, under the experienced and compassionate guidance of Clinical Social Worker, Mike McCleery.

As Mike explains, “We provide counselling and practical support for individuals and families who are in the process of caring for their aging relatives. Caregiving is a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding task that takes its toll, not only on the body, but also on the psyche and the spirit. Individuals immersed in the role of ‘the caregiver’ often report feeling significant levels of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty.”

“Our approach to working with individuals is from a perspective of utmost respect and compassion. Primary goals are to help clients increase their knowledge and decision-making power, and to develop coping strategies to manage the emotional challenges associated with caring for their loved one. When complex situations arise, we provide options to help families make the most informed decision.”

Given our rapidly aging population and the increasing demands on families to fulfill the caregiver role, Eldercare Counselling is a much needed service in our community. Mike’s extensive experience in the healthcare sector and working with community partners enable him to provide a range of services including:

  • health and social services navigation;
  • clarity on issues related to capacity and consent;
  • contingency planning;
  • care facility advice;
  • support for families living at a distance from their aging relatives;
  • guidance around managing family conflict;
  • counselling for caregiver stress and burnout;
  • support for anxiety and depression related to grief and loss.

 

Although we all know of someone in a position of caring for an aging parent, we were not aware that there was professional support available to assist in the role. We sat down with Mike to find out more about what he does to help families caring for an aging parent. Mike described some common scenarios and questions he is asked in his work:

  • My aging mother is having difficulty coping at home. She is fiercely independent and refusing help. How can Eldercare Counselling help me and my family?

This is a very common concern with families struggling to care for vulnerable loved ones (regardless of age). With the elderly, however, there is the added concern of cognitive impairment, which may impact their ability to understand and appreciate daily challenges. For example, the doctor has recommended that your mother use a walker to prevent falls, but she is finds every excuse not to, it makes her feel “old”.

“The last thing you want to do is to be confrontational”, says Mike. “The more you push on an issue, the more resistant your mother may become.”

An alternative approach is to address the issue from your mother’s perspective by respecting who she is and what are her values and priorities. Ideally, she can discover her own solutions and take ownership for her decisions.

So, we help you reframe the question. If your mother’s ultimate goal is to stay at home as long as possible, present the walker as part of a greater strategy to achieve that goal.
The same individually centred approach can be applied for accepting in-home supports.

With our support, we can help you engage with appropriate resources and guide you through some techniques and approaches to make sure they are received.

  • My dad is not coping at home on his own. We have finally convinced him to consider a retirement home but he is in Ottawa and I’m in Calgary. What are my options?

 People often ask me: What is the best care facility? Beyond the considerations regarding the required level of care, my fundamental belief is that the facility needs to be convenient for family and/or friends. There may come a time when your dad will be unable to fully advocate for himself. This is where advocacy becomes paramount. I would advise that you get constructively engaged (especially at the early stages) by talking to nurses, caregivers, and administration. This sends a message that you are present and involved, which can minimize risk and lead to a better experience for your dad. The same advice applies if your dad was in hospital or a nursing home.

The fact that you live in Calgary and your dad is here in Ottawa is a challenge. In cases like this, the best option is to try and re-locate your dad to a care facility in Calgary. However, if that is not possible, our staff can still be of help. It is possible to retain an Eldercare Counsellor, such as myself, who acts on behalf of you and your family member. Eldercare Counsellors can serve as an advocate for you and your parent when you are not available to do so. With extensive knowledge of resources in the Ottawa area I can be available for consultation both in person and remotely.

  • What is the difference between Long Term Care and a retirement home?

Long Term Care (LTC) homes are provincially run care facilities that can only be accessed through your local Community Care Access Centre (CCAC). The monthly cost for LTC is fixed across Ontario and subsidies are available for low income earners.

Once a person is deemed eligible by CCAC, they can choose up to five LTC homes. A challenge with LTC homes is that the wait lists can be long, particularly for people applying for a subsidy, because they can only apply for a ward bed (shared accomodation). There are approximately 20 LTC homes in the Ottawa area.

Retirement homes are similar to apartments that may or may not have a kitchenette, a dining room and other common facilities. Individuals pay rent for the room, food in the dining room and they may pay an additional cost for supports. The more support you need, the more it costs. For the most part, retirement homes are private and not subsidized. They often cost more than LTC homes. However, there are many more retirement home options in Ottawa than LTC homes which means that there is almost no wait to obtain a bed.

  • I’m caring for my aging parent and I feel stressed and overwhelmed.

Caregiving may start out as a simple task but as loved ones require more and more help, you may not be able to meet their needs on your own anymore. In our practice, we can work with you and your parent to find appropriate, affordable, professional services, including in-home supports. We can also help you deal with feelings of stress and guilt as well as communication challenges between you and your loved one. We can facilitate joint sessions to help you both talk about what you are going through. Through counselling, and education, we can provide you the help you need to meet the challenges of caring for the elderly so that everyone involved feels the dignity and respect they deserve.

  • I’m not sure if my situation is one that you can help with. Where do I start? Are your services covered by insurance?

 The first step would be to book an appointment for an initial consultation, during which time we work collaboratively to understand your and your family member’s unique needs and to set some initial goals. Appointments can be made by phone (613-435-2729), email (office@kanatapsychology.com), or through our website (www.kanatapsychology.com). Services are covered by most private insurance plans.

Mike finished our discussion with a final comment that reflects his passion for his work, “I feel privileged to be able to offer my knowledge and support to our community. Supporting an aging parent can be one of the most difficult processes for families to go through. However, I have also seen that, when the right supports are in place, it can also be a rewarding and empowering experience for all involved.”

Michael McCleery is a Social Worker and Counsellor at the Kanata Psychology and Counselling Centre. If you are interested in speaking with Mr. McCleery about some of the topics discussed above, please call (613) 435-2729 or e-mail office@kanatapsychology.com to book an appointment.