Lunch with a friend

It’s something we hope to do more often – breaking bread with a friend or colleague.

Often times, business-type lunch dates can turn into friendships over time.

Along with pleasantries and checking up on each other families, talk often turns to current events. There certainly are enough political or business situations to discuss that topics are never in short supply.

Very recently, however, we find ourselves talking more and more about senior issues.

It could be a function of age, or time in life, but many friends are struggling with what to do about their senior relative’s declining health. Health for a senior encompasses many things – whether mobility challenges, financial concerns or mental health problems that extend beyond simple forgetfulness.

Caregivers charged with helping out face a grueling task and quite often impact their own health battling “the system” trying to care for someone. The system, as we have come to understand it, includes doctors, specialists, extended care helpers, senior housing providers (both private and public), provincial authorities and myriad of programs designed to improve quality of life wherever possible. The caregiver, however, has access to scant resources and arguably is left feeling quite lonely trying to make the best choices they can within a system that seems satisfied with identifying problems rather than finding solutions.

Most families will face these challenges in the next ten years, but like most modern issues, until the problem lands squarely on a person’s doorstep, the severity of this impending crisis is easily considered someone else’s problem. Very few will escape this test and by the number of people who have shared worries in their own lives with us, the issue of senior care is at present a ticking time bomb. Imagine what a few more years will look like.

There are many staggering statistics when it comes to retirement and the financial well-being of seniors. An unhealthy percentage will rely solely on the equity of their home and government pensions – if they were lucky enough to purchase a home years ago. Without knowing exactly how much money is needed for the latter stages of life, it becomes a gamble for seniors on how to plan so that both spouses have enough funds to see them through.

People who didn’t invest in a home or establish recurring forms of incomes once they retired from work will rely heavily on government assistance.

Meanwhile people with a good pension and who tried their best to be self-sufficient face the prospect of having their estate wither away since most funding is based on financial means tests.

Setting aside the financial aspect, many families will face issues dealing with patient privacy and rights. Common sense quickly becomes a casualty when deciding the best course of action for all involved.

Often the family doctor gets caught in the middle, between looking after his or her patient’s interests and health, stick-handling the bureaucracy that is seniors care and ensuring caregivers in the home can maintain the hectic pace often associated with caring for someone who isn’t entirely healthy.

Often the elderly patient will have named a power of attorney to eventually take charge when they no longer are able to fend for themselves. This becomes another maze within the system. Apart from the odd shady character that surfaces now and again, most designates treat the job with respect and want to do everything humanly possible to ensure the safety and security of their parent, sibling or friend.

As these lunches conclude it usually ends with one or the other of us suggesting it’s time for less talk and more action.  The system just isn’t cutting it.