Finding home help for your aging parent can be complicated

April 28, 2022

What’s one of the hardest things about looking after an aging parent? For many, it’s finding the right type of help and then overseeing it.

You may have been told somewhere along the way to make sure you don’t try to do everything yourself. Family caregiving can take a toll on you, especially if you’re doing it over an extended period of time. Be sure to get help.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Knowing what’s out there

If you’re new to caregiving, you may not know where to start looking. Fortunately, you can find a good online listing of health and community supports in the Ottawa area at

Once you start searching the database, you may be surprised by the number of services out there for seniors, many of them subsidized.

There are adult day programs, home support services, fitness and recreational programs, meal services, fall prevention programs, drug benefits, and dementia programs (to name just a few). In fact, there are so many choices, it can feel a little overwhelming at first.

The next step is to narrow things down, picking out the programs that seem to be a good fit for your parent. The lists details for each program – things like service descriptions, fees, and eligibility criteria. 

Once you’ve come up with a short list, very often the next step is to contact each agency directly. 

Contacting individual agencies

This is where things can start to get complicated. You may find a program that’s a perfect fit, but you’re just as likely to discover that no one agency can meet your parent’s needs.

Here are some of the complications you might encounter:

  • Your parent doesn’t meet program eligibility criteria
  • You discover that programs aren’t as good a fit for your parent as you first thought they were
  • There are waitlists for services
  • Agencies aren’t able to provide the amount of service your parent needs
  • Your parent isn’t keen on some of the programs you find
What’s one of the hardest things about looking after an aging parent? For many, it’s finding the right type of help and then overseeing it.

Best laid plans

Let’s take a hypothetical example. Suppose your parent has congestive heart failure and a number of other medical conditions. Their health has been deteriorating lately and they’ve been struggling to look after themselves in their own home.

You visit when you can, but you can’t be with them 24/7. Recognizing you can’t do it all on your own, you line up a variety of services for them. 

  • Meals on Wheels (preparing meals has become difficult for them)
  • Government-funded home care (to help with showering – you’re worried about your parent falling)
  • Geriatric services (to make sure your parent is assessed and followed by health professionals who specialize in care of the elderly)
  • A medical alert system (a monitoring service that will respond to your parent in an emergency and even detect if they’ve had a fall)

But as you organize these services and put them in place, the following difficulties arise:

  • Your parent doesn’t like the meals being delivered and leaves some of them uneaten. You’re concerned they’re not getting proper nutrition. You’ve also had to clear out moldy food from their fridge several times.
  • You find out that your parent can only get two hours of government-funded home care a week. Staff shortages mean they rarely get the same personal support worker. Sometimes appointments are canceled. You resort to paying another agency to provide extra in-home support, but your parent complains about the number of “strangers” coming and going from their home. You find that you’re spending a lot of time monitoring whether visits are happening as they should and making sure the many different workers who visit properly understand your parent’s needs. 
  • You find a specialized geriatric service, but your parent doesn’t live within the geographic area they serve.
  • After the medical alert system is installed, you have difficulty getting your parent to wear the monitoring device. On more than one occasion, you visit them and learn that they had a significant fall that went undetected by the system.

An all-too-common situation

This example may be hypothetical, but unfortunately it’s the sort of thing many family caregivers experience. They arrange services for their aging parent and then end up spending as much time or more coordinating those services, orchestrating workarounds when things don’t work out, or continuing to respond to “situations” as they inevitably arise.

This is why so many family caregivers find it difficult to support an aging parent who’s living in their own home.

If this sounds all too familiar to you, give us a call. Every day at Tea and Toast, we help family caregivers who find themselves in precisely this type of situation. 

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