How Can You Prevent A Stroke?

A stroke can strike at any time, and the catastrophic effects can be life changing. 


So, how can we protect ourselves, and our loved ones?


The sad reality is that we sometimes cannot! There are a number of fixed factors that will directly impact your likelihood to suffer a stroke. 


First and foremost is age. The older you are, the more probable a stroke is. Although, a “brain attack” can occur at any stage of life, they are definitely most prevalent amongst the elderly. 


Doctors say the next most significant consideration is your family’s health. Having a mother, father or close relative who has had a stroke in the past, makes us much more susceptible to the same fate in the future.


The reality is we can’t rewrite our family history or reverse the years. However, if we look beyond these two matters of fact, we can see several factors that are under our control, and allow us to retain some of the responsibility for reducing our risk of stroke.


Lose Weight


There is a direct correlation between your size and the probability of having a stroke. Obesity immediately means you are considered a high-risk individual. This may not come as much of a surprise to most. However, did you know that by losing as little as 10 pounds of excess weight, you will seriously reduce your chance of stroke?



Lower Your Blood Pressure


Maintaining a reading of between, 120 over 80, and, 140 over 90, should be your goal, and this needs to be taken seriously. High blood pressure is accepted as the single biggest cause of stroke. Uncontrolled blood pressure can make an individual 400% more likely to face a stroke! Avoid foods high in salt and cholesterol, and eat lots of fresh vegetables, fruit and fish.




Leading an active life, leads to better health. Regular, consistent exercise is widely known to be an essential part of slimming down and reducing blood pressure. However, it also has its own independent benefits. A low to moderate intensity workout, of as little as 30 minutes, five times a week (think a brisk walk or a few holes of golf), will lower your level of stroke risk.



Stop Smoking & Drink Less


Cigarette cessation and a moderate alcohol intake will curb your susceptibility to a stroke. Smoking causes your blood to thicken and can clog arteries. Similarly, excessive alcohol will increase your risk. Limit it to one small glass a day, with a preference for red wine.


Baby Aspirin


Taking one Baby Aspirin every day prevents heart attack and stroke. This is especially true in individuals already considered high risk. A daily dose of 75mg can stop blood clots, however it is vital that you speak with your family doctor before commencing.

Group Fitness and Seniors

Exercise is essential at every age, and as we grow older, finding the most appropriate means to stay fit can be a challenge.


We all know that keeping active is paramount for the elderly. If sitting is the new smoking, we suggest that your chances of beating a bad habit are better in a pack, and that you should strongly consider a Group Fitness Class.


These classes are certainly not a new concept, originating in the 1970s initially as a mishmash of dance, kickboxing and cardio.



However, their popularity has surged in recent years, as has the diversity in the type of classes now offered. In particular, there has been a significant growth in group exercise tailored toward elderly tastes and abilities. And the success of these types of classes has been noteworthy.


A primary component that distinguishes Group Fitness from many other forms of exercise is the central community aspect. At its very core, group exercise is a social endeavour, designed to bring people together. Think about jogging, or working out with weights in a gym! Even if completed in the company of a friend, these are still independent activities. That may be why for many people these pursuits can become boring and repetitive over time. Making exercise a social activity encourages people to keep up their participation. And this is evidenced in the consistently high attendance rates these types of classes are seeing across the city.


We are by our very nature as human beings social animals, and this type of exercise taps into our need for interaction and shared stimulation.


For many senior citizens, isolation and loneliness are big problems. It is always beneficial to consider new and innovative ways for our elderly to meet new people. A massive benefit with engaging in Group Fitness in your local area is that you have the chance to mix with other people of a similar age and mentality. These new friends can become the foundations of a successful support network that safeguards against your exercise regime dropping in your list of priorities.


Group fitness recommendations for the elderly


Dance Classes

Toronto has a wealth of individuals and organisations, both private and public, offering speciality group dance programs for the over 70s. These classes are generally successful in promoting contact and conversation between strangers. They usually guarantee a great cardio workout and keep their participants limber. And also, the music used is primarily from generations-gone-by and stimulates nostalgia amongst the dancers.

If you are in east Toronto check out the Agingcourt Recreation Centre in Scarborough. This wonderful community resource offers drop-in line dancing five mornings a week, Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 8am to 9am.


Tai Chi

This ancient Chinese exercise is an excellent group fitness activity for the elderly in today’s western world. It encourages balance and flexibility, as well as inspiring mental agility through the focus and specificity of its choreography.

The North York Seniors Centre, located uptown, is famous for the Tai Chi class it offers both indoors and outdoors.


Aqua aerobics

Exercising in water allows us to attempt motions otherwise unachievable for most. For seniors who enjoy the pool, this is an opportunity to maintain strength through calisthenics and resistance training, while reducing circulatory problems prevalent amongst older people.

In the west of the city, the Wallace Emerson Community Centre has a warm water pool that has regular “aquafit” and water aerobics classes marketed towards the elderly.

New Year's Resolutions For You And Your Loved Ones

With the advent of New Year, comes an onslaught of New Year’s resolutions.  For many, once January hits, we set out our ambitious intentions for the year ahead replete with enthusiasm and conviction. However the days that follow January 1st are forever a time of flux, and we can usually expect many changes in the prioritization of our goals in a short space of time.


We are now more than two weeks into 2017, and it is worthwhile to consider realistic and constructive efforts that can be easily maintained in the months ahead. 


In particular, practical positive resolves can provide a plethora of benefits for our seniors. Furthermore, by working together on an objective with an elderly loved one, your relationship will be reinforced and often revitalised.


Here are our top three resolutions for you and your special senior to consider in 2017


Learn a New Skill or Pursuit  

Self-improvement is essential at any age. There is an endless selection of new skills and interests suited to seniors; with options existing for just about every ability and age. As one example, knitting has innumerable benefits for the aged. Similarly, card games are good for mental and manual dexterity.


Something especially useful for the elderly might be to seek a better understanding of technology. Work with a senior in your life to teach them the basics of using a computer, tablet or smart phone. Not only will this instil a sense of success and accomplishment, it will also ensure that it is easier to stay connected with family and friends.


Implement a New Healthy Eating Habit

Eating better encourages feeling better, and no one’s diet is perfect. Everyone can benefit from some change to their eating habits, and these advantages are generally amplified with age.


If you add sugar to your tea or coffee consider reducing the amount by half. For many people the difference in taste is something they can easily adjust to over time. But over time, for a big consumer of hot beverages, the reduction in sugar is significant.


Alternately, you can also better your eating patterns by incorporating something new into your daily nutritional routine. Nuts are a wonderful source of protein, fibre and flavour – consider crushing them and using as a topper on existing meals.


Create a Diary or Journal

Journaling is a very worthwhile exercise regardless of your stage in life. It provides the opportunity to ponder on the past, but also plan for the future. With senior citizens, it can help them feel self-worth. Through self-reflective writing, one can better realize the importance and uniqueness of their own life.



There are many forms a diary can take - handwritten, typed, audio or video recordings. Together, consider what will work best for its author and subject.  If it is decided that creating entries will be a private undertaking, you can still support by through encouragement.

The Flu Shot And The Elderly


With the first fall of snow upon us, the cold reality of a Canadian climate is just around the corner.  As we transition from fall to winter, we are now firmly within what is known as the flu season. The end of autumn, and the entirety of our long frosty winter is when we are most susceptible to this potentially deadly virus.



Generally speaking, the biggest fear surrounding the flu is founded upon its infectiousness! For most, our experience and focus regarding influenza are the fevers, frenzied coughing and associated sick days that are rampant amongst those effected. But the burden of influenza is far bigger than a few bed-ridden days. Although rest and recuperation are essential for anyone affected by any strand of this infection, the possible repercussions are far more frightening.


 The World Health Organisation estimates that up to half a million people die annually from the virus. With Canada accounting for 3,500 of these deaths, this is not a problem that is purely isolated to the developing world.


People over the age of 65 are categorised as being at high risk of influenza-related complications or hospitalisation and are especially recommended to receive the flu vaccination by the Canadian Public Health Agency. The immune system of a senior citizen weakens with age leaving them more vulnerable not just to contracting the infection, but also open to developing flu-related complications and hospitalizations.


Pneumonia is the threat that looms most menacingly for any older person who is hit with influenza. This condition is the fourth most common cause of death among the elderly. Typically an affect of the flu is that the already enfeebled immune system of a senior is further exposed to attack. If an individual in in hospital, chances of developing the lung-based infection are even higher.


The value of the flu vaccine for the elderly is immeasurable. In addition to drastically reducing the probability of catching the virus, the possibility of dangerous complications is even less likely. Early inoculation is important, however if you or a family member are over 65 and remain unvaccinated, please find your nearest location for immunisation.


A general tip is to avoid the vaccine if:


  • In the past you experienced any serious adverse reaction post-vacination
  • You have previously developed Guillain-Barre-Syndrome within a 6 week window of receiving the flu-jab
  • You have significant allergies to one or more of the inoculation’s ingredients. The exception to this is eggs. Although the vacciniation may contain egg proteins this will not produce a reaction for those allergic to eggs. Check the following link for a full understanding of what the vaccines comprise as per the Public Health Agency of Canada.


Please note if you currently have a serious illness with symptoms such as a fever it is best to wait for these symptoms to dissipate before inoculation. This is only relevant for severe acute conditions and not applicable for minor ailments or sicknesses such as a cold.




Becker D, Chit A, DiazGranados C, et al. High-Dose Inactivated Influenza Vaccine is Associated with Cost Savings and Better Outcomes Compared to Standard-Dose Inactivated Influenza Vaccine in Canadian Seniors. (Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics. 2016)


Elderly-Onset Lupus

October is Lupus awareness month, and we would like to take a moment to consider how it can affect our seniors. 


This inflammatory disease causes the immune system to attack itself, and although most commonly diagnosed in women at child-baring age, it can develop in older women and men as well. This is known as “elderly-onset lupus”.


A primary danger with Lupus is the likelihood of misdiagnosis. Many of the symptoms associated with Lupus mirror other conditions common amongst the elderly – arthritis, muscle aches, dry mouth, etc . Lupus is a difficult condition to medically determine at any age, but elderly-onset lupus may present an even more problematic diagnosis.


For aging people, there is an average delay of three years between the start of identifiable symptoms and the appropriate conclusion by a diagnostician. Once the condition is correctly diagnosed, treatment is supervised with drug dosages significantly less than those required by younger sufferers.


A good routine that assists with the management of Lupus starts at home. Here are some extremely useful tips for caregiver and patient alike.


Reduce stress

Excess stress will exasperate Lupus. Always maintain due diligence to avoid stressful situations. Yoga and meditation are invaluable ways to keep stress levels low. But also feel free to consider alternatives like keeping an indoor garden, or enjoying creative crafts like crochet or knitting.


Limit sun exposure

Just like stress, contact with direct sunlight can intensify a patient’s symptoms. Remember to keep away from the midday sun, and stay covered up when outside. Sunblock with an SPF of at least 50 is best, and wearing hats and long sleeve shirts will minimize exposure and risk.


Be aware of nutrition

A well-rounded diet is always important to protect the health of our seniors. It is especially necessary that those with elderly-onset lupus are receiving key vitamins and minerals from their meals. Osteoporosis is a very common accompanying condition many patients will face. This means they need calcium and other bone-strengthening nutrients that can be provided in both food form and supplements.



Make moderate movement-based exercise a part of your routine. This is where caregivers are invaluable as they can plan the day’s activities and scheduling, and ultimately work with the senior to ensure it is kept.  Walking and swimming and great ways to keep active and will also encourage endorphins improving mood and reducing stress.




"Lupus" Petri, Michelle, MD, MPH. The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. November 2002.

Ho CT, Mok CC, Lau CS, Wong RW: Late onset systemic lupus erythematosus in Southern Chinese. Ann. Rheum. Dis. 577), 437-440 (1998).

Private Versus Public Care

We all want what’s best for our families, and for those who are nearest and dearest to us. Many people find that embarking on choosing a caregiver can be a confusing and challenging process. But at Optimum Care, we pride ourselves in keeping the procedure a pleasant and organic experience. Your peace of mind is our business, and we are here to help.


A question that comes up again and again is, “What are the differences between private and public care?”


We have found that a fundamental distinction is in the experiences and satisfaction our clients have with our carers. Our experienced nurses and PSWs consistently have a profound and positive impact in the homes in which they are providing care and support.  We have made it our business to guarantee that we will care for your loved ones as you would.


There are two essential factors at the core of our care plans that we are always honoured to share.




We will ensure that our caregiver is a perfect match with your loved one.


Within our network of medical professionals we have carers with specialised training in conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. This is an invaluable benefit in providing care in certain situations, but on top of this we will ensure that we are making matches with compatible personalities.


We consider likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests before we introduce a carer. We will take the time to get to know a client as a person, and create a homecare solution that is tailored specifically to their situation. Whether that includes playing cards, or talking about politics, complete compatibility will be key to our new relationship.




With public homecare the hours that can be provided are limited. Both in terms of the number of care hours your loved one will receive, but also with the scheduling of this time.


Optimum Care distinguishes our company by our first-rate flexibility and affability. We want to provide care at the times that you need it. We understand that as circumstances change, care needs will differ. We are in a position to be able to amend the itinerary of care with minimal notice and ensure you have the support when and where you need it most.


The public homecare system has many wonderful and dedicated carers. The value of the work that they do is immeasurable in terms of the differences they make in the lives of so many.  But their time with each client is limited, and resultantly their ability to foster relationships and rapport can be restrained.


With private care we can guarantee that no detail is overlooked, and the kind comments and recommendations we receive from our clients are the best reward for our work.




A Day Out With A Difference This Labour Day Weekend

Labour Day weekend is upon us; a chance to savour the last moments of summer and sample the many sights and spectacles our splendid city has to offer.


Every day makes for an excellent opportunity to enjoy the company of the ones you love. But this weekend, why not take the time to do something special with an older family member or friend?


Start by asking what Labour Day means to them. The origins of this holiday can be traced back to a printers’ revolt in 1872. Its history is an important part of our proud past and culture as Canadians, and something the older people in our lives may connect to. That being said, let’s celebrate this with a day out!


When arranging an excursion with an elderly person, there are certain things that should be considered. Older people will need more rest breaks, and you must always ensure they take adequate food and liquids. But, with proper planning and preparation there is no reason you can’t have an excellent time enjoying some of the weekend’s festivities.


Here we give you an idea of just some of the great events and outings that should ensure an amazing Labour Day weekend for you and your special senior.



Artfest at the Distillery

Consider attending this showcase of Canada’s top artists for its 10th anniversary. Featuring everything from photography to fine craft, all accompanied by a diverse program of live music, there is something here for every creative soul, old and young alike.


This free event is located in the historic Distillery District, just east of the downtown core. Authentic cobblestone streets add to the old-world-charm of this picturesque setting, replete with quaint eateries and craft shops, all housed in industrial-era buildings. But be warned, the uneven paving may make walking more difficult for seniors with mobility issues.

September 2 - September 5, 2016

11:00 am - 6:00 pm


Lemon Bucket Orkestra at the Ashkenaz Fsetival

The Ashkenaz festival has grown to become one of the largest and most renowned celebrations of Jewish culture and music on the planet. The highlight for many this year is sure to be an unforgettable performance by the Lemon Bucket Orkestra.  This sixteen-piece folk group have toured the world with great acclaim, and are guaranteed to delight and astound an audience of all ages this weekend.


Admission to Saturday’s concert is free, but interest will be high. So be sure to get there early to avoid disappointment. The LBO will be performing in the Brigantine Room at the Harbourfront Centre. This event is fully seated, and the venue is completely wheelchair accessible.

September 3, 2016


Royal Ontario Museum

This Friday, the ROM is commemorating the last days of summer with late opening hours until 10pm.  Discounted admission will be available from 4:30pm to 8:30pm, with a special offer for Seniors Citizens. Two “Friday Films” will be screened; Walking with Dinosaurs: Prehistoric Planet, and Journey To Space. Either of these should provide some mentally stimulating afternoon entertainment.


Evening refreshments will be available in the beautiful c5 Lounge, featuring panoramic views of Toronto’s enviable skyline. On the day in question, there will be a very special performance by Jazz musician “Alison Young Duo”, a Canadian born and bred saxophone phenomenon.

September 2, 2016



Toronto’s Conservatories

This city is home to a wealth of greenhouses and conservatories that are open at different times to the public. Two of the best are the Centennial Park Conservatory in the West End, and Allan Gardens Conservatory located downtown.


The former opened in 1971 and remains well known for its Seasonal Display House. This weekend is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the final days in bloom for its fragrant and kaleidoscopic Summer Show. The latter is an historical landmark located in one of Toronto’s oldest parks. A must see is its Tropical Palm House, located under the famous grand dome. Both attractions are open daily this weekend without charge, and are very wheelchair friendly.

September 2 - September 5, 2016

10:00am – 5:00pm

How To Best Communicate With a Person With Dementia

Caring for an elderly loved one can be fraught with complications and challenges for caregivers and families. When that loved one is dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s, the problems are amplified. These brain disorders make it difficult for them to think clearly, maintain distinct memories and eventually prevent them from communicating with others.


Many caregivers wonder how to best deal with these situations? And what advice is there for conserving a connection with our elderly? The Alzheimer Society of Canada stresses that we should never underestimate the art of conversation.  Clear, concise two-way communication will improve our relationships with seniors, and over time benefit their quality of life.


 Here we discuss some helpful tips to alleviate stress and frustration when speaking with people facing Dementia and memory difficulties.  These techniques will in turn advance interaction and positive communication between you and your loved one.


Identify yourself and use their name

Approach the person from the font and clearly state your name, along with who you are.  Always remember to use their name when conversing. Along with eye contact this will help them feel comfortable and successfully connect with you.


Always offer patience and support

More time will be needed for effective and productive conversation with dementia patients.  Accept this, and be sure to move at their pace. It is fine to suggest words if they are struggling to finish a sentence.


Unspoken communication is key

The words shared between you and your loved one are wonderful, but always pay attention to the words that are not said as well. Non-verbal cues and body language are crucial, and feel free to encourage the person to gesture or point if you don’t understand what is being said.


Reassurance and positivity

People with dementia often face confusion and anxiety. By using familiar language and situations, we aim to put them at ease and reassure them. Positive rather than negative statements work in the same way. Instead of saying, “We can’t go here,” a better suggestion would be “Let’s go this way.”


Speak slowly, distinctively and succinctly

It is important that you stay aware of the speed, tone and clarity of your speech. Keep your voice and pace consistent, and remember a lower pitch is generally more calming and effective. Also, you must always use words effectively. Try to speak in short, simple sentences, and refrain from excessive questioning or large amounts of detail. Brevity is best.


Always treat them with respect

Your loved one deserves dignity. Never speak down to a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, or speak to other company as if the affected weren’t in the room. Humor can be a wonderful way to get you both through difficult times, but always be sure not to use it at the person’s expense.





 Communication Strategies: Ways to Maximize Success when Communicating with Someone with Dementia, a webinar presented by brainXchange

 36 Hour Day: Family Guide to Caring for People who have Alzheimer’s Disease, Related Dementias and Memory Loss
Johns Hopkins Press Health Book, 2011

 The Validation Breakthrough: Simple Techniques for Communicating with People with Alzheimer’s-Type Dementia
Naomi Feil, Health Professions Press, Baltimore, MD, 2.ª edición, 2002

Tips For Enjoying the Sunshine With Seniors.

Summer is the time that so many of us look forward to all year long. It is usually a welcome relief from the cold and bleak winters in our wonderful country. However summer can present unique  risks for seniors. 

There are three essential words the elderly need to remember when enjoying warm weather: water, rest and shade. To help you keep the older adults you love safe, here are a few sun safety tips:

Limit Sun Exposure: The sun is usually strongest during the middle of the day. Limiting sun exposure to early morning and evening can help you avoid peak heat and humidity.

Encourage Hydration: Remind the older adults in your life to drink 8 to 10 glasses of water each day. If they perspire a lot, a sports drink may help replace lost electrolytes. Just be sure to read the labels and not overdo it on these drinks. Many are surprisingly high in sugar and sodium. Both can increase the risks for dehydration.

Monitor Medications: If your senior loved one takes prescription or over-the-counter medications, be sure to review potential side effects. Some medications can increase sun sensitivity and cause sunburn or sun poisoning to occur faster than it normally would.

Wear Sunscreen: Many of today’s generation of seniors grew up not wearing sunscreen. As a result, they are less likely to use it when they are outdoors. Encourage your aging parent or loved one to apply it liberally whenever they will be outdoors or riding in the car. In most cases, it should be reapplied every two to four hours.

Good Food Choices: While some foods can help promote hydration, others can contribute to dehydration. On hot summer days a diet rich in foods with a high water content – cucumbers, melon, berries, lettuce – can help prevent dehydration. High protein foods like chicken, fish, yogurt and cheese can help keep blood sugar levels steady.


Personal Support Workers – Our Silent Healthcare Heroes

We typically cherish and champion our doctors and nurses, as the brain and backbone of the healthcare system that strives to support our elderly. We can also appreciate and empathize with the family members who spend hours providing and organising, and often agonizing over, the best care possible for their loved ones. But what about the professional carers?


Too seldom do we acknowledge the Personal Support Workers who are proud to make it their profession to care for our beloved seniors. In reality, these hardworking men and women occupy a special, but generally unspoken, place in our health, our homes and our hearts.


So please, take a moment to consider the invaluable valor of these silent heroes.


There exists a unique affinity between PSWs and their companions. This in part comes from the physicality of the care that they provide every day. Their close bond develops from the contact that is an essential component of this relationship. PSWs put their arms around a person to help them from the bathtub or bed, into and out of a chair. They are bathing, grooming and feeding where others cannot. They are the ones who will help our elderly take that first step after an accident, and pick them up if they fall.


From this intimacy and familiarity stems a vigilance and understanding that may not otherwise exist. Our PSWs are often the first to notice when there is a change within a patient, for better or for worse. And resultantly, can bring about a switch in a care or treatment plan that proves preferable. In many respects they act as the ears and eyes and mouthpiece for our elderly, who may not be able to independently express themselves effectively.


There are many different names for our fulltime carers and the wonderful work that they do; Home Health Worker, Healthcare Aide, Homemaker. But they are united by the consistency and merit of their work. Theirs is a labor of love, and above all else they are eager, attentive and compassionate in caring for your loved ones as you would.