Healthy Aging Forum draws 80 people

Organizer Gail Madrigga said last month she hoped people would leave the Healthy Aging Forum feeling they were better informed and were more empowered to make decisions about their health.

A quick canvass of some of the  80 people who attended the “Thriving Community Partnerships for  Healthy Aging” forum on Friday, Mar. 6 indicates the forum achieved its goals

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The day-long event included information on local health services and frank talk on sensitive issues such as elder abuse and advanced care planning for end-of-life decisions.

Laurisa LeClerc from the Interior Health Authority (IHA) provided an overview on home and community care services, including home support, assisted living and residential care. She said  community nurses also act as advocates and provide liaison with other health care providers.

LeClerc reviewed the costs of home and residential care, saying residential care ranges from a minimum of about $990 per month to a maximum of $3,200 per month, although she has never known anyone to pay the maximum. The minimum rate for assisted living  is $906 per month, which doesn’t include hydro, phone, cable TV, toiletries or breakfast.

She also said a “Meals at Home” program is available in Lillooet for people who want to purchase ready-made, frozen meals. Nurses Lindy Watkinson and Laurie Cregg have more information on that program.

Grace Balbutin from the B.C. Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support talked about the “huge stigma” surrounding elder abuse and how elders are often afraid to report that they are being emotionally, physically and financially abused, especially if the abuser is a family member..

She said parents who are abused by their children will often not report the abuse because they are afraid of their children being criminalized.

“”This is abuse that goes beyond physical abuse,” Balbutin told the audience. “People lose control of their own lives.”

Balbutin said characteristics of an abuser include:

- often a family member

- often a male

- can have drug and alcohol and/or mental health issues

- economically dependent on the parent

She also warned that isolation is the number one factor for people at risk of falling victim to phone scams. “We as human beings crave communication and seniors can be lonely and vulnerable.”

There is a toll-free number 1-866-437-1940 people can call for help from the Seniors Abuse and Information Line (SAIL). Balbutin described SAIL as a safe place for older adults and those who care about them to talk to someone about situations where they feel they are being abused or mistreated or to obtain information about preventing elder abuse.

Balbutin said other services are also available, including a Victim Services Program and a Legal Program that provides legal advice, advocacy and representation to people aged 55 and over who are not able to access legal help due to low income or other barriers.

Naturopathic physician Dr. Sal Meli gave a presentation on preventative medicine. He discussed the importance of treating  the patient as a whole person to help him/her understand their disease.

RN Judy Nichol from the IHA gave a presentation on “My Voice” – expressing wishes for advanced care and making decisions about end-of-life treatment.

Nichol reviewed provincial legislation that came into effect in 2011, which gives people more options for expressing their wishes about future health care decisions. The legislation allows capable adults to put plans into place that outline the health care treatments they consent to or refuse, based on their beliefs, values and wishes. If no decision or plan is in place, B.C.’s health care consent legislation gives health care providers specific directions regarding who they must choose to make a decision on the person’s behalf.

Noting that only 35 per cent of B.C. residents have a will, Nichol urged forum attendees to plan for their health care future now, rather than postponing those decisions to a time when they may be seriously ill or incapacitated.

“People only die once; they have no experience to draw upon,” added Nichol.

The keynote address was given by Dr. Patrick McGowan from the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging. He spoke on the topic “Our Responsibility in Managing Chronic Disease.”

He said chronic conditions have many causes, can be life-long and a cure is rare.

“The role of a health care professional in an acute condition is they do something to us and we get better. But in a chronic condition, the role of the professional is as a teacher and a partner to us and our responsibility is to be a partner as well and manage the disease,” said Dr. McGowan.

He said clinicians are only present for a fraction of a patient’s life and, on average, patients spend only four hours per year with health care professionals who help them manage their chronic illnesses.

For the other 364 days and 20 hours per year, he said patients have to assume responsibility for managing their chronic diseases.

“Motivation by itself is not enough, You also need confidence and skills,” continued McGowan. He said self-management programs are a critical factor in providing the confidence, knowledge and skills to assist people in managing their own chronic diseases or conditions.

As a follow-up to the Forum, there will be a training session May 11 to 14 at the Lillooet Public Health Unit  for volunteer leaders for a local Chronic Pain Self-Management Program. Call 1-866-902-3767 for more information.

The Forum began with welcoming remarks from T’it’q’et’ Chief Kevin Whitney, who gave a traditional St’at’imc welcome; Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart; SLRD Area B Director Mickey Macri; and District of Lillooet Mayor Marg Lampman.

In her comments, Mayor Lampman talked about Lillooet’s social, housing and transportation needs, saying it was “great to have Gail Madrigga as a champion to take these issues forward.”

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