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Being Mortal

Blog - Being Mortal

As the adage goes, “Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes”. We just finished watching “Being Mortal” the Frontline documentary based on the New York writer and Boston surgeon Atui Gawande. In short the film talks about what Dr. Gawande summarizes as the “unfixables; ageing and dying”. It sheds light on the uncomfortable subject of end-of-life care, and the heartbreaking, heavy, uncomfortable task of telling someone that they have a few months to live as well as the important conversations required at the end of life. Having a good life as long as you can. You can’t always count on the Doctor to lead the way. This documentary, and the book it is based on is simply about dying, but it discusses dying on one’s own terms. A difficult film to watch, and book to read, but a subject that needs to have light shined upon it.

What do we have in common? We are all mortal and in our life we will know several people who suffer the infirmities of old age and or someone with cancer or another terminal illness.

Why do we wait until it’s too late to discuss this with our family? When this news happens to you, will it be too late? Will your loved one become too sick or frail to live by themselves? And if it is too late, what are the ripple effects? The guilt, the distress, the stress, the urgency of the decisions, sometimes lead us to lifelong regrets and bad decisions.

If you are suspicious that you may die one day, guess what, you’re right. No, I’m not saying you need your to-do-list to state: Call the plumber, Get and oil change, Talk to my family about getting old and dying, but what I am saying is that after seeing this film, it’s a discussion YOU NEED TO HAVE.

Guess what? None of us are good at having these conversations. Even Dr. Gawande explores hot ill equipped doctors are at having these conversations. If someone has limited time left, it has to be our duty to ourselves and to them to make time as comfortable as possible.

Life is short. These difficult conversations do not need to be left until the last week of someone’s life. As Dr. Gawande expresses, “there is no easy time to have these conversations…”

Asking yourself or your loved ones “What are your goals for ageing”, “What are the fears you have if you get sick?”. Having a personal directive done can be one of the most important conversations your have.

There are several great resources on how to talk to your doctor and family. So START THE CONVERSATION. Before it’s too late. It is our goal as a company to make sure every one of our client’s has this difficult discussion.

If nothing else, remember life is precious, and is precious right to the end regardless of condition, and we each deserve to be treated preciously right until the last of days. Talk! Talk! Talk! If you can’t with your most loved ones, who can you talk to.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the book.

“At least two kinds of courage are required in aging and sickness. The first is the courage to confront the reality of morality – the courage to seek out the trust of what is to be feared and what is to be hoped. Such courage is difficult enough. We have many reasons to shrink from it. But even more daunting is the second kind of courage – the courage to act on the truth we find.”




Image Source: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/facing-mortality-how-to-talk-to-your-doctor/

You are not alone!

Calgary Elder Care - You are not alone!You are not alone!

Are you starting to notice changes in your aging parents? New dents and dings in your aging parent’s car? Your dad who never forgets a thing is starting to forget simple things? Your mom who spent her life making the house a home is having difficulties completing the most familiar tasks? The most organized aging friend is having trouble misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace their steps? These are just a few of the signs that something may not be well with your parent, partner, spouse, loved one or friend.

Well, not every one of these necessarily means that something is wrong; we all lose ability as we age, we all get forgetful, but when this becomes more and more noticeable it may be time to have a difficult conversation about the future of your aging loved one.

I know the struggle of having aging parents. I know the ups and downs and difficult conversations that need to take place. I’m often moved by the “Love you forever” story by Robert Munsch, where throughout the book the mother takes care of the son through every stage of his life and always refers to him as “my baby you’ll be”, until the last page where the son is holding the mother and singing to her. I’ve always thought this was such a good representation of life and aging, but as I get older I realized that I would take on any role I needed to for my parents, but that I would always be their daughter and as much as I wanted to be their caregiver, I wanted more to be their daughter.

If you are caring for an aging loved one, you may feel overwhelmed as you juggle your own life; work, parenting, running your household, and their care. Nearly a third of American adults spend an average of 20 hours per week caring for an aged, disabled, or chronically ill family member. It can be tough and full of feelings of being overwhelmed, of sadness, of confusion, and can turn into feelings of resentment.

We believe that no one should have to experience treading that kind of water of keeping your own life in order, while providing care, while still maintaining your special relationship with your loved one. Maintaining that balance for too long will eventually take its toll on your emotional and physical health.

So how do you know you are making the right decision for your parents? Well, we want you to know that you are not alone and that we have the knowledge and resources to support you and your family on this journey.

Home care is really a unique service and most people know nothing about it until the last minute when they need a solution, making decisions usually under stress, under a tight timeline, and feeling overwhelmed with trying to do the right thing.

As your loved one progresses through their particular illness or the aging process, their needs continually will evolve as will your responsibility and time commitment with them. Serving seniors is our passion. Allowing us to develop a care plan for your loved one is something we hold in the highest regard. The beautiful lives that brought us into the world and shaped us to who we are and who our families are. The traits and traditions they have imprinted on us, their legacies, and all the wonderful memories they have given, deserve to be honoured in their later life when they need us.

Becoming a caretaker for our parents can be one of the most rewarding and life-changing times in life; let us help maintain that special relationship you have so that you can choose the level of caretaker you want to be, and we can support you with the rest.

We understand and have walked the same path as you. You still have lots of memories to share and make with your aging loved one and we want that to be the focus of your care.


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What is your time worth?

What is your time worth?How much does one of your minutes cost, please?

At what interval do you determine time to be valuable? A minute? An hour? A year?

Now I understand that this surely must be all relative, right? For example, a millisecond is very valuable to a sprinter. A second can be the difference between life and death in an accident. A minute is important if you are running for a flight, thirty minutes is a lifetime waiting for your child to be born, and an hour is a blessing when you have a tight deadline. So the value of time must be only important depending on your activity, right? Wrong!

Think about what interval in your daily life you would really start to miss. Really think about it.

After commuting over an hour each day, I’ve begun to wonder what I would be doing with that extra hour if I had it back… What did I do before when I had it? What would I do if I had it back? I can’t really pinpoint what I did, and that’s when I realized I don’t value an hour like I should, so it must not matter too much to me – an hour here or an hour there.

Surely I must be missing something if an hour isn’t important to me when someone dying would kill to buy just a few seconds of it for themselves. It’s all about perspective.

I realize that my commute is unavoidable, but all that simply meant was that I had to make the time I’m not commuting that much more special. You may have things that are unavoidable in your daily life that are time vacuums, so what are you doing to make the time outside of that vacuum special?

I don’t know at what point in our life our idea of valuable time changes…perhaps it’s constantly changing… For example, when you were two years old, one year is a big deal, it’s half your life. As we age, our years become proportionally smaller and smaller and we have no problem throwing around a year here and there as if they aren’t the series of valuable seconds that they are…we lose perspective of what a year should mean to us. As we age we also have less and less new experiences…we have already experienced the things that a child would find new and exciting and therefore we have this illusion that time has sped up, when really it was always there, at the same speed, we just chose to look at it without childlike perspective.

All you need to do is ask someone with an illness like dementia or Alzheimer’s how important time is to them. They would certainly have a different perspective on what amount of time is valuable… Surely they would beg for one hour a day of remembering…or one more minute without having this disease… Or one more second of clarity in their day, without fear or agitation.

Ask someone who has lost someone, or is losing someone, the value of a second. One second more to say goodbye or to hold them.

So now it’s your turn to have renewed perspective… Think of life as new and exciting and re-experience the first times of life. The first time you tasted chocolate or did something for someone because it made you feel good. Embrace those nostalgic times, and recreate them with new friends or family, each time with a childlike perspective of awe and newness. Think about what amount of time is valuable to you now, and redefine it telling yourself that every second counts. Spend an extra second in a kiss with someone you love, or an extra second letting sun really shine on your face; be present in that moment.

Spend a minute learning a new sign language, sign and work your way up to having a conversation with someone who can’t speak; think of the impact you would have on both of your lives. Spend an hour volunteering to visit someone elderly, even if they aren’t your relative.

Take an extra second to hold a door, plant a flower, wave at a neighbour, or just breathe deep.

Remember the value of a second and remember that if someone with dementia only remembered one second of your whole visit, then that was a valuable second for them…and for you.

Claim your seconds back…seconds are your most valuable commodity. You can only spend it, and you can’t get it back.



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You. Are. Old. - Calgary Elder CareYou are old, and that’s ok. There is a quote by George Bernard Shaw that says “Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.” But whoever said you can’t be youthful in old age? Maybe your body tells you that every time you get up out of a chair… Or maybe your barber tells you that when you pay more for a haircut now than you ever did…and you have far less hair!

When did you start thinking of yourself as old? Try and think back. When did you first really say to yourself “wow, I’m old”? Can you remember? Was there a specific day you woke up and said, “I’m old”?

Maybe you have never said that – but now you realize that you are actually old, and your life has flashed before your eyes and seemed short and we have made you depressed, and you took out your savings to buy a motorcycle and become a writer… But fear not – for there is nothing to fear in aging.

Really ask yourself, what is old and who said I’m old? My failing body? My failing memory? But is being old just relative? You may be old compared to a child, but young compared to a giant tortoise (a giant tortoise named Jonathan just turned 182). But I want you to ask yourself this question…


If I never knew my age – what would I be doing now and how would I feel about myself?

Now ask yourself, is my many years, really that much different than the butterfly’s two days in the whole history of the universe? Two days may not seem like much to you, but it’s a lifetime to a butterfly. Ninety years might not seem like much to Jonathan – who is more than double that, but to you its’s your lifetime. The butterfly never had a chance to say “wow, I’m old” and dwell on it; it takes the two days it has and embraces it.

Now it’s time to embrace yours!

There is nothing wrong with feeling old and aging… But let’s turn the tables on it… Figure out if you are letting your age define you or inspire you. Let it inspire you to share your stories, to start a conversation with a youth, to pass on your wisdom. Challenge your body a little, challenge your mind a lot, dance if you can, cook for fun, and remember that aging, when compared to the alternative, is pretty great.

Joy doesn’t know how old you are, and it doesn’t care, as long as you’re inviting it in.

If you or a family member are scared, or stressed about any challenges that come with aging, we hope you will stay tuned and we can provide you with some comfort and guidance, and embrace aging in a positive light…

Hoping you stay inspired!

Calgary Elder Care




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