Who will support Niagara residents when they’re too frail to live at home?
What are their housing options, and where will they find the help they need?
And how can they help themselves to remain “brain healthy” so they can remain at home?
Those are some of the issues Dr. Larry Chambers, research director of McMaster’s Niagara Regional Campus School of Medicine, will discuss at Wednesday’s InfoHealth session at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library.
He will talk about “closing the gap” in both physical fitness and brain health, which can be improved up to a point, and then, as we age, begins to decline.
Although the decline can’t be prevented, it can be slowed, Chambers says.
There are four ways to gauge good brain health: the ability to manage financial affairs; the ability to take care of medical conditions; the ability to live safely without someone else present; and the ability to drive a car safely, says Chambers.
“Throughout our life we have the opportunity to do as much as possible to keep our brain and body strength as high as possible. But we get to a point in life where we can’t increase them, we can just slow down the decrease. That’s called the fitness gap.”
The more we do to close the fitness gap, the better off we’ll be as we age, “adding life to years, not just years to life. That means having better quality of life.”
Chambers speaks of the benefits throughout life of avoiding stress, getting enough sleep, exercising, and getting blood supply to the brain by avoiding smoking and controlling blood pressure.
He also talks of the importance of keeping the brain active while we age — by learning new skills, such as playing a musical instrument, starting a new business, or playing chess. “Keep the brain going,” he says.
The demographics in NOTL are changing, he adds. From 2011 to 2016, the number of people over the age of 85 increased from 500 to 700.
“It’s probably now about 900 people. And it’s a problem.”
The provincial government and the public think of housing for the frail as “only one place — long-term care homes. We need a multiplicity of options for people who are frail.”
In addition to more housing options, more staff are needed to look after the frail, he says.
“There needs to be a call to action, to think about the fitness gap, housing options and finding ways throughout the community to support the frail,” says Chambers.
To raise public awareness and stimulate actions, Chambers, with Hanna Levy and Eva Liu of the Niagara Regional Campus of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, McMaster University, will present the next InfoHealth session on supporting the frail, Wednesday, Dec. 11 at the NOTL Public Library at 2 p.m.
The DeGroote School of Medicine has 85 medical students, 26 post-graduate trainees and a 400-physician faculty, based at Brock University. It has partnerships with family physicians, long-term care homes and hospitals across Niagara, as well as the Niagara Region public health department, to support medical students.