The perfect gift is the one most needed.
This season, consider four gifts that we often take for granted.
Mobility and Physical Independence
Unable to stand or walk without crutches, I’ve been dependent on my family these past two weeks. Almost everything takes twice as long: getting out of bed and to the washroom, showering, dressing, preparing meals and simply negotiating stairs.
I have even greater empathy for my elderly patients – and those with back and limb disabilities – for whom getting up from a chair and onto an exam table is a precarious effort. At any time, a fall is possible.
Many of our elderly are at high risk for falls at home and would benefit from a homecare assessment from a registered nurse, physiotherapist or occupational therapist. Many would qualify for Handidart – a transportation service for the disabled who are unable to use regular transit services – and handicapped parking.
One in three seniors (over 65) has had one fall in the past year, and the effects of a fall can be devastating for the frail. 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. Vancouver’s falls prevention clinic is at VGH. If you or someone you know is at risk for falls, you can contact the clinic at fallsclinic.ca. Fraser Health has a mobile clinic that moves from city to city (but not directly to your home). To find out more, call (604) 587-7866 or e-mail email@example.com.
Be patient with older adults and others who are limited in their independence. Give them time and space to get on elevators or escalators. Take the time to hold doors or to lend a hand. A small gesture of kindness from the able-bodied can make a difference.
Though many of us will be feasting during the holiday season and resolving to lose weight in the New Year, the cost of food is rising. Many of your neighbours are struggling to get enough nutrition.
The Canada Food Price Report recently released from Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph predicts that in 2020, the average Canadian family will spend $487 more on food than in 2019.
With rising housing costs, some families can’t afford their daily meals.
Though food banks may get more food donations during the holiday season, the need is present all year long. There are food banks open throughout Greater Vancouver on most days of the week. The schedule is available at foodbank.bc.ca.
Consider making a cash donation. This requires less work for the volunteers, allows the food bank to take advantage of bulk buying and may ensure a better supply of all the essentials.
A Safe Home
I’m not able to drive at the moment, but I feel lucky to have a car.
Because of the disproportionate cost of housing, I know of many for whom their vehicle has taken the place of their home. One of my patients, though working, cannot afford to rent and sleeps in his car each night.
For those without nearby family, the loss of a job can herald homelessness. It can happen to almost any of us.
Consider a donation this year to the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby (burnabyhomeless.org) or the Progressive Housing Society that won the Burnaby Board of Trade’s Best Non-Profit Award for 2019.
Burnaby has three warming centres that are open from 8 pm to 8 am from November 15th to March 30th. They provide overnight shelter, hot beverages and snacks for the vulnerable in our community. They are located at the Kensington Pitch and Putt, Swangard Stadium and 5970 Beresford Street.
To find a warming centre in Vancouver, call 211.
Donations of blankets, socks and warm clothing are welcomed.
Family and Friends
Though some social gatherings may seem an obligation, consider the many among us who do not have family and friends with whom to celebrate. Newcomers and the elderly living alone can be socially isolated in our big cities.
Neighbourhood houses have been created to fill the need for social support and connections. Burnaby has two neighbourhood houses: 4908 Hastings Street in North Burnaby and 4460 Beresford Street in the Metrotown. For more information: burnabynh.ca.
There are six Neighbourhood Houses in Vancouver. For more information: anhbc.org.
I wish all our readers a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.
Dr Davidicus Wong is a family physician. His Healthwise column appears in the Vancouver Courier