Harold & Susan Case Study

Harold & Susan

*This is a fictional case study and character(s) based on a variety of real situations.

Harold is 82 years old. He describes himself as a traditional man with a slightly stubborn personality. He moved with his wife, Susan, to Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast from Ontario 20 years ago, after a short stint of living in Vancouver. Since moving to the Coast, Harold and Susan have enjoyed many years of living with beautiful sea views, surrounded by an active seniors’ community and friendly neighbours. They often went for drinks at the Legion and they both enjoyed contributing to Rotary events. Harold and Susan’s son, Cameron, who grew up in Ontario and had stayed there after completing schooling and getting a good job, visited his parents on the Coast every couple of years. Harold and Susan would also visit Cameron most years, though the trips had become less frequent in the past few years – and stopped completely during the pandemic.  

During a recent trip to visit his parents – his first for a while – Cameron noticed that his dad wasn’t as sharp as normal. He was confusing details related to Cameron’s trip and struggling to find items like his glasses in the house; this was out of character for Harold. Cameron noticed that there was a lot of disorganized paperwork in various makeshift piles which seemingly had not been dealt with for a while. This was unusual too, as his dad had always been meticulous and efficient. His dad was generally in good physical shape still, as he had been active all his life, but Cameron was aware that his dad had fallen twice in the last year, though the injuries were fortunately not serious. 

Near the end of the trip, Susan related to Cameron that there had been incidents that had caused her concern about Harold, though she just put them down to ‘senior moments’. For example, Harold had forgotten where he had parked the car on a few occasions resulting in friendly staff at the grocery store helping him find it. He had also become confused about directions when driving to the recycling depot, a place he had driven to on many occasions previously. He had been napping more during the day and he had forgotten to take his medication to control his blood pressure on the odd occasion. What concerned Susan the most was that Harold was becoming less interested in meeting up with their friends, often declining social events, preferring to stay at home. Susan felt conflicted, feeling an obligation to stay at home with Harold, but she also greatly enjoyed the company of their friends. She was beginning to feel isolated and disconnected from their social circles. Susan was generally in good health, though arthritis was starting to slow her down, making tasks like gardening more difficult. 

During the visit, Cameron tried to talk to his parents about some of his concerns and he introduced the topic of planning for the future. While Susan was relieved that Cameron was both interested and supportive, Harold, who had always been a proud man, tried to brush off the conversation and said they would be fine – without being able to explain what their plans for the future were. The only thing that Harold seemed certain of was that they wished to remain in their house for as long as possible, ultimately until their final days. 

At the end of his trip, as Cameron boarded the ferry at Langdale and later that day, got on his red-eye flight back to Toronto, he was left with an empty and helpless feeling about his parents’ situation. It felt like there was a storm brewing on the horizon. One of the few strands of positivity he had to hang on to was that before he left the Coast, he took a photo of a sign for ‘Living By Design’ – a local company that specializes in issues related to aging. He vowed to call the number on the poster as soon as he was back home and over his jet-lag.

Long Story Short

  • After some initial set-up from Cameron, Susan and (somewhat reluctantly) Harold, agreed to meet with Tom, the Occupational Therapist from Living By Design, for a free consultation in their home. Cameron video-called into the meeting, which put his parents more at ease. Tom listened to stories of their life journeys, discussed their thoughts on aging and their ideas on how they wanted to spend the rest of their days. Tom explained the various solutions that Living By Design could provide and left it to the family to discuss further.

  • They decided to move forward with the following solutions, with Harold, somewhat surprisingly, taking the lead role in driving the process: Home Safety Assessment, Age Well consultation and CogWorks 1 for Harold; They continued to work with Tom for a few months while the various programs were implemented.

  • After concluding his work with Susan and Harold, Tom followed up with Cameron to gather his perspective on his parents’ functioning. Cameron reported that he felt his parents now viewed aging in a more positive light; they were being more proactive regarding making changes for the future and communication between them had improved, making future changes easier to make. He had noticed that his dad’s mood was more upbeat, he was more communicative during Facetime calls, and he was more willing to engage in social situations. Cameron felt that his parents were better equipped to live in their home for many years to come.