Seniors & Aging: Stressed caregivers: What to do?

It is estimated that one in four Canadians (more than 8 million people) provide informal care to their family, friend or loved one. It can, at times, be stressful and overwhelming. Caregiving is very often an unsung effort and is not always appreciated by extended family members. Those who aren’t caregivers may not understand the time and effort it takes to take care of a loved one. Millions of caregivers take time off work each year to give care. Their unpaid, selfless dedication saves Canada’s healthcare system between $24 to $31 billion annually.

Informal caregivers are unpaid individuals who care for someone that requires help due to physical and / or cognitive conditions. They help the health care system immensely by freeing up hospital beds and putting less strain on government resources.   

Although most caregivers report there are positive aspects to their care, caregiver responsibilities often result in physical and emotional stress, especially for caregivers who provide 24/7 care, or are seniors themselves.

The number of seniors aged 65 or over is expected to double over the next 15 years resulting in greater demand for caregiving.  Spouses and adult children can expect to be responsible for the inevitable increase in caregiving duties.  The following guide can be used for existing and potential future caregivers to ease their load and to reduce caregiver stress.

Federal Resources

Some of the more popular federal programs include the Compassionate Care Program, the Disability Tax Credit, and the Canada Caregiver Credit.

Provincial Resources

Your first resource for caregiver support in Quebec is your local CLSC.  They provide a wide range of free health services. For caregivers that need health services close by, try a CLSC. Get a case worker assigned to your loved one and stress the need for support.  You may not always agree with the number of hours or services provided but this is a first start before exploring additional resources.  The CLSC provides common health and social services as well as medical services.

Regional Resources for Caregiver Support

If you feel overwhelmed from caregiving, you’re not alone. There are several non-profit organizations such as NOVA and the Montreal Volunteer Bureau that provide valuable services in different regions of Montreal. Their services include in-home nursing and palliative care, to cover all stages of the aging patient. They don’t stop at providing care for the patient. They also have caregiver support groups. 

There are also many other associations and organizations that specialize in specific health issues – far too many to mention in this article but here are a few popular ones: Cummings Centre, the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, AGI Alzheimer’s Groupe, L’Appui, Parkinson Canada, ALS Society of Canada, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Contactivity Centre, AMI Quebec, Montreal Family Ties and NDG Senior Citizens’ Council.

Private In-Home Care Companies

Need more comprehensive assistance beyond public care? Try private in-home care services. They cover all sorts of services, from personal hygiene to nursing and medical care. While pricier, private caregiver services are available when you need it, so you can go to work or school with the peace of mind that your friend or family member is in good hands.

Online Caregiver Networks for Support

Online caregiver support groups are a source of caregiving support you may not be aware of.  If you don’t have physical caregiver support groups near you, you can access online networks made for caregivers. One of the most popular caregiver websites is called Huddol, where you can share your experiences as a caregiver or talk to other caregivers who are going through similar situations.

Senior Communities to End Caregiving Stress

At a certain stage, there is a point where caregiving or in-home care isn’t enough. If you’re feeling stressed as a caregiver, or feel like you cannot give the proper care, looking into retirement homes may be the best option. 

The retirement home transition is challenging. Finding the right retirement home, as well as finding how to finance the transition, can be difficult when you’re already balancing caregiver duties and work. Therefore, when you decide it’s time for a retirement home, you should consult senior transition services. Retirement referral services like Lianas Services understand the stress that caregivers go through, and how choosing a retirement home is a difficult process. They provide emotional support as well as tours of private retirement residences to caregivers and their senior clients, to ease the caregiver and health burden. Best of all, their services are FREE!!

Matt Del Vecchio is a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging (CPCA).  He is the founder and president of Lianas Services, a Canadian company that assists families and their senior loved ones with retirement home search and transition support.  He is also the host of “life Unrehearsed”, a weekly radio show on CJAD 800 which can be heard every Sunday at 4:00pm.

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