Being a caregiver for a loved one can be emotionally and physically taxing. While the ailing person in need of support is important, so, too, is their caregiver. However, they can become so wrapped up in their “work” that they neglect to look after themselves.
There are more than eight million caregivers in Canada who are juggling family life, careers, and caring for sick family members, and that’s why Stories For Caregivers — a free social platform designated for those who are responsible for the wellbeing of another person — came about.
The website provides caregivers with resources and connects them with like-minded individuals, all in the name of helping to support them. For someone like Mitzi Perez, it’s been a lifesaver. Perez has been minding her father Maurice, who has ALS, since before he was diagnosed in September 2016, as he had already been sick and misdiagnosed for four years.
“When he first got sick, I was going to his house every day and it was very overwhelming,” she explained. “I got burned out and had to take two months off of work, and through working on myself, I was able to come out of that. But it was a long process, and some days I still feel like that. Luckily, the good days outweigh the bad.”
Today a CLSC nurse makes daily visits to Perez’s father’s home in Côte-Saint-Luc, and they help him get up, get dressed, and prepare breakfast, as he is mostly confined to his motorized wheelchair – this makes it a bit easier on his daughter. Even still, she continues making 3-4 visits a week, taking care of everything from errands to doctor’s appointments.
“It’s so hard for him. Something as simple as getting dressed would take us a few minutes, but for my dad, it takes an hour, so he needs the help,” she said. “But I’ve realized that, as a caregiver, you can’t take care of your loved one without taking care of yourself.”
When Perez discovered Stories For Caregivers, it was a game-changer. It provided Perez with a place to find mutual understanding and seek out support with other people who were going through the same challenges as she was. She was even one of the featured caregivers on their web series Caring for Those Who Care, which was produced in conjunction with the Telus Fund.
“The idea is to offer caregivers from anywhere a place to go to not feel alone, and there’s also a section where people can post their own inspirational stories and ask questions,” Perez explained. “My friends, thank god, didn’t understand what I was going through. In the beginning there was a lot of ‘why are you always tired?’, ‘why do you always have to have your phone?’, or ‘why don’t you want to come out with us?’ But I’ve made some new friends through Stories For Caregivers, and it’s been so helpful to talk to someone who truly understands what I’m going through.”
For more information, visit storiesforcaregivers.com