Did You Know It Takes Up to 4 Years before a Family Caregiver Asks for Help?

By Wendy Johnstone
May 17, 2016

So for goodness sake, don’t be a statistic!

Last week, we celebrated Family Caregivers Week in BC.  You probably didn’t hear about it on the news, because, family caregivers are rarely recognized in our communities even though without them, our health care system would come crashing down.

So most importantly, thank a family caregiver and send them to www.familycaregiversbc.ca for some great information, resources and support.  It’s all FREE.

Do you see yourself in this video as a family caregiver?  You are not alone.  Over 1 million British Columbians are family caregivers.

As part of my work with the Family Caregivers of BC (FCBC), I am fortunate enough to write for Senior Living Magazine in September 2015.  I originally co-wrote this column with the Executive Director of the FCBC, Barb MacLean. It’s called Prescription for Good Health and is very fitting for this week’s blog.  You can find more great articles for anyone over the age of 55 years here.

Prescription for Good Health

An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Most of us are able to go fast from time to time. We can push the boundaries of our energy and burn the candle at both ends. Then once the urgency is over, we return to a more balanced way of life; at least until the next sprint is required. But what happens when your sprint turns into a marathon?

We’re at a time in history where most of us will take part in the marathon of caregiving. It’s not usually something we anticipate, sign up for or train for, but it’s the new normal of life as our aging population enjoys life – prolonging medical science while grappling with chronic disease. Right now, one million people in BC – over a quarter of the population – care for a family member, friend or neighbour. Despite the monumental number, their compassion and commitment largely go unremarked, unrecognized and unsupported.

Canadian statistics paint a clear picture on caregiving. It’s not a matter of “if” you become a caregiver, it’s a matter of “when” you will become a caregiver. If you are woman 45 years old or older, it is almost completely guaranteed you will be caring for an aging parent or spouse. Over three quarters of the male caregivers aged 45-64 are employed, with almost 93 per cent working more than 30 hours per week. And more than 60 per cent of caregivers have been at it for three years or more, especially when their loved one has a chronic disease.

Even though caregiving is emotionally and physically demanding, even downright exhausting, it is one of the most rewarding gifts you can ever give to another person. If you want to maintain and enrich the gift of yourself in the marathon of caregiving, never run alone. You may be “fast” for a little while, but it’s the road to burnout. Instead, plan to have a network of support by enlisting the help of your family, friends and community organizations.

Think about your personal network. Who can you confide in? Who has time on their hands? Who could you call to help share the care in some way? Who can go for coffee or a walk? Many condition-specific organizations have local support groups well worth attending. Being proactive and making plans is one of the smartest things you can do for a good life.

Family Caregivers of British Columbia is a not-for-profit society whose mission is to inform, support and educate to improve the quality of life for family caregivers. We believe in the power of personal networks and that asking for and accepting help is a sign of strength.

We’re ready to travel the distance with you.

Visit the virtual Resource Centre for Family Caregivers.

A family caregiver anywhere in BC can find one-on-one support for a variety of issues including emotional support, help to navigate the healthcare system and referrals to community services. Call the Caregiver Support Line toll-free at 1-877-520-3267 and we will find the right type of help, information and support you need. We can even arrange for a Skype call or provide support by email caregiversupport@fcns.ca

Gain new skills and knowledge through education.

Education is an important part of the Provincial Caregiver program, focusing on both family caregivers and health professionals. Webinar or phone-only sessions detail practical solutions to the many issues caregivers face. Health professionals will learn more about these issues and gain ideas for including and supporting family caregivers in their work. You will find a wealth of information. You can also receive upcoming dates for webinars aimed at supporting caregivers in all areas of their lives at www.familycaregiversbc.ca

Balance working and caring.

If you are a working caregiver or if you are an employer, you will find helpful tools and information at www.familycaregiversbc.ca/education/caregivers-workplace. From Lunch and Learn sessions to valuable information from employers, we can help provide support to family caregivers in the workplace.

Stay Connected.

You may not need help today, but it’s prudent planning to know where you can find help and support at a click of a button. Stay connected through our quarterly newsletter delivered to your inbox to read informative articles directly related to caregiving issues. Sign up on our website at: www.familycaregiversbc.ca/education/network-news. If you prefer a mailed copy, call us at 1-877-520-3267.

As you look ahead, realize you are in the company of others who understand the length of your journey. So, invest in a good pair of shoes and be willing to ask for and accept help.

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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC

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