Are you among the one million family caregivers in B.C.?
May 8 to May 14 is Family Caregiver Week this year.
Raising awareness of this societal phenomenon is crucial. The latest statistics show that at least one in four Canadians are caring for someone they love. Of those family caregivers, over a third are also caring for children at home.
Caregivers provide up to 80 per cent of care at home.
Barb Mclean, executive director of the Family Caregivers’ Network Society, describes family caregivers as “the invisible pillars of our health care system. Without them, the quality of life as we know it would not exist.”
Regardless of how much and how often you assume a caregiving role, you’ll likely experience a number of changes, needs and emotions associated with family caregiving.
As an eldercare planner, I work with family caregivers on a daily basis. I can literally feel their energy shifting moment to moment, hour to hour and day to day.
Caregivers undeniably are devoted and committed to caring for their aging loved ones. Many of my clients feel their role unites families by bringing them closer. Caregivers find it heartwarming and satisfying when they make it possible for Mom and Dad to stay independent and at home for as long as possible.
Caregivers can also feel like a human elastic, constantly being pulled and stretched in different directions. As the elderly live longer and society demands increase, family caregiving also poses stressors and challenges.
Tough decisions, strain on relationships with family members, physical and mental exhaustion, financial burdens and resurfacing of old hurts are just some of the negatives associated with caregiving.
Self-care should be the number one area for caregivers to pay attention to.
It’s usually last on their list.
As Hans Selye once said, “Complete freedom from stress is death.” Desirable (not the death part) although unlikely, an ounce of prevention truly goes a long way.
Here’s a toast and a pat on the back to all family caregivers — thank you!
Online resources for family caregivers:
Family Caregivers’ Network Society (www.familycaregiversnetwork.org)
VON Caregiver Connect (http://www.fcns-caregiving.org/support/caregiver-connect)
Long Term Planning Network (ltcplanningnetwork.com)
Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Planning. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.
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– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC
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