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Support for Caregivers of the Aging

Caring for a senior?

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Updated for 2017-18

In Statistics Canada's most recent look at caregiving, it found that 28% of Canadians are informal caregivers to a loved one. That was in 2012, though, and that number has almost certainly increased since that time, due to our aging population and other factors. 

Numerous studies into the needs of caregivers show that people need a break, both physical and mental, from their duties. "Some people go so heavily into the role that they end up being consumed by it," says Mona Munro, a social worker at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto. "Sometimes people have a hard time accepting their limitations." What they don't realize is taking a break is part of their role as a caregiver. "It's important that we look at respite as a health-promoting aspect for caregivers. I think many people burn out because there's not the support services or they don't know how to access them."

Reach out to others and ask for help

Provincial, municipal and federal help is available across Canada. There are also means of getting private help. Here's a look at ways family caregivers can get support.

Write it out and share

Taking care of yourself is one of the best means of relieving your caregiving burden. Journaling or blogging is one means of doing so. Sharing things on social media is fine but you will find more support if you share with fellow caregivers, where it is appropriate online.  

From November 2017 to January 2018, Bayshore Health Care is running a caregiving story contest. There are three prizes of $1000 in home care services available. For contest entrants this is a great way to put their struggles into words and to share their story with others. 

Entrants also create a collection of caregiving stories, which are ideally shared and can inspire others in the future. Turning your own experience into something that can hopefully help others in the future is another positive outcome of writing your story (and sharing it). Through the contest, Bayshore wants to "raise awareness for the approximately 8 million Canadian caregivers who are providing on-going care and comfort to a loved one."

Having a caregiving plan can be an important tool to help you organize things long term or to organize days. Both are important tools for those giving care to the elderly. We offer fuller advice on creating a dementia care plan.

Resources in your community

Many community organizations help lessen the burden by providing a variety of programs or services for elderly people. They visit homes so that caregivers have the opportunity to get out, or even just take a nap. For seniors living alone, services include a visit or simply a phone call. Professionals and volunteers also run errands, clean house, prepare meals or provide transportation. 

In Ontario, for example, the provincially-run Community Care Access Centres (CCAC) provides recommendations including the possibility of respite care for caregivers of those with dementia. In other cases, the CCAC may recommend the augmentation of caregiving through the use of home care services that may be provincially funded or (if you are so able) privately paid. Providers below offer professional help for caregivers. 

Home Care Services and Adult Day Programs


Click here to refine this list


Closing The Gap Healthcare

Closing The Gap Healthcare

2810 Matheson Blvd. E, Suite 100, Mississauga, Ontario, L4W 4X7
CTG provides healthcare services across Ontario and Nova Scotia, and is fully accredited with Accreditation Canada. Enriching Lives. Changing Tomorrow. Closing the Gap Healthcare supports you every step of the way.
Bayshore Home Health

Bayshore Home Health

2101 Hadwen Road, Mississauga, Ontario, L4W 1L8
Bayshore Home Health understands that leaving home can be a challenge, and staying home may be the best option for seniors. As your neighbourhood care provider, we provide personalized home care services across Canada.
Spectrum Health Care

Spectrum Health Care

2 Bloor Street East, Suite 2101, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 1A8
Spectrum Health Care offers a range of quality health care services designed to suit the individual needs of each client. Our services include nursing, personal/home support, foot care, physiotherapy, and companionship.

 

Home care services are an important means of getting help for your loved one. These professionally run companies have personal support workers and other nursing staff standing by to help. You can hire home care services at your leisure: most companies have a minimal allowance of 2 hours per house call. Call companies above to find out how they can help you.

Home care companies offer respite for caregivers, but also much more. Other services they provide can be invaluable to families who simply do not have the time, energy or resources to help their elderly loved ones as much as they wish. These services include things like senior companionship, an absolutely invaluable service. Innumerable studies show the value of social interaction in helping improve both physical and mental health. Others include housekeeping, transit to doctors' appointments or shopping (for example), medication administration, or other services.

Incidentally, home care services like these can also be hired into retirement homes, where such care is not covered under the services offered by the retirement community. 

Adult Day Programs

In addition, caregivers can tap into a wide network of adult day centres. Such programs give families peace of mind, says Fran Kleiner, a senior social worker at Baycrest's Community Day Centre for Seniors. "It offers their relative a safe, structured environment where they are receiving stimulation."

The Baycrest program is the largest of its kind in Canada, and its staff are a tremendous resource and support for caregivers, director Joyce Lagunoff says. "They walk them through so many issues," she says.

Because seniors have different cognitive and physical abilities, not all day programs are created equal. Etobicoke Services for Seniors (ESS) in west-end Toronto offers everything from a lunch program, designed as a social outlet for those who are quite independent, to programs that cater to people with different degrees of dementia.

While it's a great relief to have a family member in care a few days a week, sometimes that isn't enough for a caregiver to recharge - they need a chance to take vacations or visit friends.

Short term stays in a retirement home

That's where short-term care comes in. A number of retirement residences or long-term care facilities host elderly people for a few days at a time. ESS, for instance, has a homey two-bedroom apartment, where guests are supervised at all times.

"It gives the caregiver a chance to get away and know their loved one is safe," service coordinator Nancy Cussen says. "A lot of times (caregivers) are at the end of their rope."

This form of respite care goes beyond the respite you will receive from using home care services. This is a viable solution if you take the time to talk to parents about their changing needs and explain to them your feelings. This will be a big deal for many seniors who may not like the direction this seems to be taking. It may take several conversations to get parents to take this step, but it can be eye-opening in an entirely positive way, for many.

Caregiver resources

There are many resources both online and in your city.  We offer an ever-expanding overview of available support for caregivers as well as resources for caregivers, including links to support groups. Find information about these groups, as well as government resources and other websites of interest for family caregivers in Canada in our selection of caregiver resources.  

Because seniors have different cognitive and physical abilities, not all day programs are created equal. Etobicoke Services for Seniors (ESS) in west-end Toronto offers everything from a lunch program, designed as a social outlet for those who are quite independent, to programs that cater to people with different degrees of dementia.

While it's a great relief to have a family member in care a few days a week, sometimes that isn't enough for a caregiver to recharge - they need a chance to take vacations or visit friends.

Short term stays in a retirement home

That's where short-term care comes in. A number of retirement residences or long-term care facilities host elderly people for a few days at a time. ESS, for instance, has a homey two-bedroom apartment, where guests are supervised at all times.

"It gives the caregiver a chance to get away and know their loved one is safe," service coordinator Nancy Cussen says. "A lot of times (caregivers) are at the end of their rope."

Support groups help caregivers cope

To help them cope, organizations such as the Alzheimer Society of Canada or the Canadian Cancer Society run caregiver support groups. Baycrest's Sharing the Caring is an eight-week program that lets caregivers share emotions and discuss issues. Often group members are frustrated and under pressure, but don't want to burden their friends with their problems.

"They say, ‘I need to talk to somebody who understands,’ " says Munro, who co-ordinates the group. "Everybody's situation is unique, but there are similarities."

The program helps participants find assistance, deal with demands, communicate with other family members and, most important, recognize their own needs and limitations." Don't be afraid to ask for help and don't try to do it all yourself," Munro advises. "The more people (your dependent) can count on, the more secure they'll feel."

For Your Information

Sources of help for caregivers compiled by Michelle Warren

Web Resources

At Comfort Life, we offer an overview of senior care options in Ontario. In addition there are many other resources available to you.
www.alzheimer.ca
Local chapters of the Alzheimer Society of Canada offer direct support for those affected by the disease and their caregivers. Phone 1-800-616-8816.
The Caregiver Network Inc.
The Caregiver Network Inc. is a resource centre to help caregivers of the elderly and ill. It is supported by a quarterly newsletter, seminars, a consulting service and other resources.
www.allianz.com
The insurance provider's Web site lists contact information for organizations and government agencies providing assistance for seniors.
www.chpca.net
The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association supplies information on care assistance across the country.
www.ocsa.on.ca The Ontario Community Support Association represents more than 350 community-based and not-for-profit groups that provide health and support services. Phone 1-800-267-6272.
www.redcross.ca
Many Red Cross branches offer home support for seniors. Phone 1-877-260-9673.
www.von.ca
The Victorian Order of Nurses offers a number of services for caregivers and seniors. Phone 613-233-5694.

Publications

Caring for Your Loved Ones from the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care covers a wide range of topics relating to elder care, including memory loss and judgment impairment. In addition to practical tips, it lists a selection of community resources, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area.
The Blue Book lists all community services in Toronto and is indexed under specific category headings ranging from Accessible Transportation to Youth Counselling. To order, call 416-392-4575.
Caring for Loved Ones at Home is a guide to short- and long-term care. To order, call the St. Elizabeth Health Care Foundation at 905-940-9655, or visit www.saintelizabeth.com.

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