Support for Caregivers of the Aging
Caring for a senior?
by Michelle Warren (updated 2016, by Jim Huinink)
Numerous studies into the needs of caregivers (including one by the Victorian Order of Nurses in 2015) 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."
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
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."
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
|At Comfort Life, we offer an overview of senior care options in Ontario. In addition there are many other resources available to you.|
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.
The insurance provider's Web site lists contact information for organizations and government agencies providing assistance for seniors.
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.|
Many Red Cross branches offer home support for seniors. Phone 1-877-260-9673.
The Victorian Order of Nurses offers a number of services for caregivers and seniors. Phone 613-233-5694.
|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.|