Support and help for family caregivers
Are you a caregiver?
Caregiving is about helping someone who has some care needs because of a physical or mental health condition. Many people who provide unpaid/family care don’t relate to the concept of ‘caregiver’ and ‘caregiving’, and instead define themselves as ‘simply’ a partner, a daughter, son, friend, etc. ‘just’ helping out’ or ‘caring for’ someone. When this care is provided out of love or loyalty, there is often a further thought it is not ok to get help from a caregiver coach and/or draw on resources and services to make it easier or less stressful. BUT, love, loyalty, and getting outside help can all happily co-exist!
What does help look like?
We may be helping a partner/spouse, an aging parent, a child with special needs, a relative, a friend, or a neighbor. Help is sometimes straightforward tasks like driving someone to medical appointments or picking up and dropping off groceries or medication, which may take an hour or so a week. Or the help is more intensive, like helping with everyday living tasks such as bathing, dressing and eating. It almost always includes providing emotional support. The amount of help provided can vary but is often equivalent to a part-time and even full-time job on top of your other responsibilities, like work and your own family.
Caregiving is natural but…
Helping someone can feel like the most natural thing in the world. If your partner or spouse has an injury, illness or disease, of course you do your part in caring for them. If aging parents need help with different tasks, many of the adult children just ‘naturally’ step up and help with these tasks.
In turn, then, it can feel ‘unnatural’, or even disloyal or unloving to drawn on services to help with your caregiving. You might feel that you should do it on your own, and certainly shouldn’t talk about how hard or challenge it can be. The reality, however, is that societal changes have changed the landscape of caregiving, of caring for someone.
The changed and changing societal context for caregiving
- The life expectancy has risen. Fifty years ago (1970), the life expectancy was 69 for men and 74 for females. In 2020, it had risen to 80 for men and 84 for women.
- People are also living and managing complex health conditions. As a result, the expectations of unpaid caregivers are greater and growing. Most health care is actually provided by families, not by healthcare professionals.
- Families are smaller and there are fewer family members available to share caregiving tasks.
- Families are more geographically distributed, and often don’t live in the same town or city or region. There is often one primary caregiver.
- Both men and women likely to be in paid employment.
All of the above factors play a role in making caregiving more difficult, more challenging than it may have been for previous generations. In addition, the world of healthcare and the healthcare systems have become increasingly complex and difficult to navigate. The following scenarios are examples of when other caregivers have reached out to a caregiver coach for some help on their caregiver journey.
When it may be time to reach out for help
- There is a diagnosis of a serious illness or disease, like heart disease, cancer, stroke, kidney disease, dementia. You want to plan for what lies ahead but don’t know where to start.
- Your parent(s)are in physical decline and you believe they need more help to manage BUT they refuse to accept help. You don’t know what to do.
- Your mom or dad is exhausted from caring for their partner/spouse and you want to know what is available to lighten his or her load.
- There is a diagnosis of dementia. You don’t know what to expect or how to respond to certain behaviours.
- You are feeling overwhelmed trying to juggle the care you are providing with the rest of your life. You want to know how to better manage all that is on your plate.
- You are stuck in negative emotions, like guilt or resentment or anger. You want to get “unstuck”.
- It is a time of transition, from needing home care, to downsizing, to a move to a retirement home or long-term care home. You want to understand all the options and attendant costs. And you want to know how to have the conversation about this transition.
- There is conflict and tension between siblings regarding the care needs of aging parent/s. You could use some strategies on how to resolve this tension.
- You can’t stop worrying about the person you are caring for. You want to know how you can reduce this worrying.
- You want to understand all the financial support and funding that is available for you and for the person you are caring for.
- You need more support and outside help with caregiving so that you can focus on your paid work.
- You want your parent/s to be able to live safely and independently as possible, at home. You need help to set this up.
- You struggle with finding balance when supporting someone with mental health struggles.
- The person you are caring for is no longer able to make their own decisions, about personal care and/or finances. What do you do?
- There is a palliative diagnosis and you want to know more about end-of -life care.
- You are a planner. You want to be sure you are doing everything possible now and plan for future care needs.
Reap the benefits of caregiving, not the stress
Caring for someone is usually a rewarding experience, with a variety of benefits:
- personal growth
- increased meaning and purpose to life
- closer family relationships
- skill development
Realizing these benefits sometimes requires a cheerleader, a navigator, someone who knows the health care system, someone in your court who listens to and understands your experience and needs, and who can help you develop a concrete plan of action.
Reaching out to a caregiver coach
The most often repeated comments from people who have reached out to a caregiver coach are: “I wish I had known about this sooner”; “I had no idea what support was out there for me and my family”; “It feels so good to talk to someone about this”; “I feel so much better, so much lighter now”. There is no value or need to go it alone!
With Maple, you can easily talk to a professionally trained Elizz Caregiver coach online. You’ll be provided with one-on-one coaching to support your specific needs and unique situation, all through your phone, tablet, or computer. With a clear action plan in place, you can move forward in your caregiver journey with confidence.
Have you reached out for help with your caregiving? We would love to hear from you.