Donor establishes new dementia helpline to support family caregivers

Giving care to the caregivers

Earlier this year, a donor’s dream to set up a call-in dementia helpline at Baycrest became a reality.

The Baycrest Dementia Helpline for Families: A support resource for families caring for a loved one with dementia is a non-crisis telephone service. This two-year pilot project at Baycrest Health Sciences will cater to family caregivers – spouses, siblings, parents and children – and other family members who look after a loved one with dementia. It may also support those who have a loved one with dementia in long-term care.

The helpline is available for family caregivers who may feel isolated, overwhelmed, depressed or burnt out, and wish to receive support. The service provides social work assessments and counselling, and is staffed by social workers and peer volunteers trained in dementia support. Counselling is provided Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with additional peer volunteer support available Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The service is provided free of charge.

Baycrest is looking for volunteers who have had caregiving experience to train for- and staff the helpline. Increasingly, caregivers understand the need to have quick access to an outlet for their frustrations and tension brought on by the challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia.

The helpline also provides a sense of privacy that may be appreciated by caregivers who are less comfortable in a group support setting; while others simply do not have the time to attend group sessions outside the home.

According to the Canadian Medical Association, more than 75 per cent of the care provided to older Canadians is supplied by unpaid, informal caregivers… who will often experience stress and burnout.

A special feature of the program is trained volunteer caregivers helping other caregivers.

If you are or have been a caregiver to a loved one with dementia, and would like to volunteer your time to helping others in a similar situation, please call 416-785-2500 ext. 2250.

To access the Baycrest Dementia Helpline for Families or find out how you can volunteer, call 416-785-2500, ext. 2236.