Caring for the Caregiver

Smart AgingLast month’s poll: Are you caring for someone with dementia?

You’re not alone. 48% of you said “yes”. Baycrest experts give tips on how to care for the caregiver.

A report released on January 4, 2010 by the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada reveals that in 2008 the number of hours of care provided to people with dementia by unpaid family members was 231 million hours.

Caring for a family member or loved one with dementia or other health condition can be overwhelming but there are some things that you can do to make things easier.

“Caregivers have different needs at different stages,” explains Linda Jackson, social worker at Baycrest. “When a loved one is newly diagnosed, the caregiver usually seeks information and education about the condition. At a later time, community services, help from friends or relatives, emotional support and home services can be important.”

Caregivers often don’t think about the impact on themselves. Jackson advises that throughout the journey caregivers should be asking what they can do to care for themselves.

Helpful Advice

1. Accept help
Speak openly with your friends and family and identify what they can do to help you. Often they want to help but don’t know what you need.

You need a break. Respite provided by a friend for even two hours, or other forms of support, widen the circle of care, so that caregivers feel less isolated and can continue to participate in the mainstream of life.

2. Get the most out of doctor visits
Bring all medicines in a bag, bring written questions to ask about anything troublesome, and ask what’s coming next so that you can prepare for it.

3. Join a support group
Caregivers of people with dementia have similar needs and concerns, thus may benefit from participating in caregiving support groups.

Support groups can provide both concrete information such as where to get help and practical caring advice, as well as the emotional support of being with others who understand what you are going through, says Jackson.

4. Access community services
Do your research to find community services which can help with the care of your relative. Ask your doctor, social worker or check with your local community care access centre.

There are a variety of services and agencies you can tap into which provide meals, transportation, home care, respite and day programs.

5. Take care of yourself
It is important to balance the care of your relative with taking care of yourself. Ensure regular medical appointments; get enough rest; keep physically active; maintain a healthy and balanced diet and don’t forget to take time to participate in activities that you have always enjoyed.

It is not uncommon for caregivers to feel a range of emotions such as loss, sadness and anger. Be aware and speak to family members or your doctor if these feelings become prevalent.

“It can be a difficult journey,” notes Jackson. “But many caregivers talk about the tremendous feeling of gratification of being there for a person that they love.”

Baycrest has many support groups, information and programs for caregivers as well as day programs for people with physical and cognitive issues. To see a list of our Care Programs click here.

Additional Caregiver services/ information can be accessed through:

Most communities across Ontario have support agencies that provide community based services. To locate an agency close to you contact:

To view the report released on January 4, 2010 entitled Rising Tide by the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, click here.

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