May is National Caregiver Awareness Month and it is celebrated across Canada to acknowledge the 8 million people providing (unpaid) care to a family member or friend which is about 28% of the population. For employed Canadian’s, 35 % are working caregivers. Studies tell us that on top of a working week (37.5- 50 hours), women are spending on average 13.8 hours per week providing care and men spending 10 hours.
I work with caregiving families every day and let me share some of the angst and worry that I hear from these overwhelmed caregivers.
John: 43, ER physician in busy downtown hospital. His mother has been living with dementia for 5 years and now his 86 year old father was just diagnosed. The dad looked after his wife and now all calls from parents are going to John- who is grieving what is ahead for them and is worried sick about how he is going to cope and how his parents are going to manage.
Mary: 51 year old divorced book keeper who lives with her 84 year old mother with dementia. Mary is angry that while her two brothers live nearby, they don’t offer to help out at all. She feels that everything has landed on her shoulders- which it has. She is not comfortable leaving her mother alone and is finding it more and more difficult during the day and now has to tend to her mother during the evening hours as well.
Stephanie: Widowed engineer in her late 40’s with 2 children at University. Her 81 year old Mom fell and broke her hip and after discharge from the hospital, moved in with Stephanie and her children, which was to be a temporary stay. Now one year later mom is telling Stephanie she is an unfit mother and accusing her two grandsons of stealing from her.
While everyone’ story is unique, the common thread is the caregiver’s feeling of not knowing what to do or how to provide the necessary supports to their parent. Guilt, worry, anxiety and burnout show themselves in the all of these calls.
While my heart goes out to all of them, what they need from me is advice, direction and support and ways to balance the care and not lose sight of themselves.
Every day caregivers need recognition, support, education and ways to easily access affordable RESOURCES in their home communities.
May has 31 days. Let’s all think about how we can support Canadian caregivers…..