Employees who take care of an elderly family member are facing employers who are ill prepared for Canada’s aging population. Here, some ways caregivers can help themselves both at work and at home.
Working and providing care for an elderly person can be draining both physically and mentally. And while the challenges involved in this balancing act aren’t new, the large number of workers taking on this responsibility is.
Mark Maclean, the managing director of a private homecare company called Home Instead says employers aren’t prepared for Canada’s aging population.
“We’re faced with such numbers, that the institutions that would normally address this are swamped,” Maclean says. “So it becomes incumbent upon the caregivers to advocate for themselves.”
Without a framework however, discussing caregiver needs with an employer can be difficult.
Janice Bobbie, who’s taken care of her 97-year-old mother for the past 17 years, often took days off or worked from home so she could accompany her mother to medical appointments.
The unpredictable nature of caregiving however, didn’t always allow for Bobbie to give her employer notice.
1. Initiate the conversation with your employer.
As mentioned before, it’s often up to the employee to initiate an honest conversation about their caregiving needs.
Before that happens however, Mclean suggests that employees explore the internal resources offered by their company. Many organizations have Employee Assistance Programs that offer counselling and even eldercare.
Once you’ve educated yourself on those resources, it’s important that you arm yourself with some possible solutions to your challenges.
2. Know when it’s time to ask for help.
Mclean says that caregivers often wait too long and only seek help at their breaking point.
3. Find respite care.
Sometimes, alleviating your stress as a caregiver is as simple as taking a break.
“It doesn’t have to be hugely expensive [or] huge amounts of time, but somebody to buffer you so you can get out and live your own life a little bit and not become completely defined by the caregiving.”
For those who are the sole provider of care, there are plenty of places that can help you find respite care. Some of the options include:
4. Educate yourself.
Mclean says he often receives crisis calls from clients who are in need of homecare after a major change in their loved one’s health.
Bobbie says adapting to those changes requires education.
5. Talk to someone.
Bobbie says the support offered by her husband was essential, not only for the caregiving itself, but for her own emotional wellbeing.
“When I reached my frustration level and I was getting angry and being short with her, my husband was there to talk me down,” Bobbie says. “I hope that anybody else out there has a shoulder to cry on to get through some of the difficult times.”
6. Enjoy the positives.
Caregiving can be stressful, but it can also be quite rewarding.
For Bobbie, the most enjoyable part about living with her mother is the long talks they have after dinner.
7. When you should consider a long term care facility.
Bobbie and her family decided long ago that her mother would never live in a long term care facility.
That decision however, has been made easier by her mother’s continued health and mobility.
For those providing care to family members with dementia and/or mobility issues, insisting on home care can do more harm than good. Mclean says “it comes down to care and cost.”