Elder Care

Does caregiving “just happen”?

When it comes to our aging population, we’ve all heard the scare stories about underfunded and overstressed hospitals.  Chronic illnesses. Ballooning healthcare budgets. Unregulated nursing homes.

The issue of unpaid caregivers at home, on the other hand, doesn’t get much attention in the media, which is why a recent Huffington Post article and video on elder care for baby boomers caught my eye and got me thinking again about the question of caregiving for the elderly or sick.

My own parents aren’t currently caregivers to elderly relatives, but growing up, a lot of my friends had grandparents or great-aunts and uncles living with them or nearby, and their parents did whatever was necessary to take care of them. They handled everything, that was all, no questions asked.

For them, caregiving for the elderly was usually thought of as something that “just happened”, and I think that’s one of the unique challenges of it, compared to other kinds of caregiving. A relative either gets sick so suddenly that there’s no time to brace oneself, or else they age so gradually that it takes a long time to realize just how stressful it is, and by then it feels too late to do anything. There’s no set starting period or finish line, which can make it hard to make arrangements or preparations the way you can for other things.

In that light, I’m sharing a few links for caregiving resources and services in Toronto, resources that help with planning, provide benefits, offer emotional support, and reduce the workload for caregivers themselves. (Because there is a growing number of these resources, just as there’s a growing number of caregivers, even if the media’s only just realizing that.)

Links:

Family Service Toronto has a Seniors and Caregivers Support Program, through which they provide “counselling, group work, advocacy, training and educational sessions” on aging, memory loss, anger, guilt, community resources, and more. They have phone-in options for counselling as well.

Compassionate Care benefits are available for caregivers who temporarily have to take time off work. Learn more here.

Here is a list of in-person and online support groups for caregivers in Ontario.

Finally, here’s a list of “8 things you have to discuss with your parents” when the process of caregiving is beginning, from a woman who herself is a caregiver to her mother suffering from dementia.