There are over 8 million unpaid caregivers in Canada.
Are you or do you know of an unpaid caregiver? Did you know that a caregiver goes through predictable stages as they care for someone? When a caregiver first starts out they are in the ‘honeymoon’ or engaging phase. They believe they can look after their patient and easily incorporate all of their other activities around caring for their loved one. Family and friends are relieved to see how well the caregiver is handling everything and make infrequent contact to ask about the patient. After a period of time, the caregiver starts to show signs of stress. They might forget about their own appointments, miss an outing with friends, or put their hobbies away assuming they will return to it later. They might start to miss meals or just grab something quick and unhealthy, not their normal fare. The caregiver will attribute this to being forgetful.
As time moves on, the caregiver will start trying to negotiate. They need some time to themselves, or help with cleaning, shopping, etc. but it’s difficult to ask for help, and since everyone thinks the caregiver is doing everything, friends and family don’t offer. People still call to ask how the patient is doing, but now the caregiver is starting to wonder why no one cares to ask how they are doing. The stress mounts and starts to show in unwelcome ways, like back pain or indigestion.
Caregivers might feel that they are expected to care for their loved one. On top of running a household, the caregiver may be managing medical appointments and, quite often, monitoring the patient for symptoms and questioning everything. Its often that caregivers sacrifice the things that make them who they are, like friends, hobbies and time for themselves, all of which causes personal stress. Unfortunately this stress often bleeds into a person's professional life, forcing many to go on leave, or worse yet, resign.
Patients Canada provides a space for family caregivers to come together, share their experiences and learn ways to advocate for themselves and their loved ones. On January 28th, join us for a seminar on The Stages of Caregiving, led by myself and Sara Shearkhani. Whether you're a caregiver, a patient, a family members or part of the medical community, everyone is welcome!
This guest blog was written by Carole Ann Alloway, Patients Canada member and co-founder of Family Caregivers Voice. Carole Ann is a family caregiver, you can read her story here.