Caring for the Caregiver – Are you at risk of Caregiver Distress?

With a loved one acting as an informal caregiver, older adults with long-term care needs who wish to remain in their homes can often do so, allowing them to maintain their independence for as long as possible. This is usually a win-win situation for everyone involved: the senior can stay in their home and their loved one has the opportunity to care for their family member. If you’re providing in-home care to a loved one then you know how fulfilling, rewarding but sometimes challenging that role can be. Meal preparation, housework, medication, shopping, transportation, personal hygiene and regular day-to-day activities may sometimes feel like a full-time job, but to you, it’s also a labour of love.

Everyone’s situation is different however, and circumstances may change over time. If you are a caregiver, it’s important to recognize that if your situation meets particular criteria, you may actually be at a higher risk of Caregiver Distress. Simply put, Caregiver Distress is burnout. In other words, the physical, psychological, social and sometimes financial demands of caregiving take their toll on the caregiver. Down the road, some of these factors place the caregiver in a position where they are unable to continue caring for their loved one due to the decline of their own health. In some cases, they even begin suffering from anger and depression, through no fault of their own or of their loved one. Clearly, this is a situation that no one wants to see happen.

Ask yourself this:

  • Does your loved one suffer from: Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression, or cognitive disorders?
  • Are you devoting more than 21 or more hours per week to their care?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, then Caregiver Distress is something that you need to know more about – and know that the best offence is a good defence.

The good news is that there is help. Recognize your risk factor in advance and take steps to ensure Caregiver Distress does not become an issue in your situation. The first step is answering the questions above and identifying your personal situation. If it does fall into any of the higher risk categories, recognize that you have an affordable support system in Comcare. Whether you require additional resources to assist with light housekeeping, laundry, and personal care for your loved one such as bathing or respite care so that you may take a much needed break, there is help. One of the most important things informal caregivers can do for their loved ones is to take care of themselves.

Caregiver Distress is a very normal part of care giving and is nothing to feel guilty or inadequate about. Nearly one in six caregivers experiences distress and the rate is even higher among those caring for clients and loved ones in higher risk groups. Take comfort in knowing that you can contact organizations like Comcare anytime and one of our health care professionals will be there to talk about your own personal situation. They provide a free in-home assessment to determine your exact support needs and discuss a variety of ways they can support you and your loved one, such as:

  • Home Support: A Comcare Home Support Worker (HSW) can provide services such as grocery shopping, meal preparation and housework to those recovering from surgery.
  • Personal Support: Comcare Personal Support Worker (PSW) help loved ones with their day-to-day personal activities such as bathing and dressing.
  • Caregiver Relief: From our “Looking In” Program™, to overnight stays, you can count on Comcare to provide the same level of care and supervision to your loved one as you would yourself, ensuring you get the rest and peace of mind that you need.

It is also important to know that even if your circumstance may not necessarily fall into a higher risk category, you may still be at risk of Caregiver Distress. A recent report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows that caregivers in these higher risk groups report considerably higher rates of distress related to their roles, in some cases higher than 50 per cent.

Remember, if you, or a caregiver, are at risk, it is important to get the support you need as soon as possible to help prevent Caregiver Distress. For more information on higher risk groups among informal caregivers, visit our website or speak with a Comcare representative in your area.

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