Caring for the Caregiver
Caregivers Alberta offers much-needed support to those providing care
One of the most important, yet often overlooked, roles is that of the caregiver. In Canada, millions of people act as caregivers for a friend or family member with a long-term health condition, a disability or age-related needs. With Canada’s aging population projected to grow by 68 percent in the next 20 years, the demands on caregivers will also increase.
Caregivers to a person living with dementia spend an average of 26 hours per week providing support. This work is largely unpaid and can be very stressful and physically and emotionally draining. Many caregivers of older adults living with dementia exhibit symptoms of distress, such as anger and depression, and a whopping 50 per cent will die before the person they are caring for.
Ultimately, caregivers also need care. Caregivers Alberta, an organization of caregivers for caregivers, offers much-needed support to those providing care to a friend or family member.
“Caregivers must be cognizant of their own needs,” says Johnna Lowther, provincial program lead for Caregivers Alberta. “Caregivers can get burnt out quite quickly, and we’re here to try to prevent that.”
The non-profit organization provides programs and services such as one-on-one support through its caregiver advisor program, as well as new online programs.
“Caregivers can call, email or chat online with our advisor to get to the bottom of challenges they’re facing,” says Lowther. “We take a step back and ask, ‘What are your needs as a caregiver?’ We listen and connect them to services, and we walk hand in hand with them on their journey.”
Caregivers Alberta acknowledges the work of caregivers and helps them to be part of a community, rather than working in isolation.
“We hear a lot from clients that it helps that they don’t feel so alone,” says Lowther. “It can be hugely validating to hear and see that others are experiencing what you are.”
The organization also endeavours to make people more caregiver-aware.
“People don’t always self-identify or recognize they’re in that caregiving role,” she says. “By raising awareness of what a caregiver looks like and showing how you can support them, we help make sure that we prop up all of our caregivers.”
At least half of the organization’s clients care for people living with dementia or cognitive loss. Lowther and her colleagues have been working to improve access and diversify support for dementia caregivers.
“We look at how they can have a more positive relationship with the person living with dementia so they can be a better caregiver,” explains Lowther. “Understanding the dementia diagnosis and how to communicate with a person living with dementia makes caregiving easier.” [ ]
Learn more at caregiversalberta.ca
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