Living

Caregiving For Caregivers: Advice From Women Who Have Been There

'If you don’t put yourself first, everything collapses.'

Closeup shot of a young woman holding a senior woman's hands in comfort

(Photo: iStock)

Caregiving is isolating, but you’re far from alone: According to Statistics Canada, one in four Canadians over the age of 15 are providing care to a loved one with a chronic health condition, physical or mental disability or concerns related to aging. Read on for advice from women who have been there, as well as five resources that could make it a little easier. (If you haven’t read it already, you’ll also want to check out former MP Lisa Raitt’s incredibly candid memoir of caring for her husband, Bruce, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s.)

Take care of yourself

“If you don’t put yourself first, everything collapses. I’m an early riser, so I either go for a long walk or I hit my little home gym. I have also been trying to meditate. Learning how to breathe properly helps ground you; when I have a difficult situation, I’m able to pull myself back and respond rather than react. I also get respite. I have 20 hours a week of caregiving help, which gets me out of the house. The other day I just took my book and got a coffee and went down to the park to read. It’s such a weight off my shoulders; I’m so grateful for it.”
—Janice; a caregiver to her husband for the past three years

Plan ahead

“After my husband’s diagnosis, I signed him up for a MedicAlert Safely Home bracelet that lets first responders and the public know he has dementia [in case he wanders off]. I also had wallet-size cards printed up, which I hand out to people—like restaurant servers—we encounter in public. The cards explain that the person I’m with has dementia and the special needs that may be required.
— Elaine; a caregiver to her husband for the past four years

Find a support network

“I joined a support group through my local Alzheimer Society, and I met two other women, who became friends. We would go for coffee pre-pandemic, and nowwe connect over Zoom. We’re all at different stages of caregiving, so we talk about what has worked for us and what didn’t. This path you walk alone, but you don’t have to be lonely.”
—Margo; a caregiver to her husband for the past six years

Ask for culturally specific supports

“I requested a Mandarin-speaking personal support worker [PSW], knowing my mom would be more comfortable with someone who could speak the same language. There were none available in our area, but I insisted. The agency found one that was willing to work outside her district, and it made a whole world of difference—my mom’s condition made it difficult for her to talk, so her mother tongue came more easily to her than English. Because language wasn’t a barrier, they were able to bond and became friends. I lost my mom last year, but I still keep in touch with the PSW.”
— Susan*;  a caregiver to her mom for five years

*name has been changed

Five caregiving resources worth checking out

1. The Alzheimer Society of Canada

Local chapters of this Canada-wide charity provide crucial community supports to people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and those who look after them. Caregivers will also find useful resources on the site, including advice on dealing with stress and planning for end-of-life care.

2. Yee Hong’s Caregiver Education and Resource Centre

This non-profit senior-care organization—an offshoot of Yee Hong’s Centre for Geriatric Care—offers culturally appropriate care to Chinese and other Asian seniors in the Greater Toronto Area. It also offers support for caregivers, including a video series that covers everything from dementia-care techniques to breath work.

3. Hilarity for Charity

Founded by actor Seth Rogen and his wife, Lauren Miller Rogen, Hilarity for Charity connects families in the U.S. and Canada facing Alzheimer’s with resources, including virtual support groups and caregiving coaching. It also offers a caregiver-respite grant program.

4. Family Caregivers of British Columbia

This B.C.-based organization offers monthly virtual gatherings for caregivers in the province to share, unload, and be seen and heard by others going through similar challenges.

5. Working Daughter

This community, created by the author of Working Daughter: A Guide to Caring for Your Aging Parents While Making a Living, is geared toward women juggling caregiving and work.

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