Caring for Elder Caregivers

November has been officially proclaimed in the United States as the month which recognizes the invaluable support family caregivers offer our society and without which, many seniors would not be able to remain at home in older age.

Children, spouses, extended family, friends and neighbours all make it possible for older members of the community to maintain their dignity and well-being later in life.  With an increasingly aging population, the family caregiver is essential for providing elder care to growing numbers of seniors while keeping health care costs from ballooning over the next 20 years.

According to the Statistics Canada 2007 General Social Survey, approximately 2.7 million family and friends provide caregiver assistance to a senior due to long-term health conditions.  Nearly one in four of those caregivers were seniors themselves and many also balanced their own family and employment responsibilities with elder care.  With caregivers providing such essential assistance for seniors, it is important they receive the support they need to continue making their valuable contribution.

Caregiving can be very stressful and isolating, especially when the duties of giving care becomes overwhelming.  It is important for caregivers to find opportunities for respite care and self-care; to make time to do something they enjoy.  The Canadian Mental Health Association has developed a Work/Life Balance Quiz to help Canadians learn what it means to be out of personal balance.   Caregivers can then take steps to learn how to care for their own mental and physical well-being while taking on sometimes multiple roles as employees, spouses, caregivers, parents and volunteers.  To learn more and to take the quiz visit: .

Take a moment this month to think about the caregivers you know and let them know they are appreciated.  Offering to provide respite care, preparing a meal, helping to decorate or treating them to a movie can be the break a caregiver needs to continue their brave and valuable work.