November, 2016 is Family Caregiver Month in Canada. Caregivers are the unsung heroes in our society who selflessly take on the many challenges of helping and supporting a loved one who may be declining due to old age or sickness. Often, their important work remains hidden as caregivers don’t often choose to share their own situation, respect the privacy of an aging family member, or simply find it difficult to talk about this personal matter or don’t know who to talk to during these difficult times.
November, 2016 is a time to change this — it is a time to recognize, help, educate, listen to, and advocate for caregivers across our country. With some 28 per cent of Canadians currently working as caregivers, you may well be a caregiver yourself, may become one, or may know one. Don’t know how to help? Even the simplest act can be greatly appreciated — send a caregiver flowers; share the information about Family Caregiver Month, 2016 through social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.); treat a caregiver to coffee and let him/her vent; or offer a few hours of respite care so that a caregiver can enjoy some personal time away.
November, 2016 should not, however, be the only time to recognize Canadian caregivers. With having cared for my own aging parents, I quickly learned that they are constantly “on the job” and often work without pay and/or holidays. Caregiving is hard work — caregivers can be tested physically, mentally, emotionally, and even financially — and they are often stretched to their breaking points. Extend that offer to help (then insist and carry through) throughout the year – it can be very rewarding to assist someone in need and caregivers can – and will – benefit from your actions.
Rick Lauber, Edmonton
Author – Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide
Volunteer Board of Directors Member for Caregivers Alberta