Did you know that one million Albertans are unpaid family caregivers? These caregivers contribute 647 million hours of care at a value of $12 billion annually.
Who are our caregivers?
They are parents caring for disabled children, they are young adults caring for siblings, they are the sandwich generation caring for their aging parents. They are people supporting friends through debilitating mental illness or addiction. Some caregivers are as young as 15.
Unpaid caregivers don’t often choose this path. It is thrust upon them and they take on the role because they love the person they are caring for. In fact, most are happy – and more than willing – to provide care. However, caregiving takes its toll, many times impacting a caregiver’s physical health, finances, relationships, jobs and mental well-being.
2018 Statistics Canada data tells us that – of the 67 per cent of married/partnered caregivers – 49 per cent modify their lives and career-paths to accommodate their caregiving duties. While 44 per cent of caregivers in Alberta reported an improved relationship with the one receiving care, 52 per cent spent less time with their partners and 54 per cent spent less time socializing or enjoying their own hobbies. Additionally, 35 per cent felt other relationships (partners, friends, children) were strained and 19 per cent felt caregiving led to loneliness and isolation.
Caregivers also require more support than is currently available; 65 per cent need financial support, 35 per cent need help from home care or other health care professionals, and 43 per cent need advice and resources.
Where can caregivers get help?
Caregivers Alberta is a reliable source for advice, resources and a community of support. Programs and services include educational webinars and workshops, support/peer groups, a database of provincial services, one-on-one caregiver coaching, a safe place to share stories of rewards and challenges, and online tools to help caregivers manage stress. Caregivers Alberta is also a strong advocate at all levels of government and with community partners for resources and support.
Why caregivers experience mental health issues?
Without support, caregivers are at a higher rate of burnout, leading to anxiety and depression.
Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that can occur when an individual juggles care for a loved one with the rest of their responsibilities. It can lead to feelings of hopelessness, overwhelm, lack of motivation and decreased satisfaction with life.
When a caregiver becomes burned out, it can negatively impact their ability to provide care for their loved one, keep up with work demands and maintain healthy relationships.
It’s important for caregivers to prioritize self-care and seek support when they need it. This can include taking breaks, reaching out to support-organizations like Caregivers Alberta, reaching out to friends and family for help, and seeking professional counselling or therapy. By taking care of themselves, caregivers can better care for their loved ones and improve their overall well-being.
If you are a caregiver, know that you are not alone. The care you provide for your loved one or friend is making a difference. Recognizing that you, too, need care will help you overcome what can be very significant challenges physically, mentally and financially. It’s okay – and very necessary – to ask for help.