Are you providing care for an elderly parent or relative? If so, you’re in great company. According to Statistics Canada, approximately one in four Canadians age 15+ provides care to a friend or family member who need support. If you’re at the beginning of your caregiving journey and feeling like you don’t know what to do next, fear not: there’s a lot of collective wisdom out. Here’s some Caregiving 101 information on the fundamentals of caregiving to help get you started.
What is a caregiver?
A caregiver is anyone who provides care for another person. Caregivers may be volunteers or family members who provide occasional or regular help. Paid caregivers can provide part- or full-time assistance with tasks of everyday living and housekeeping, or professionals who provide specialized medical care.
All caregivers have the same overarching goal: to provide the people they care for with the resources they need to live as well as possible and with dignity, even in the face of illness and aging.
What do caregivers do?
The short answer: a lot! Caregivers may:
- Provide emotional and social support to their loved ones.
- Help with transportation to and from appointments and other engagements.
- Provide help around the house, taking on some or most of the tasks of cooking, cleaning, laundry, and general home maintenance, indoors and out.
- Help parents and loved ones manage financial and legal responsibilities, as well as navigate the medical system. They may take on increasing amounts of a parent’s administrative life, to the point where they have power of attorney for financial and medical care.
- Provide physical care or support to an aging parent or loved one, sometimes helping with intimate activities of daily living, from dressing to eating to toileting.
As you embark on your caregiving journey, it’s useful to understand the range of care you might be asked to provide, and the kind of resources you have in place — and those you need — to support you in these tasks. For example, Caregivers Nova Scotia has provided an Introductory Planning Guide for Caregivers to help you understand and identify the tasks of caregiving, as well as the mental, physical and emotional resources you might need as a caregiver.
Preparing to become a caregiver
If you’re like most people, you probably didn’t expect to become a caregiver. You may have grown into your caregiving role slowly over time, as an elderly relative or parent began to require more care. Or caregiving may have been thrust upon you quite suddenly, after an accident or diagnosis. Either way, caregiving sometimes has a steep learning curve. As you create your caregiver roadmap, there are things you can do to make the process easier and more rewarding:
- Learn as much as you can about your family member’s disability or illness and how to care for it. Websites like those run by the Canadian Cancer Society or the Alzheimer Society of Canada are great places to get started.
- Enlist the support of family and friends. Caregiving is a team sport. The CareEasy app lets you create a Circle of Care to share the responsibilities and duties, as well as the costs that go along with the job. Other caregivers are also a great source of support and information.
- Understand that caregiving is a tough job, even when you’re doing it well. Caregiving is challenging, and that challenge is compounded by the fact that aging — and many illnesses — are progressive.
- Make space for your emotions. It’s important to recognize and accept that caregiving may bring up lots of tough feelings. If you’re finding it tough to cope, it’s okay to ask for help — both with practical things from your Circle of Care and for emotional support — from friends, loved ones, a support group or counsellor. You don’t have to do this alone.
- Take care of yourself as well — see below for more information on support for caregivers.
Caring for the caregiver: Resources
While caring for an elderly parent can be immensely rewarding, it can also be physically, emotionally and financially draining. Without proper support, caregivers are at risk for burnout. As you embark on your caregiving journey, it’s important to make sure that you have caregiver support and resources in place to care for yourself as well as for your loved one.
You might want to check out
- Caregiver support groups, both in-person and online, including on social media platforms like Facebook.
- Helplines: For example, the Ontario Caregiver Organization’s Helpline is available 24/7 for questions, information and support.
Costs of caregiving
Caregiving is an investment in your aging parent’s comfort, well-being and dignity. Some aspects of caregiving — like simply spending time with or helping your mom or dad with some household tasks — may not require a lot of money, although they do require time: in fact, it is estimated that the unpaid tasks of caregiving save the Canadian government billions of dollars a year. Some provinces may offer caregiver benefits to help with the cost.
Other costs of caregiving can have a significant financial impact on your parent, you, or your family. It’s good to have a sense of what the costs of caregiving might entail so that you and your family — and anyone else in your parent’s Circle of Care — can begin to plan.
Here are some caregiving costs to consider:
- Renovations may make it possible for your parent to continue to live comfortably at home, especially if they’re in a house or apartment where they can live on one level. Renovation costs can range from minimal (like installing lever doors throughout the house) to more significant (installing a walk-in shower with a seat, widening doorways). Some provinces and the federal government offer tax credits for renovations.
- Transportation: If your parent can no longer drive, how will they get around town? You may need to figure in costs for public transit if that’s an option, cabs, or ride services like Uber.
- Help around the house: Many seniors can thrive at home with a bit of extra help cooking and cleaning, and with assistance with personal tasks like dressing or bathing. You can expect to pay a personal support worker about $20 to $30 per hour for help, and private nursing care can cost in the range of 60-$75 per hour and up. Meals on Wheels can be an affordable option for seniors who are finding it difficult to cook. Live-in caregivers for seniors will, understandably, cost considerably more than part-time help, the range several thousand dollars per month.
- Adult day care or day caregiver programs and centres provide a safe and supervised program that give seniors with social activities, nutrition, personal care and some health services, while giving caregivers a break. Costs will range depending on whether the program is subsidized and where you live.
- Assisted-living centres are an option for older adults who are mostly independent but need some help with basic activities of daily living, or who just want the convenience and freedom of not having to worry about cooking, cleaning, laundry or driving. They also offer built-in community and social opportunities. In Canada, assisted-living centres range widely in cost, from about $1500-$6000 per month depending on where the location is and its amenities.
- Nursing homes or long-term care provide round-the-clock medical and nursing care for adults with significant needs. Costs range from nothing (in Nunavut) to about $3,400 dollars per month in British Columbia and $2,700 in Ontario for a private room.
- Prescriptions and equipment like walkers and wheelchairs.
Everything you need, on one platform
With so many things to consider, starting your caregiving journey can be daunting. That's why we designed CareEasy, so you can ensure that you don't embark on this journey alone. CareEasy brings family caregivers together on one platform, and gives them the resources and assistance they need to look after their aging loved ones. To get started, simply download the free CareEasy app below!