Family Caregiver Week raises awareness about ‘unsung heroes’

One of the biggest social phenomenon to hit our nation moves front and centre during Family Caregiver Week in British Columbia from May 7 to 13. This is an opportunity to increase public awareness around the vital role caregivers play in an aging loved one’s life.

One of the biggest social phenomenon to hit our nation moves front and centre during Family Caregiver Week in British Columbia from May 7 to 13.

Unpaid family caregivers are “unsung heroes” in B.C. communities and make up over 25 per cent of our population.

Family Caregiver Week is an opportunity to increase public awareness around the vital role caregivers play in an aging loved one’s life. Canadian statistics on caregiving paint a very clear picture — “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when you will become a caregiver.”

Did You Know…

• 70 per cent are 45 and older and one quarter are at least 65 years old.

• Women aged 45 or older comprise of 51 per cent of all caregivers.

• Each caregiver is providing help to an average of 1.3 seniors.

• 77 per cent of male caregivers aged 45-64 are employed with almost 93 per cent working more than 30 hours per week. Sixty-three per cent of female caregivers are working, with 72 per cent working full-time.

• Caregiving often spans over a period of several years and it is estimated that over 60 per cent of caregivers have been caring for over three years.

• 20 per cent of caregivers report caring for more than 10 years.

• It is estimated that two-thirds of caregivers are spending an average of $300 per month on caregiving

When I ask caregivers what helps them most with their role, many listed three items:

Good information: The more you can find out about your aging loved one’s illness or disease, the better you can care. The more you can find out about what to expect over time, the more informed decisions your family can make for future planning. The more you understand what your role is as a caregiver, the better you can provide the right type of support at the right time.

Good Support: Whether it’s a run with a good friend to vent or a caregiver support session, caregivers who feel supported are able to better carers. Don’t expect others to know what type of support or help you need; it’s up to you to take the initiative and ask for the support you need.

Good Team Players: Your team will include other family members and sibling, neighbours, close friends, community care providers, to name a few. Be clear in advance on what type of care and help is needed and assign everyone tasks best suited to their skills, availability and wiliness.

As part of Family Caregiver Week, a free teleworkshop will be held May 11, available to all family caregivers in B.C. through www.careringvoice.com.

During May, my column will focus on family caregivers balancing work and eldercare — assessing how your work impacts your caregiving, understanding the options and creating a game plan to achieve a better balance.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.