Opinion: The importance of self-care for family caregivers

Caring for caregivers

Caring for elderly family members is a responsibility that many of us accept at some point in our lives.

However, sometimes in doing so we often neglect the one person’s needs that matters the most, our own. Whether we’re caring for an elderly spouse, parent, or grandparent, caring for ourselves is key to sustaining our caregiving duties.

Indeed, it’s imperative that we maintain healthy boundaries so that we don’t burn out. Afterall, if we don’t balance out our caregiving tasks with other important activities, be it work and/or leisure pursuits, we may soon find ourselves exhausted and no longer capable of providing care. So, those we care for and ourselves benefit when we engage in self-care.

Caregivers in distress

In B.C., family caregivers are an important part of supporting our seniors aging in place. In fact, caregivers provide about five hours of care for every one-hour provided by the health authority.

However, this comes at a cost as caregiver distress in B.C. continues to rise with over one-third of those providing care reporting feelings of distress, anger, or depression and/or who are unable to continue in their caring activities.

As such, we can’t afford to ignore this troublesome trend as the more family caregivers burnout, the more burden is placed on our healthcare system to keep up with the care demands that seniors living at home require.

With a chronic shortage of healthcare workers already, ensuring that family caregivers are supported is critical in preventing premature moves into long term care facilities for many seniors who need care.

Caregiver support plan for self-care

For us to thrive as caregivers, it's important to have the resources we need to perform our duties in a way that supports our well-being also. The Family Caregivers of B.C. offers one such tool, a caregiver support plan. Putting a plan together helps us identify what we need to support ourselves with our caregiving tasks, and aids in balancing those duties with our own personal needs along our caregiver journey.

Every caregiver’s support plan is different as we all have different self-care needs and these needs evolve over time as our caregiving situation changes, but knowing what they are is important to our well-being.

Respite care is a form of self-care

Regardless of our caregiving experience, we all need a break at some point or another. Indeed, having some type of respite care in place allows us to recharge our batteries and reminds us that our needs are important too. Understanding the significance that self-care plays in family caregivers’ lives and supporting their well-being should be central to future government policy that addresses the ever-increasing home care needs in B.C.

Jeff Goreski has a background in gerontology and health promotion and is the chief customer and product advocate with Gravitii Technologies Inc., a B.C. company that has developed a platform to connect the public with compassionate, professional home care providers.

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