Mrs. B is 70 years old was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease five years ago. She is on the highest dosage of a “memory pill” and is well supported at home with her spouse. She is very functional and maintains a high level of independence and quality of life. But cracks are starting to show. Three months ago she fell and hit her head hard resulting in blood on her brain and notably, a decline in her memory loss. Her physician felt it would be important to monitor over a few months to see how well she “bounced back”. Mrs. B also presents very well and most times when people meet her, they don’t understand just how affected she is by her memory loss. As she and her spouse went to see her physician today to make some decisions about her medication, a memory test was given. The physician was shocked at how poorly she did. Her spouse wasn’t as shocked. Mrs. B was devastated and was grief-stricken with news of her advancing loss. [Read more…]
By Wendy Johnstone
Caregiving often involves physically demanding tasks. It requires conscientious care for your loved one – and for your own health. Performing tasks in a way that minimizes stress on your body can help prevent injuring yourself and the person for whom you are caring.
Consulting with a specialist such as a rehabilitation specialist or physiotherapist is the best place to find expertise to support you in your caregiving experience and physical tasks. WorkSafeBC provides a comprehensive resource on health and safety information and resources for those who provide care. Visit www.worksafebc.com/en/health-safety/industries/health-care-social-services
One of the best suggestions I’ve heard from a physiotherapist to minimize the risk of injury: have the person you are caring for do as much as possible for themselves. Although it may take longer, it gives the person being cared for more independence and reduces the amount of bending, twisting and lifting being done by you.
Here are a few simple suggestions for proper body mechanics that can help you avoid injuries:
* Sit on a firm chair with a straight back. You should be balanced on your “sit bones.” If your chair does not offer lumbar support, make your own with a rolled-up towel or pillow.
* To ease your back when sitting for a long period of time, make use of a stool or ottoman. You can also perform pelvic tilting exercises to gently mobilize your lower back.
* To avoid slouching when performing crafts or reading, make use of pillows on your lap to bring your work closer to you without straining your arms or neck.
* For prolonged sitting or car rides, be sure to adjust your chair to suit you and take frequent breaks to prevent your back from seizing up.
* Lift with your legs, not with your back.
* When bending down to lift something, face the object you are lifting and bend your legs (i.e., your hips, knees and ankles) while keeping your back straight.
* When turning, rotate your entire body, not just your back.
* If you are unsure if you can lift an object, get someone to help you.
* There are many devices available to help carry or move heavy objects. If you need help using a device, ask someone who has experience to show you how to use it properly.
Pushing a wheelchair:
* Make sure handles are at a good height for you to push without bending forward.
* Keep your back straight.
* Your feet should be shoulder width apart for sturdiness while in the standing position.
* To manoeuvre a wheelchair forward or backward, keep your back straight and use your body weight.
By Janet Mclean
According to a new report from CIBC, the cost of caring for family members and friends comes with a big price tag for unpaid caregivers. Many Canadians juggle the demands of employment along with providing care to family members and friends and it is estimated that this is costing them $33 billion in out-of-pocket expenses, time off work and foregone vacation time, a number that is expected to continue growing.
The report, “Who Cares: The Economics of Caring For Aging Parents”, co-authored by CIBC Deputy Chief Economist Benjamin Tal and Senior Economist Royce Mendes suggests nearly 2 million Canadians (14% of those with parents over the age of 65) spend about $3,300 each per year – an overall cost to the Canadian economy of ~$6 billion. The bigger cost comes in the form of time taken off work. The survey showed close to 30% of workers with senior parents also sacrifice about 450 working hours per year.
The report goes on to predict the costs associated with unpaid caregiving will mushroom by more than 20 percent over the next 10 years based on the changing demographic of Canada. “An aging population combined with longer life spans and strained social services has in recent years seen more and more Canadians taking on the role of caregiver for their aging parents, and in the coming years, that tendency is only likely to intensify,” explains Tal.
This prediction is difficult to refute given the findings of the latest Statistics Canada census. For the first time in the survey’s history there are more Canadians over the age of 65 than under the age of 15 and Centenarians are the fastest growing segment of the population. Consequently, these growing costs will be borne by a shrinking proportion of the population as those of working age (15-64 years) are on the decline, now at 66.5% of the total population, down from 68.5% in 2011. Tal goes on to say “Add in the fact that costs associated with the elderly are already rising faster than the pace of inflation because of the high demand for such goods and services, and you can see that this will be a major concern for a growing number of Canadians in the years to come”.
And all of this is a double whammy for lower income Canadians and female caregivers. The report found that caregivers with lower incomes are more likely to have
parents with less savings so this trend will have a more significant impact on them. And females who continue to constitute the majority of adult caregivers are also at a disadvantage.
A Statistics Canada review conducted in 20121 found that 54% of caregivers in Canada are women. According to Tal, “Women take 30 per cent more time off than men to care for an aging parent”. A recent CIBC poll found that women spend an average of 10 hours a week aiding aging parents compared to less than 8 hours reported by men and a 2015 study by the Institute for Research on Public Policy found Canadian women aged 45+ reported spending ~ 6 years caring for a family member compared to less than 3 years for men. This has a huge implication for women’s finances, especially since women are also more likely to leave the work force to look after a family member. This early retirement shaves years off of savings and forces women to tap into retirement funds earlier.
The bottom line – we all need to be thinking and planning ahead – for our parents and ourselves. In March we had a webinar on Advance Care Planning which is now available as a recording on our website: https://www.familycaregiversbc.ca/events/webinars/. The Nidus website is another source of excellent information for thinking through future needs: http://www.nidus.ca/.
1 Sinha, M. (2012). Portrait of caregivers. Catologue no. 89-652-x—No.001. Statistics Canada. Analytical Paper. Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey.
by WENDY JOHNSTONE
Many of us expect we’ll need to care for a loved one at some point in life. We may think caregiving will take up a few months or years before life resumes as it was before.
This isn’t the norm for most people, however, and it certainly wasn’t the case for Barbra Hopkins.
Barbra’s journey as a family caregiver started when she was a child. As the eldest, Barbra witnessed caregiving as second nature since her grandparents lived in the family home, and her parents fostered over 80 children during the time she was growing up. She also played a supportive role to her mother, who provided 24/7 care to her first husband.
Last year, Barbra chose to take a step back from a successful, high-pressure career and be more actively involved with her now 90-year-old mother. Her mom lives in an independent living residence and, though largely independent, needs help getting to appointments, banking, grocery shopping and interpreting the digital world to allow her to remain in her current living situation and function with dignity.
Barbra’s mom relies on her to attend medical, legal and financial appointments, and take notes so she can review them to ensure her complete understanding.
Long-term caregiving isn’t uncommon. The biggest risk of marathon caring is “hitting a wall.” Being a successful marathon caregiver takes skill and endurance. It’s about knowing the course, running in a pack and keeping your eye on the prize.
For Barbra, knowing the course was understanding how the disease was impacting the person being cared for. As a caregiver, she needed to know the trajectory of the illness and what to expect along the way.
It’s also about skill development. With her dad, it was understanding dementia and how to handle the behavioural changes. Today, with her mom, it’s about being skilled in system navigation and being a supportive advocate.
Most marathoners will tell you that training or running the race alone is much more challenging. The same applies to caregiving. For Barbra, running in a pack is about finding support with friends, rejuvenating herself through activities, learning from other caregivers in similar situations and leaning on community organizations like Family Caregivers of BC.
The prize at the end of the race? Seeing her mom reconnect with her joy and finding purpose once again. After a long grieving period and feelings of loss, her mom’s life is gradually becoming more meaningful, even at 90 years old. She’s focused on her great-grandchildren, reconnecting with old friends and making social connections in her living environment.
By Janet McLean
One of the most common pieces of advice you will receive as a caregiver is – ask for and accept help. It sounds easy but when you are bogged down with multiple demands on your time it feels like one more thing to do – it is easier to just keep doing things yourself. The problem is as the list grows your ability to keep up, sometimes over an extended period of time, becomes unsustainable.
In our March 9, 2017 webinar “Building a Gold Medal Support Network”, Jodie McDonald discussed the importance of reaching out and accepting help. She provided some very helpful tips for how to zero in on your needs and identify tasks others can assist you with in a way that makes it manageable for them and you. You can watch the recording of the webinar and download some helpful planning tools by following this link to our website https://www.familycaregiversbc.ca/events/webinars/.
Often the easiest ways for others to assist boils down to the practical activities of everyday living – shopping for groceries, preparing meals, driving to appointments. But not to be ignored, one of the key benefits of asking for and/or accepting help is it keeps you connected to people who care about you. It is important to pay attention to your intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual needs and find ways to meet those as well.
Below is a sample of online tools that can make asking for and coordinating help easier for you and your support network. They range from full spectrum private communication hubs that also help to coordinate and track assistance with identified tasks to applications designed specifically for certain types of assistance. They all help to make requests specific and time limited with the ability to follow up.
CaringBridge helps you create a free personal website to quickly share updates about your care recipient’s health journey. Share news and updates with everyone at the same time, activate your community and coordinate help, and receive emotional strength and support. https://www.caringbridge.org/
Lotsa Helping Hands features a free Help Calendar where you can post requests for support. Members of your community can quickly find ways to help, and Lotsa will send reminders and help coordinate logistics automatically so nothing falls through the cracks. It also facilitates communication so others can send encouragement and stay in the loop. Share how things are going, update requests, and receive support and feedback. http://lotsahelpinghands.com/
MealTrain is a free interactive online meal calendar with customized calendar dates, times and meal preferences. Invitations can be sent via e-mail and Facebook including reminder e-mails, online journal updates and an optional donation fund add-on. https://www.mealtrain.com/
Tyze Connecting Care is an online tool that brings people together around someone receiving care. If you’re helping to care for someone, Tyze is a simple way to keep everyone informed and get organized.Send updates to everyone at once from anywhere, keep track of everything in one place, access appointments, store documents and let family and friends know how to help. There may be a cost involved depending on options selected. http://tyze.com/caring-for-someone/