**The names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals depicted in this article**
This week we will be introducing a series called “Caregiver Spotlight” where we will interview caregivers and share their personal experiences coping with aging parents and the healthcare system.
Our first caregiver to be featured is Linda, who lives in Ontario. Linda is a mom of three who is the primary caregiver to her aging mother, who will be turning 89 next month.
Her mother is lucky enough to still be in her home after 59 years. When she immigrated to Canada in the 60s, she settled on a house that she is still able to call home today.
However, as independent as she has been, thanks to her good physical health, in recent years it has become more challenging.
“It becomes more difficult to make decisions as a family – some days she is happy in her home and comfortable. Other days she recognizes that she needs a little more help.”
For Linda, coming to a final decision that is discussed between her siblings and mother has proven to be a challenge. Some days are better than others for her mother, especially since the start of COVID-19.
With community social outings and church services canceled, being alone at home started to make her mother feel isolated and lonely, even in a home that has become such a comfortable place for her.
While children and grandchildren visiting once in a while is great, it is not enough and has become a huge contributor of stress to members of the family.
“It has been very stressful for me. I am constantly worried about her falling, or anything else happening with no one around,” said Linda. “There are not many options other than moving her to a retirement home, or getting her at home care.”
With English not being her mom’s primary language, Linda is also aware of the other barriers to getting her more help. Care givers would have to speak her language in order for her mom to feel comfortable and understand..
While the mother would like to age in place, the adult children have a difficult decision to make. They went to visit numerous retirement communities that were great – they offered activities, spacious rooms, and around the clock care that cannot be matched at home.
However, Linda’s mom was not interested in the services and still wanted to live at home in her neighbourhood that she loves so much.
What should Linda do?
For many people currently in the sandwich generation, it gets difficult to juggle the responsibilities of caring for aging parents while still being a parent to your own children.
It is easy to become overwhelmed, stressed, and start to experience feelings of guilt for not always being able to be there in person.
“It has caused me many sleepless nights if I’m being honest,” said Linda. “As the primary caregiver I am constantly thinking about her health and booking the appropriate appointments. Then trying to plan the appointments to fit my busy schedule to ensure I can take her. It can really take a toll on my own health at times.”
Being a caregiver is a difficult job. It can be rewarding at times but can add a lot of stress to your life as you are constantly filled with guilt for not doing enough, worrying when you can’t be there.
“I started to feel like a taxi that was on a strict schedule of bringing my mom to appointments or the grocery store instead of just getting to relax and enjoy our time doing things we liked to do like cook together or tend to the garden.”
It is important to practice self-care and to recognize the signs of when you need help yourself. Talk to your family, talk to a support group, or hire a professional service for a little extra help when you need it.
For Linda, having professionals help with day-to-day activities gave her the peace of mind to know her mom was in capable hands which helped to ease Linda’s load.
With help, Linda was able to spend more quality time with her mom to really take in the moments that matter, instead of adding stress and worry to her day.
“Asking for help was difficult for me as I felt it was my job or responsibility to handle on my own, but when I did I was able to really enjoy the time I spent with my mom,” said Linda. “And at the end of the day, spending quality time is the most important part as those are the memories I will cherish.”