Did you know that more than one million Albertans are unpaid caregivers, taking care of family members, friends or neighbours? They provide nearly 650 million hours of unpaid care each year while saving the provincial health-care system $12 billion annually. The majority of caregivers are between the ages of 30 and 65, however, 20 per cent are under 30 and some are younger than 15. Thirty-nine per cent are caring for someone with a disability. Others are caring for aging parents or spouses, or helping someone through cognitive decline, mental-health issues, addiction or serious illnesses like cancer. All are in danger of burning out.
Caregivers Alberta is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2001 to empower caregivers and provide much-needed resources.
“Caregiving, even when it comes from a place of service and love, can be incredibly difficult,” says Sandy Sereda, executive director of Caregivers Alberta. “Our clients are providing physical, emotional and sometimes even financial support, often to the detriment of their personal needs and health.”
To see the absolute necessity of Caregiver Alberta’s programs and services, one need only look to the people who’ve used them. For example, Chantel, at 17, became “mom” to her siblings after their mother passed away. Later, she would go on to have her own child - born with special needs. “How does one prepare for such a journey?” she asks. She enrolled in a program called “COMPASS for the Caregiver” and found ways to manage the role she was thrust into as a teen, and then again as a mother.
Another example is seen in Jackie, who cares for her husband. He suffers from an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis. Jackie has also cared for her aging parents. Burnt out, she would sit in her car thinking, “What is going on? Why me?” Through Caregivers Alberta, Jackie found both personal support and resources to help with her evolving situation.
Caregivers Alberta partnered with the University of Alberta on research that found: 52 per cent of caregivers find their own relationships with their partners are impacted, 55 per cent are tired and 39 per cent are overwhelmed. Fifty-one per cent miss out on paid work-time and a whopping 66 per cent incur financial expenses (18 per cent of whom report financial hardship due to caregiving).
It is important for caregivers to realize they are not alone, and that help is at hand.
Caregivers Alberta is the only caregiver-focused organization of its kind in Alberta, providing programs and services for caregivers, health-care providers and employers.
Caregivers have access to one-on-one coaching, virtual peer-support meetings and the COMPASS for the Caregiver workshop series. The organization also offers educational workshops for caregivers and professionals, and referrals to external resources and networks. Employers can contact Caregivers Alberta to set up programs and presentations for their teams, get information and resources, or have a program customized for their organizations.
If you, or someone you love, is a caregiver, Caregivers Alberta understands and is there to help.
You do not have feel isolated in your challenges. It is normal for caregivers to experience frustration, grief and even anger. And, it’s important to remember that caregivers need care too.
May is Caregivers Awareness Month. In honour of this, Caregivers Alberta invites you to its first-ever, virtual conference. “Caregivers Together 2022” takes place May 12 to 14, with relevant workshops on managing your care recipient’s finances and legal affairs, finding respite, accessing financial support, and more.
Register at https://hopin.com/events/caregivers-together-2022 by May 4 to be entered into a draw to win a $100 caregiver care package, Andre Picard’s new book Neglected No More, and art from local artists.