Caregivers & Caregiving

Caregivers & Caregiving

When people of any age become ill or get a disability, they may need support from a caregiver for daily tasks and to remain in their homes. A spouse, child, sibling, neighbour, or friend may find that they are now also a caregiver: the person responsible for seeing that another person’s physical, emotional, and social needs are met.

Caregiving can be paid or unpaid, formal or informal, short term or long term. Caregiving can involve many types of roles such as handling medications, helping with personal care, and managing finances. Each caregiving experience is unique. Being a caregiver can be rewarding and offer a sense of purpose. But it can also affect relationships, be overwhelming, frustrating, and exhausting. That is why it is also important for caregivers to care for themselves.

  • Accept help when it is offered:
    Family, friends, and neighbours will often say, “Let me know if you need help.” As a busy caregiver, be sure to take them up on their offers and provide them with some guidance. People want to help but may not know how. It’s important to let them know specifically how they can be of support. For example, it might be cooking a meal each week, cutting the grass or emailing friends to update them about how a loved one is doing.
  • Organize Day-to-Day Schedules:
    There are many responsibilities associated with the caregiver role. Day-to-day tasks can feel overwhelming. If you want help with organization, information and tools can be found on page 20 and in the Appendix of the SeniorsNL Guide for Family and Friend Caregivers. It is helpful to keep lists and information in plain sight on the refrigerator or on a bulletin board to find it easily.
  • Stay Healthy:
    It is easy to neglect your own nutritional and sleeping needs when caring for the needs of another. Staying healthy by eating well can help you to better manage stress and the physical demand of caregiving. Sleep is also important as it allows your body to restore itself. Physical activity, too, keeps your body and mind fit and better able to cope. This site has some healthy tips:
  • Communicate Effectively:
    A caregiver may be able to help the care-receiver maintain a sense of control over their life. Ask questions such as “What do you need?”, “What are you feeling?”, “How can I help?”, “What is your plan?”, or “What is the best way to do this?”. Work together to find information about resources and supports.

Burn out can be described as a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Caregivers often try to do more than they have the time, money, and or energy to manage. While trying to manage caregiving tasks you may find yourself neglecting your own emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

The warning signs of burn out or compassion fatigue can include:

  • Irritability, anger
  • Exhaustion
  • Feeling pulled in many directions
  • Withdrawing from life
  • Change in appetite/weight
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Getting sick more often
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Feeling like you want to hurt yourself or someone else
  • Excessive use of alcohol, medications, or sleeping pills
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Missing appointments

Respite refers to services that may be available to caregivers so they can take a break from their caregiving responsibilities. Identifying your care-receivers’ requirements, abilities, and preferences will help you find the right match.

There are two types of respite care services:

  • In-Home Respite Services can be arranged directly or through a home care agency. Respite can be provided by family, friends or through paid home support staff from a homecare agency. In-home support can range from a few hours of care to overnight care.
  • Out-of-Home Respite Services may be day or overnight programs designed for older adults who can no longer manage independently. Day programs include planned activities to promote well-being. Residential short-term respite care is usually offered by hospitals, personal care homes, and nursing homes.

Financial stressors can arise when taking on the caregiving role. For example, needing to take time off work and/or transportation expenses. There are several financial supports available to assist caregivers:

You may be eligible for financial support. Find out more at these provincial and federal website links:

Grief is the experience of loss, and there are many reasons that caregivers commonly experience grief:

  • The life and relationships you once had may have changed significantly and you can feel the loss of your old life.
  • There may be activities and interactions that gave you pleasure that you can no longer do.
  • You may have a range of physical and emotional feelings when faced with, or waiting for, the loss of a loved one.

Everyone is different. There is no set time for how long grieving will or should last. These caregivers share their experiences:

To help with your grief, you might consider connecting with a counsellor, a social worker, or a church or healthcare pastoral care provider.

Changes in the health of your care-receiver may signal the need for you to help plan their end-of-life care. This may mean understanding a new set of health-care systems such as hospitalization, long-term care, and palliative care. These changes may bring another wave of mixed emotions: grief, pain, sadness and/or possibly relief.

End-of-life care is sometimes called hospice palliative care. It is an approach to caring for individuals who are living with a life-limiting illness, whether they are young or older. It is about achieving comfort and good quality of life while ensuring respect for the person who is nearing death. Palliative care takes care of different aspects of end-of-life care by:

  • managing pain and other symptoms
  • providing individuals with social, psychological, cultural, emotional, spiritual, and practical support
  • supporting caregivers
  • providing support for bereavement

For information about end-of-life supports in your area, contact NL Health Services in your region, your healthcare provider, or call SeniorsNL at 1-800-563-5599.