Am I A Caregiver? Ideas To Help You In This Important Role

Being a caregiver is a role that comes with many responsibilities. Here’s how to ensure it’s a rewarding experience.

Am I a caregiver?

AUGUST 14, 2020

Are you driving someone to medical appointments, bringing them groceries and checking in frequently? You’re likely a caregiver. And you’re in good company. One in four Canadians are caregivers, who look after the needs of a friend or family member. Most people look after their parents or parents-in-law, averaging four hours a week in caregiving.

And it can be a challenging role to take on. If you don’t have a health background, you may find taking care of a person’s medical needs quite difficult. Plus, there is the emotional toll, says Jane Vock, Caregiver Program Manager at SE Health. “Providing emotional support can be pretty taxing,” she says. “ That’s what you carry with you all the time.”

“You might be taking on a role similar to that of a personal support worker (PSW), a physiotherapist, or a nurse,” says Vock. And if you’re working, “It can be like having two full-time jobs.”

There’s also the financial impact. Vock says that caregivers spend an average of $7,000 a year of their own money in their roles. “You’re hiring people, picking up and paying dispensing fees for medication, and buying groceries. This all adds up and your personal out-of-pocket costs can be substantial,” she says.

What are the duties and responsibilities of a caregiver?

Caregivers can play minor to major roles in another’s person’s life. Vock shares that their duties usually include some or all of the following:

  • Taking someone to medical appointments/monitoring their health.
  • Looking after a person’s medications/prescription renewals and pick-up.
  • Communicating frequently with doctors about someone’s health.
  • Acting as a patient advocate.
  • Assisting with daily needs, such as dressing/showering/grooming.
  • Buying groceries and preparing meals.
  • Cleaning someone’s home.
  • Doing home maintenance for someone.
  • Managing the financial affairs of someone else.
  • Handling the legal affairs of another person.

Caregiving can move through stages, starting with a few duties and moving to more intense ones as time goes on. To find out what stage of caregiving you’re in, take this quiz from elizz – a division of SE Health that provides resources for caregivers.

Setting up support

Going it alone isn’t a good idea when it comes to caregiving, says Vock. It can lead to severe stress and burnout. It’s why she suggests caregivers get as much support as possible by enlisting the help of others. Getting organized upfront also helps. Here are her four tips to set yourself up for caregiving success.

  1. Create a team. Vock suggests getting a group together that can work together. This may include friends, family members or neighbours who can all play a part in caregiving. “It doesn’t really serve anybody if you burn out,” she says. And it’s a real risk. According to the Canadian Public Health Association, caregivers can experience severe stress as they juggle work and caregiving duties.
  2. Set up a Power of Attorney (POA). “It’s important to get Power of Attorney,” says Vock. “Without it you’ll have trouble accessing the medical and financial information of the person you’re caring for.” She says doctors and other medical professionals cannot share private medical data with you if you don’t have the patient’s consent or a POA. And banks and government agencies won’t allow you to handle financial transactions or make financial decisions on someone else’s behalf.
  3. Build in time for self-care. As a caregiver, you need time for you, says Vock. “Build in respite.” She says all too often, caregivers get little to no respite. They may just have enough time in their day to run to the store to pick up groceries – this isn’t a break, she says. She suggests caregivers build in regular breaks into their days. That will ensure they can get a break from their caregiving situation
  4. Make things easy. Setting up deliveries can also help. Many pharmacies will deliver medications, as will grocery stores. You can set up meal services to get lunches and dinners delivered. And cleaning services can reduce the burden of housekeeping. While these services can get expensive, there are community services that can also perform them at a lower cost.

Remember why you’re a caregiver

Don’t forget to involve the person you’re caring for, Vock says. If the individual isn’t living with a mental illness or dementia, their needs and desires need to be part of your plans. Don’t railroad through your agenda without consulting the person you’re caring for, she says. Doing so may lead to resentment and frustration. Maybe the person doesn’t want a cleaning lady organizing their rooms. Or doesn’t like the food that’s been ordered. “It needs to be done respectfully,” she says. “People value independence and autonomy and if they feel they’re losing that, it can be a difficult adjustment,” she says.

Communicating frequently with everyone involved will help you bridge any issues that come up. “You want to be proactive – not reactive,” says Vock. “It just makes the journey more pleasurable and rewarding.”

Sun Life Canada has developed a virtual health network called LUMINO HEALTH for its health insurance clients. Since the pandemic they have opened it up to all Canadians at no cost. Lumino Health is a platform that connects you with health-care providers, offers content on several health topics and shares innovative health solutions to help you with your health needs. It's free for consumers and available to everyone in Canada.

For More Information you can call Loretta Wieting, Sun Life Canada, in Kingston, Ontario

Phone: 613-876-1183


Women Mean Business Network Community Member

By Anna Sharratt and written in consultation with Jane Vock, Caregiver Program Manager at SE Health.

About the Author

Caregiver Program Manager at SE Health.

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