By Samantha Norberg, MSW, RSW
(Calgary) – “It’s just something I do.” Many people do not realize or identify they are in a caregiving role – sometimes it is because it is part of their culture or family dynamic, or it has slowly come into their lives.
If you have not already been there, chances are that caregiving for a senior will be a part of your life at some point. Caregiving roles can be rewarding but can also be isolating and emotionally and financially stressful. Supports are available for individuals caring for seniors –resource navigation, emotional support, education and respite opportunities. It is important for caregivers to be able to identify their roles and to know that they are not alone in their journey.
Caregivers for seniors are spouses, partners, parents, children, family or friends who perform responsibilities outside of their relational role, including assistance with daily tasks like medication administration, meal preparation, and appointment management. They can also be providing emotional support, behavioural intervention and advocacy. Care can be provided in-person or at a distance, some caregivers do not even reside in the same city as the person they care for, but they are the first call in challenging moments.
Feeling that no one could understand, or not wanting to burden others with your struggles are normal reactions to the caregiver experience. However, caregiving is not meant to be done alone. Though more and more people are entering caregiving roles, caregiving is often referred to as an invisible role. Many do not realize or identify they are caregiving for their senior – it is just something they do as family and friends. It is a role that we do not prepare for, nor receive recognition for. Becoming a caregiver also means that someone is unwell and marks the beginning of a new reality. New responsibilities combined with old responsibilities (that do not go away with caregiving) can create isolation.
Understanding your caregiver identity can positively influence your experiences and the care you can provide to your loved one. In doing so you can explore supports specifically created for you, whether that be through accessing counselling, resource support, or connecting with other caregivers navigating a similar journey. The opportunity to nurture both your relational role and caregiver role becomes available. You may be a caregiver of a senior, but you are always someone else.
JFSC is offering “It’s Just Something I Do. Am I a Caregiver?” Navigating the Caregiver Label, a free virtual workshop on Tuesday, March 15th, 10:00 –11:30 am. This workshop will explore identifying who is a caregiver, the impacts of caregiving, and provide coping tools and access to supports. To register contact email@example.com or call 403-692-6392.
JFSC’s Caregiver Support Program provides free social work services for caregivers of seniors (55+) in Calgary. Caregivers can access individual counselling, group sessions, education, and resources in the areas of aging and memory, dementia (such as Alzheimer’s Disease), chronic illness, coping and self-care strategies, grief and loss, and resiliency. To learn more, go to our website at www.jfsc.org, contact Samantha at 403-692-6392 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Outside of Calgary? Explore local caregiver support services through 2-1-1.
Samantha Norberg, MSW, RSW is with the JFSC Caregiver Support Program and Memory Care Program.