Reach out for help

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - COMMUNITY - Ellie Tesher Send re­la­tion­ship ques­tions to [email protected]­tar.ca. Fol­low @el­liead­vice.

Dear Read­ers: One of the most dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ships that read­ers write to me about – be­yond cou­ples’ crises, dis­af­fected chil­dren or in-law wars – is that of be­ing the spouse/lover/or adult child who be­comes a loved one’s care­giver.

Here’s how one care­giver de­scribed her own sit­u­a­tion: Reader’s Com­men­tary

“I’ve been look­ing after my dad full-time for two years. I can do it be­cause I’m not cur­rently work­ing. He can reach the phone and con­tact me so I can go out for a few hours.

“Through gov­ern­ment help, a per­sonal sup­port worker (PSW) stays with my dad for 16 hours each month so I can take that one break.

“But there are still so many chores to do that never end and from which I never get a break.

“Nobody (among fam­ily, friends or neigh­bours) has of­fered to stay with my dad. I haven’t asked them be­cause they haven’t of­fered.

“When my dad was in an In­ten­sive Care Unit (ICU) last year, I was worn down from be­ing there 12 hours a day.

“Peo­ple in hos­pi­tal are looked after, but not for the daily smaller (but still im­por­tant) mat­ters:

“His wa­ter would be put on a ta­ble too far from him to reach it.

“Staff would of­ten ar­rive late with his Parkin­son’s pills though the medication needs to be taken on time.

“They’d put a plate of food in front of him, but no one would en­cour­age him to eat.

“If I hadn’t been there, en­cour­ag­ing and help­ing him to eat, he’d have hardly had any­thing.

“Only then did I ask some long­time friends to help me and stay with my dad for just a few hours in the hos­pi­tal, as I was des­per­ate for some help. I was so tired and stressed out that I needed a break.

“Some got back to me two weeks later. Two came for two or three hours each. I have no sib­lings or rel­a­tives here. My par­ents’ good friends are too old to help, and oth­ers have passed.

“I do a lot of cook­ing for my dad’s health. I do many chores for him, with a lot of pres­sure on me to do them by a cer­tain time.

“There’s a lot of smelly laun­dry, smelly garbage, many dishes to wash. I of­ten have to help him eat. He isn’t very so­cia­ble, doesn’t talk much.

“Care­giv­ing isn’t fun. But when I feel re­sent­ful and don’t talk much to my dad, I feel badly about it.

“But my dad doesn’t try to en­gage with me. The whole sit­u­a­tion isn’t easy or pleas­ant.

“Care­givers are in­vis­i­ble. When­ever peo­ple talk to me, their first ques­tion is, “How is your dad?” I un­der­stand their con­cern, but it makes me feel un­im­por­tant.

“I don’t talk to any­one ev­ery day, only if I go shop­ping. I feel iso­lated. I like to at­tend Meetup groups but they’re at times when I need to give my dad his meals.”

Ellie: For all cur­rent and po­ten­tial care­givers: Re­search your com­mu­nity for ev­ery pos­si­ble ser­vice to help you with care­giv­ing, in­clud­ing how to get ac­cess to respite care, find care­giver sup­port groups (some on­line, oth­ers through phone sup­port or in per­son).

In Canada, see www.ag­ing­par­entscanada.ca for gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance pro­grams and re­search your prov­ince’s pro­grams for ac­cess­ing respite care for care­givers.

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