Who are we? Those of us that give care- and we are plentiful! By definition, a caregiver is a paid or unpaid member of a person’s social network who helps them with five core activities of daily living (ADLs) which include eating, bathing, dressing, toileting and transferring. Unpaid caregivers provide a service worth $5 billion to the Canadian economy.

Being a caregiver can be very stressful, therefore we need to find ways to decrease or minimize this negative result. Self-care involves many different components which all contribute to our overall sense of wellbeing and feelings of wellness. When we begin to neglect our physical, mental or emotional health as a result of feeling time constraints while caregiving, we run the risk of becoming both physically and mentally unwell ourselves. Our relationship with ourselves and our care recipients will suffer without proper self-care.

Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.

First and foremost, take care of your own health. Don’t neglect doctor appointments, dental appointments or any appointment that will help you to function healthfully. There is a reason why when on a plane they instruct you to put on your oxygen mask first before assisting the person next to you.

Accept help from other family members and friends. You don’t have to do this on your own. Have a list readily available of tasks that would be manageable by others to assist with the care of your loved one. Don’t be afraid to ask. Most people feel a great sense of worth and value when included with the essential task of caring for someone.

Seek support from other caregivers, and talk openly about your trials and celebrate your triumphs. Share your story, and don’t let yourself become isolated while dealing with a situation which is probably more stressful than you ever imagined. We are not all trained to be a caregiver and often times this falls to us unexpectedly. Give yourself credit for doing the best job YOU can do.

Find something to make you smile or laugh every day. It might be 15 minutes with a cup of tea for a quiet moment, playing with your pet, closing your eyes and listening to the soothing sounds of Kenny G or rocking your heart out to the Rolling Stones. When your loved one is resting or sleeping take the time to find your life source and engage.

There are many agencies in place to provide assistance to caregivers and care recipients. Some very helpful sites to start with are:

For an up to date directory of more than 2500 health and community services in the Mississauga Halton area: www.healthcareathome.ca/mh

Referrals to the Caregiver Recharge Program: respitereferrals@nucleusonline.ca

For a variety of informative programs and health services www.thehealthline.ca


Twitter handle: @NeelaWhiteRWAM

Neela White is an portfolio manager with 3Macs, a division of Raymond James Ltd. She holds a degree in gerontology from McMaster University and is a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging (CPCA) and an Elder Planning Counsellor (EPC). The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Raymond James. This article is for information only. Raymond James Ltd., member — Canadian Investor Protection Fund.