Because of the baby boom generation, Canada’s median age is about to increase by quite a bit. In fact, by the year 2020, a full 20% of people living in most provinces in Canada will be over the age of 65. While these aging baby boomers will be healthier, more active, and live longer than their parents’ generation, nonetheless they will face the same problems that the elderly have always faced: they will gradually become physically weaker, cognitively weaker, and require long term care from their families or from a long term care facility.
Who are Canada’s Caregivers?
Most long term care for our elders still happens within the family. A recent survey discovered that nearly 2.5 million Canadians older than 45 are primary caregiver for an elderly family member or close friend. Of these caregivers, the majority are women (about 60%), and those most often cared for are parents or parents-in-law.
Caregiving Takes a Toll
Caring for elderly loved ones is not easy. About 53% of Canadians over the age of 65 have a severe to moderate disability. Caring for someone with these sorts of needs, while simultaneously caring for oneself and one’s own family, can lead to a great deal of stress for the caregivers. More than two-thirds of the women who care for an elderly loved one also hold down a job, while nearly 80% of men who are caregivers hold down a job.
Valinda Woods of Oakville, ON, knows what this is like. A teaching assistant in Oakville, Woods has a 90 year old father with Alzheimer’s disease who lives in his own home because he refuses to leave his house of 55 years for a long term care facility. Woods frequently leaves her job for an extended lunch in order to run errands for her father and check on him. While Woods has a very understanding employer, she wonders what would happen if her employing was less sympathetic to her plight, or if she had the sort of job that required her to be in the classroom all day.
Recognizing the Signs of Caregiver Stress
Here are a few of the signs of caregiver stress, as listed by the Alzheimer Society of Canada:
- Withdrawing socially from interacting with friends or participating in hobbies.
- Anxiety and depression.
- Exhaustion coupled with sleeplessness.
- Lack of concentration.
- Weight gain, weight loss, or increased susceptibility to sickness.
If you notice these sorts of symptoms of stress in your own life, reach out to a support group or advocacy group to help you find creative ways to cope.