Top 10 Ways For Less Stress of Holiday Shopping

A guest post written by Elizabeth Miller of

As family caregivers, we are already overwhelmed by all we have to do. Time and energy is something we would all probably put on our holiday wish lists (along with a personal chef!). We definitely WANT to enjoy the upcoming holidays but it can often feel like the holidays just bring even more for us to do.

We want the holidays to be for our families the way it was for us growing up. I have fond family memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. I want to pass on these traditions and create happy memories for my family. That creates a lot of added pressure!

An Alternative to Shop to You Drop

One of the first activities most of us start to do around now is to start shopping for those we love. Holiday shopping can be super stressful, if we allow for it to be that way. But, holiday shopping can be made simpler and it can even be fun!

Over the years, I’ve tried to simplify the hustle and bustle of the holidays and get back to what is meaningful and memorable. Below are ten suggestions for how you can minimize the stress of holiday shopping:

  1. When my children were young, I’d ask them to write their letters to Santa around Thanksgiving. I let them know they could ask for three things in their letters (and live animals weren’t allowed because Santa couldn’t travel with them!). I equated the ‘3 things’ with the fact that Jesus received three gifts from each of the wise man. We put the letter in the mail and once it was in route to Santa, it couldn’t be changed. One year Jacob wrote the letter and sealed it so I couldn’t see it, he said it was a test to ensure ‘we’ weren’t Santa. Luckily he has an older sister who was my sweet elf with the big ears that year.


  1. Once you know what ‘THE’ gifts are – buy them ASAP! As a family caregiver, I think we are all required to have an Amazon Prime account. Order the must haves and have them shipped to your door. Consider paying the few extra dollars to have these items gift-wrapped.


  1. Talk with your siblings about how you want to handle gifts for each other’s family. I have siblings with kids and without kids. We all want to minimize stress over the holidays and keep more money in our wallets so…we just talked openly about it several years back. We agreed that unless you are physically with a family member, you don’t need to buy a gift. We honor this for birthdays as well. For my husband’s family, we usually buy one family gift like a cookie tower, popcorn tin, family game, or DVD. These group gifts go right from the online store to the recipient wrapped and ready to be received.


  1. Exchange names! When my entire family lived in Atlanta and we all weren’t children anymore, we opted to exchange names to help minimize the work for mom. Some of the most fun years are when we exchanged names and stuffed a stocking for that person with a $100 budget. This made Christmas morning more fun for my mom too since she didn’t know what everything was that was being unwrapped. Now that my kids are teenagers, we exchange names among ourselves. My kids really enjoy being a part of the process (with our cash in their pockets to purchase of course).


  1. Start shopping now and designate a gift wrapping station in your home so you can wrap as you shop.


  1. Have a white elephant gift exchange with your friends, co-workers, or family. You can either wrap up something ‘gently used’ or set a budget for a new gift. We’ve had white elephant parties with my family (especially when there are lots of people traveling in town) where we all bought one $50 – $100 unisex gift. I’ve done low budget exchanges at work where you wrap up something you already own. You can do this type of swap with your book club and exchange books. We even had a pre-teen holiday party one year where the kids exchanged DVDs. At the party, count the total gifts, number the slips of paper (i.e. so you have one for each gift), and ask everyone who brought a gift to draw a number. Whoever drew #1 goes first and picks a present to unwrap. Then, #2 goes and can either steal #1’s unwrapped gift or pick a new one to unwrap. Usually a gift can only be stolen 3 times and can’t be stolen back by the person who just lost it. Some white elephant exchanges play that #1 gets to go again at the very end. Just decide the rules up front before you play.


  1. Maybe this year you do a local family activity or take a trip instead of using the holiday budget on traditional holiday gifts. I’ve written a few previous posts about this hereand here.


  1. Minimize and simplify the circle of people for whom you buy gifts. Teacher gifts can be gift cards. Neighbor and work gifts are optional. Remember, you are in a season of your life where you probably have more responsibilities than any one person should have – something has to give.


  1. If someone asks you to participate in a group gift, the answer is always ‘Yes, that would be great!’


  1. Give back to your community in place of gift buying. Volunteer as a family or group at a soup kitchen, adopt a family, collect items for a local shelter or visit those who may be alone at an assisted living community. Doing something for others will make you feel less stressed and more thankful for everything you have.

Take Action

Which suggestions are you going to try this year? If you have a holiday shopping tip that is missing, please add it to the comments below. I hope that your holiday season is filled with special moments for you and your family, that you find your inner voice allowing you to ask for help from those around you, and that you take just a few minutes in each of the busy days ahead to take care of your own mental and physical health because you are certainly worth it.

Top 5 Tips for Getting Through a Difficult Caregiving Day

Family caregiving is not for the faint of heart. On a good day it can involve injections, meal preparation, feeding, and dressing. On a bad day it can mean trips to the emergency room, not having home care show up, serious reactions to medication and anger and frustration thrown your way from your loved one.

It’s a lot to handle. And you do it anyway.

What do you do when it gets too much, when you feel like you just can’t take it anymore?

It’s not if, it’s when, you are going to feel that way. When it happens, you might want to grab your shoes and coat and run away. I did that once. Well, I didn’t run away. I did go for a drive. I couldn’t stay in that room one second more with my husband yelling at me about my poor attitude. I was doing my best, I really was. I’d hit my tipping point when I had a run-in with my boss, had been working late putting together a funding proposal, trying to keep up with all the medical appointments and treatment schedules, and cope with the worry and fear about my husband dying. It got to me, it really got to me. And then he had the nerve to say I had a bad attitude.

I had to get out of there before I said or did something I would really regret. So I drove to the Toys R Us and bought a playpen for soon-to-be-born grandchild. I cried all the way there, and all the way home. There had to be better ways to cope than running away.

Since then I’ve learned a lot in my own personal development, and even more from the caregivers I’ve helped. Here are what I consider the Top 5 Tips for Getting Through a Difficult Day.


Many caregivers have found it both helpful and cathartic to write. Some write about how they are feeling so they can get it out of their system. Some will write whatever comes to mind, or even write a fiction story. There are many caregiver blogs – it is healing.


I rave about the healing nature of music and believe it’s the answer to just about problem. When you are really frantic and worried, listening to some calming, spa-like music will help. If you are angry and frustrating some loud rock might get you rid of the energy building up. There’s nothing like a sad country song to help you cry. Tears heal. Don’t be afraid of them.

 Talking it Out

That saying “phone a friend” rings true here. Sometimes you need that shoulder to cry on – or at least vent. You will want to have someone with a good listening ear to help you through some of these difficult days. It helps you release a lot of pent up energy, and they might offer some comforting words. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Pound the pillow

There is nothing like having a good, safe, scream and pounding session. First make sure you aren’t going to alarm anyone with the noice they may here. Find your safe place, grab a pillow, and pound and yell as much as you can, for as long as you can. A lot of times it’s the energy raging through our body that keeps us in such a stressed state. There is a lot of emotion released in one of these sessions. You will likely feel both physically and emotionally exhausted. That is fine. You will also find your mind to be clearer and you will be able to continue with what needs to be done. Be sure to get some rest and drink lots of water.


I’ve saved the best for last. I believe moving into a state of gratitude is the quickest and most effective way to deal with a difficult day. Don’t confuse this with patronizing or magical “positive thinking..” I’m talking about true, heartfelt gratitude. Take a moment to pretend “breathe” in and out of your heart, and draw to your mind something that your are really grateful for. Something, or someone, that makes your heart sing. For me, it’s my two grandsons. When you have that feeling in your heart, write down 3 – 5 that you are grateful for. That should help you feel more calm and grounded.

I hope you don’t experience many of those really difficult days. When you do, try one or more of these tips.

These don’t work for you? Leave a comment and let me know what you do when you feel like running away from it all. I appreciate learning more tips to share with the caregivers I help.

There is always something to learn about family caregiving and how we can get through this journey with peace, grace and knowing we’ve done out best.

There is a wonderful event that is coming to you – wherever you are when you are onine. It’s Today’s Caregiver, a Virtual Summit and it starts November 14th. There are 14 speakers covering many key things you want to know. You can even watch this in your pyjamas! Yay!

Don’t miss this great opportunity to discover new things and get free gifts.

Sign up here: Today’s Caregiver – A Virtual Summit

Caregiving Hacks for Taking “Me” Time

Nearly every person I talk to who is involved with the day to day caring and support of a loved one dealing with a life changing medical diagnosis says the one thing they dread hearing is “Make sure you take a break!”

I was at our local “The Kitchen is Open” coffee and chat group for family caregivers and was deeply inspired by the group. One thing I noticed was that each of the members was doing quite well and I realized it was because they took some time to care for themselves and came out to the group.

This group is pretty informal, with a short presentation followed by time to sit, enjoy some coffee or tea, and have a chat. This particular time we started off with Laughter Yoga. That’s a whole other topic for another blog post.

When you’re pulled in a dozen directions, exactly how do you take a break?

Below are some everyday hacks you can try.

When you can get out of the house:

  • Take a walk around the block,
  • Go for a drive
  • Visit a friend
  • Find the quiet corner in your favourite coffee shop.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Check out a park or get active and walk or cycle on a trail.

When it’s a little more challenging to leave the house:

  • Don’t underestimate the power of a small break in another room.
  • Creating your own space where you can be alone can give you many moments of peace.
  • Try a spare room, the family room, or even the bathtub.

Once you have found your own peaceful place there are a few different things you do:

  • There are many benefits to taking a few minutes to sit still, closing your eyes and being quiet.
  • Focus on your breath if it’s hard to sit still.
  • Meditation is highly recommended.
  • You can also catch a catnap.
  • Read
  • Listen to music
  • Do cross words
  • Talk with a friend
  • Paint, or draw.

When you are caregiving 24/7 and never far away from your loved one, here are some hacks for getting a break without leaving the room:

  • You can use an mp3 player and headphones to listen to your favourite calming music
  • Listen to a progressive muscle relaxation audio to release some of your muscle tension and stress.
  • Read or listen to audio books
  • Knit
  • Write
  • Do crossword or Soduko puzzles.

Choose something that brings you peace, joy and a sense of rest or rejuvenation.

Resist the temptation to do household chores, get on the computer or write your grocery list.

This is sacred time for your own well-being.

Fill your cup first.

Speaking of filling your cup first, please grab your coffee or tea and join me and 14 other Professional Caregiving Consultants and Coaches for the Intentional Caregiver Virtual Summit, November 14 – 19th, 2016.

We will be having conversations on everything caregiving, from what to know before you bring someone home from the hospital, how to be a happy and healthy caregivers, caring for a loved one with dementia, unique hacks, tips and strategies for you to be comfortable with who you are, and why pre-planning helps you and the one you are caring for.  This is where you can find more information. 

I’m sure I’ve missed a thing or two on those lists above – what is your favourite “time for me” thing to do?

I’m taking my own advice and taking time for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve done this so I’m unplugging for a few days and taking some time to relax, rejuvenate and get re-energized.

Whether it’s a minute, an hour, a day or a week – take some time for you.


A few minutes to yourself can help you be ready for the hours of caregiving ahead

This Formula Can Save You a Lot of Caregiving Grief

Caregiving can be one of the most rewarding things you can do.  It can also drive you crazy!

You might feel like there’s so much coming at you that your life is spinning out of control.

I shot a quick video to share with you a formula I learned that can help.  It is a formula used by the most successful people in the world – and I believe caregivers are some of the most successful people in the world!

Watch the video to see how you can grab some control back in your life.


Leave a comment below and let me know what you think, and what step will you take to get back your focus of control?



PS – be sure to grab your copy of 10 Tips for Peace- Click here

They Didn’t Tell You Caregiving Would Suck

There is no doubt you will have stress when learning all about caring and supporting an ill or ailing loved one. will have some stress. If you are like many caregivers, this change in your family happened unexpectedly, or at the very least, sooner than expected. And sometimes it sucks.

Or does it?

Beware of getting caught in “all or nothing” kind of thinking.

Caregiving is a drastic change to your lifestyle. Life as you knew it has changed. When it seems you have to give up your dreams and the future is uncertain, it makes sense that the situation is less than desirable, or even fathomable.

It doesn’t mean everything is bad. Unless, of course, you choose to believe it is.

I am a firm believer that you are what you think about. If you think your life sucks, then it will. And it will for as long you hold onto the belief.

Is it easy to tell yourself life isn’t so bad when you are surrounded by piles of dirty laundry, your hair hasn’t been washed in 3 days, and the last balanced meal you had was ½ a cold cheeseburger with tomato and lettuce on it? (Really, it covers 4 major food groups!)

No, it isn’t. Every day there is more and more research from neuroscientists on how what we say to ourselves impacts the experiences we have throughout the day.   I’ve also seen this in my life, and the people in my workshops and coaching practice have told me how their life changed, in only a few days of changing their thoughts.

How can you change your thoughts?

Here are 3 ways you can start to change your thoughts – and your life:

  •  Start paying attention to what you are thinking about. This takes a bit of time to practice and notice. Try stopping once or twice and day and say “what am I thinking about?” Soon you will notice your thoughts on a more regular basis.
  • If you notice a negative thought, you now have the opportunity to replace it with a better feeling thought. Think about a time that you were happy, or think of something coming up in the future that you are looking forward to. It can be as simple as looking forward to putting your head on a comfy pillow at night. Whatever brings a smile to your face – and your heart.
  • Practice affirmations. These are short sentences that help you learn to give yourself positive messages, which leads to changing your thoughts.

There are some guidelines for affirmations:

  1. They should be stated in the positive.
  2. To begin with, choose ones that start with “I am”
  3. Include a feeling word.

Example: I am enjoying boundless energy.

I am happily living in perfect health.

I am excited to be working at a job I love.

It doesn’t matter if you believe the statement or not at the start. The point is to just start saying them, out loud, to yourself. In just a few days you will notice that you are feeling different. In 30 – 40 days you will notice a big difference in how you feel and what you think of yourself and your life.

Does caregiving suck? It depends on what you think, and what you tell yourself.  Here are a couple of other thoughts to affirm to yourself:

I am confident in dealing with whatever comes my way.

I am a loving and caring caregiver.

I am deserving and enjoying own own peace and happiness,

You choose. You are thinking anyway. You may as well think a positive thought!

There is a lot of information on the power of your thoughts and affirmations. You can find it in books, on the internet, and this is a basis of the services I use to help caregivers.

Start with step 1 – pay attention to what you are thinking. That’s all you need to do right now. You’ve got this!



The Fickle Phases of Family Caregiving

Let’s play Caregiver’s Clues. If you are family caregiver, take a look at these phases and see which one you are in right now. If you aren’t a family caregiver, and know one or more who are caring for a loved one, see if you can figure out which phase they are in. Identifying these phases has been helpful for me to adjust my workshop, coaching and upcoming online program materials so that I can be more effective in supporting you through your caregiving time.

Not every caregiver will go through each phase. Family caregiving is full of unexpected twists and turns, both positive and negative. It is normal for a family to jump from phase one to three or four in a short amount of time. It is also normal for a family to stay in phase one for an extended period of time. The important thing is to know where you are in relationship to how your life is going as you care for a loved one with a life changing medical diagnosis.

Phase 1 – New to Caregiving

In this phase, you are brand new to caring and supporting a loved one. Or you are a past caregiver and now have a different loved one recently diagnosed with a life changing medical condition. Some things you might notice are:

  1. You have an unquenchable thirst to learn everything about the life changing diagnosis.
  2. At times you feel absolutely paralyzed with fear and worry.
  3. You wonder how you/your family will be able to handle this.
  4. You have thoughts about your own mortality.
  5. As you get your answers from the medical professionals and a treatment plan is place, you start to feel some relief and may feel hopeful that life will be somewhat “normal” again.
  6. You love your family member and are proud and willing to do whatever it takes to care for them.
  7. Eventually you and your family have adjusted to this “new normal” and this new part of your life becomes one of routine.

Phase 2 – The Bump in the Road

In the phase you are faced with dealing with your loved one experiencing additional medical crises, worsening health conditions or one or more new health conditions. You may experience some of the fear, worry and paralyzing thoughts previously experienced in Phase One. You may also experience:

  1. Ongoing disruption in your regular routine at home, work, with extended family and in your community relationships.
  2. You are starting to turn down social invitations and limit visits with family and friends.
  3. You start to feel more weary, occasionally overwhelmed, and don’t seem to get as much accomplished as you used to.
  4. As things settle down, you have an unmistakable feeling of “waiting for  the other shoe to drop.”
  5. You tell yourself, and everyone else, that you are managing, and don’t need any help.
  6. You jump between fearing the worst, and wondering how long the “better times” will last.
  7. Eventually you and your family make adjustments to this “new normal” and this new part of your life becomes one of routine, though there seems to be no real routine anymore.
  8. You are starting to resign yourself to this life, because it is your obligation to care for your loved on.

Phase 3 – The Other Shoe Drops

It might be weeks, months or even years before you enter this phase. In this phase your loved has had another significant and worsening change in their health condition and it’s had a significant impact on you, your family and your normal schedule. You may experience:

  1. Feeling exhausted and wondering when was the last time you had a restful, full night’s sleep.
  1. You may experience any of the things experienced in Phase 1 and 2.
  2. Fear, worry and guilt start to become your predominant thoughts.
  3. You start to wonder if you have what it takes to get through this.
  4. If you are working, you may be considering asking for some flexibility in your schedule, or in decreasing your hours at work.
  5. You continually push down your feelings, and it feels as hard to do this as it does to keep a beach ball under water.
  6. You start to feel like you might be cracking under the pressure – the beach ball of emotions erupt – and sometimes you scare yourself when they do.
  7. You start to have daydreams of a different life.
  8. Your pride, love, and commitment to caring for your loved one has moved through the obligation phase, and into feeling like there are too many demands on your time, energy, and life.

Phase 4 – No Turning Back

This phase is characterized by transition and knowing that your loved one will not be getting better. There may still be some good days, but the long term outlook is that the good days will eventually decrease as the health of your loved one continues to decline. This may happen rapidly, or may happen over weeks, months or years. This phase is common for families impacted by progressive diseases like MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, cancer, ALS, etc. In this phase you may experience:

  1. Overwhelming thoughts of fear, worry and guilt for thinking about life after caregiving – after your loved one has passed away.
  2. Sometimes wishing it would all just end – followed by immense feelings of guilt for even thinking that thought.
  3. You may feel a lot of guilt for getting extra help for your loved one, from additional home care hours to considering a long term care placement.
  4. Feelings of anticipatory loss and grief, especially when the medical condition includes cognitive impairment and memory loss.
  5. In some cases, there is a pendulum that swings from when things are better than ever expected to sudden medical crises where you wonder if this will be the last medical crises your loved one will face.
  6. You feel completely overwhelmed and your major focus is on just making through the day.
  7. You continue to believe you are managing fine, and when asked, tell others you are doing fine.
  8. Your loved one may want to talk about what they want at the end of their life. You might be ready to do this. Many caregivers feel that they have “given up” if they have this conversation with their loved one.

Phase 5 – After Caregiving

This phase can take 2 forms. You might go through this phase after a long, rehabilitating treatment program that your loved one has been going through, and now they are back to a full life, no longer requiring intense care from you. This also is the phase you will go through after your caregiving ends because of the death of your loved one. You may experience:

  1. Loss of connection with colleagues, extended family and some friends.
  2. Concentration and memory problems
  3. Feeling quite exhausted. This is a different type of exhaustion than felt in the other phases and is restorative and healing.
  4. Disconnected from the world in general. You may not have been aware of major world events, perhaps even family events, while you were in the highest intensity of caregiving.
  5. You may feel a great deal of relief that your loved one is no longer suffering, and then you feel guilty for thinking that way.
  6. Your grief will take many forms. It is unique as each person is unique.
  7. You may feel like you are just going through the motions of every day life.


These lists are not complete or exhaustive. They describe what I have experienced as a caregiver and what I have seen when working with other caregivers. I believe these are important phases of the caregiving journey, and it helps you to know what to expect when your family experiences any of these phases.

In upcoming blogs I will share important warning signs of each phase that suggest you would benefit from outside help, and some key steps you take to avoid caregiver burnout. It doesn’t help the person you are caring for if you become a patient, too.  You can avoid burnout and I will support you. Keep an eye out for the announcement of the soon to be released online program coming up in the next couple of weeks.

Please let me know what phase you think you are in by leaving a comment below. Please leave a comment if you disagree with what I say – I am open to learning new things and changing my mind!

May you find peace, hope, and joy in every day.


Surrender to Sleep

If you could sneak into a family caregiver’s bedroom at night, you might see them tucked snugly in bed, head sunk into the pillow, eyes closed and the slow, regular breathing would give you a clue they are sound asleep. These moments are few and far between. The caregiver relishes these moments of deep, restful sleep. In these moments, their sleep deprivation is hidden.

Sleep deprivation is one of the most frequent health problems faced by caregivers. They don’t get enough hours in bed to be fully rested, or their sleep is interrupted with being awakened to assist the person they are caring for, from worry about the person they are caring for, or from anxiety about their overall situation and stress.

Sleep deprivation has serious consequences. It can affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally. Here are five surprising ways to tell if you might be sleep deprived:

Feeling hungry.   When the brain is low on energy because it is tired, it will look to food for energy. Not getting enough rest can increase the production of ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone, in your gut, and you will crave sugary and high fat food.

  • Being more impulsive – you find it gets too hard to say “no” to the things you know aren’t good for you – especially food and drink.
  • Having trouble seeing. Even eye muscles are affected by lack of rest. Your eyes have to work harder to track well together which can cause double vision.

Here are some little known tips to help you sleep:

  • Turn your lights down 2- 3 hours before you go to bed. Being exposed to less light can increase your body’s natural production of melatonin.
  • Drink tart cherry juice 2 – 3 hours before bed.
  • In the 1 – 2 hours before going to be, avoid eating anything that causes heartburn or makes you go to the bathroom.

These tricks may not work for you and then it’s recommended you talk to your doctor to talk about the various sleep aids to help you get the rest you need.

Sweet dreams.

We can all learn from each other so please share your sleep tips and challenges in the comments below.  Thanks!

Don’t miss a blog post!  Sign up at and you will never miss a post!

May you find peace, hope, and joy in every day.


Coming Full Circle

The other day I was talking with my mom and step-dad about my decision to go back to volunteering for the Canadian Red Cross.  I’ve been telling myself that I didn’t have time to do this, that I should wait until I’m finished ________ and I’m finished _________ (I could fill in the blanks with any number of things.

“It’s taken over 5 years but I am ready to go help with disaster relief again.”  I said

“Does it take that much out of you?” my mom asked.

“Oh no, I said.  It was going through Callum’s cancer treatment and death that took that much out of me.”  I replied.  “Volunteering with the Red Cross for disaster relief uplifts me, it makes me humble and I come back very grateful for everything I have.  I just didn’t have the energy after being a caregiver to do it before now.”

In my home province of Alberta, Canada, a city of 80,000 people were evacuated on May 3rd due to wildfires rushing through the city. It is a disaster of unprecedented proportion.  It’s been a long time, and finally the passion inside said “it’s time for to help.”

Why am I writing this on a blog for caregivers?

One reason is because unlike the past 2 times I’ve been deployed to disasters, I have caregivers in mind.  The hospital was evacuated.  Seniors home evacuated.  It’s tough enough some days to keep things running smoothly when you are in your own home, senior’s residence or long term care home, where everything is familiar and comfortable.  There was a 30 minute evacuation warning – that is not a lot of time to ease anyone into changing locations. There are caregivers who will benefit from additional support.  I worry that they won’t ask.  That they will sacrifice even more to make sure their loved one is properly cared for.  I hope that someone will take an extra moment to make sure the caregiver has what they need to be comforted.

The other reason is that for the past few years I have been teaching others about following your passion, not waiting for the perfect time, and then when we are in a state of gratitude and joy, we receive more reasons to be grateful and joyful.  It’s not that a disaster is a happy time.  I live by the foundation that we choose joy regardless of the situation, and I want to help others experience a few moments of joy, even in the face of profound loss and sadness.  It is time for me to walk the walk, not just talk the walk.

Two days ago I submitted my application to once again become a Canadian Red Cross volunteer. Today I applied for my police check.  I have come full circle.

In September, 2001, I applied to be a Canadian Red Cross volunteer in Medicine Hat.  By December, 2001, I was in New York City assisting with the disaster relief after 9/11.  My second deployment was to the 2003 BC Fires in September 2003.   In 2007 I was overjoyed to become a Red Cross staff in Red Deer, where I was managed the Chapter office.  I followed Callum to Saskatoon in 2008 amid much heartbreak and many tears about leaving the Canadian Red Cross.  It was the best job I’ve ever had.  I have come full circle and am ready to help out.

When you are actively caregiving, you may not be able to do everything you want to do, including following all your passions and joy.  Believe that there will be a time when you can once again do this.  Believe that in baby steps, you can do it now.  The key is to know what brings you joy and what steps can you take today to smile and laugh.


Caregiving: The Cost and the Crisis

Last week a new report on the burden of family caregiving was published by Health Quality Ontario. There are many eye-opening findings that tell us of a growing health crisis. A health crisis that is only going to get worse until we take a look at the multi-faceted issues and develop prevention and intervention strategies that will help family caregivers be healthy, feel supported, and valued as part of the care team.

The report, Reality of Caring: Distress among the caregivers of home care patients, takes a look at the impact of caring at home for a family member who is elderly, ill or disabled and receiving services in the Ontario home care programs. These are the family caregivers who often don’t realize they are family caregivers. They fill that role out of deep love, obligation and usually at a great cost to their own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

While the report brings to light very important issues for which we need to pay attention, it misses some critical points.

What We Need to Pay Attention To:

The first startling fact appears in the executive summary:

“… among the 97% of long-stay home care patients who also received care from an unpaid caregiver in 2013/14, one third had caregivers who experienced distress, anger or

depression in relation to their caregiving role, or were unable to continue that role. That rate of distress had more than doubled since 2009/10.”

The research was focused on long-stay home care patients with the majority being seniors. Increased distress levels were contributed to:

  • level of cognitive impairment
  • functional disability
  • frail health

Generally speaking, 40 – 50% of caregivers in these situations experienced caregiver distress.

This situation is critical for two main reasons:

  •  It is expected that within the next 15 – 20 years the population aged 65 and older will double. The population aged 40 – 65 will decrease and this puts enormous strain on the unpaid caregiver. Potentially it will mean an increase of caregivers with their own major health issues caring for someone with higher needs health issues. This puts the health of both caregiver and caree in jeopardy.
  •  The current philosophy of aging in place has its merits. It can reduce the financial cost of hospital stays and long term care, and reduce the stress on the caregiver because their family remains in the comfort of their home. To make this really work, we need to look at the overall support for family caregivers. There is much more to caregiving than learning how to lift someone from bed to a wheelchair, change dressing and give IV medications. We must help the caregiver keep their identity, their own sense of self, and believe in a life beyond caregiving. This is much more than self-care. It is self-preservation. Caregivers are people first.

In my next blog I will share a glaring omission in this report and why we must pay attention to what has been missed.

You can read the full report here:

May you find peace, hope, and joy in every day.

 Subscribe to our list and receive a free guided relaxation audio download.