The Gleaner

Opinion: The caregiver’s journey: being a caregiver without realizing it

Why is it so difficult to identify ourselves as family caregivers when it is the intuitive thing to do for a loved one? Compassion, empathy and being of service come naturally to those with a strong sense of family and community. Whether it be a parent, a spouse or a close friend that is declining in health or has a debilitating disease, the busiest one is usually the first to step in. The journey starts here without even a thought of how it will affect us in the long run.

Often, when a loved one becomes ill or declines in health, complete focus is placed on their care and/or recovery. Without even a thought does the caregiver question their own needs (That would seem selfish).

As the caregiving journey begins, it might resemble a sprint! The sprint includes meal preparation, grocery shopping, driving the loved one to medical appointments, etc. At first, it seems minimal. Although, as time unfolds, the sprint turns into a marathon. Then what?

Marathons are exhausting, especially without prior training! When fatigue sets in, so does the lack of eloquence. The simplest of tasks become frustrating. Challenging situations become a burden. We want what is best for the loved one. But at what cost?

First, they must identify themselves as a family caregiver. Then, the opportunities for support will accompany them throughout their caregiving journey. It is possible to preserve energy by seeking help through local organizations.

There exist resources in the region, such as Les Aidants Naturels du Haut-Saint-Laurent and La Société Alzheimer du Suroît, which can be called upon to help you in your caregiving journey. The existing resources will allow you to support yourself and find balance in your different roles.

Regardless of the degree to which a person becomes a caregiver, it is essential to find ways and means of support to better navigate your journey as a caregiver from the beginning.

“Being a caregiver is rewarding and valuable.  The benefit for me is a personal relationship with my mom and dad, with no regrets. I took a workshop on preventing exhaustion in caregiving, and all I can say is that I wish I had sought out help before I became exhausted. The workshop has valuable skills and support.” – Judy Lang

Submitted by Les Aidants Naturels du Haut-Saint-Laurent staff

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