Resource Guide for Family Caregivers
Meaning of being a family caregiver

Caregiving is not new, but families in Canada are now providing more complex care for a longer period of time than ever before. Medical advances have meant that we are more successful in treating serious, acute illnesses and therefore our loved ones are living longer, they are developing more ongoing or chronic conditions that can make it very difficult for them to care for themselves. Increasingly the stresses on the health care system mean that more and more family members (particularly women) are taking on more caregiving responsibilities, many of them need support and preparation for their new role.

 If you are providing care and support for an adult family member, partner, friend or neighbour, you are a caregiver.

Family caregiving can take many forms. Do you provide care and support for an adult family member, partner, friend or neighbour? If so, you are a caregiver. If you are the primary caregiver for someone, you are most likely the spouse or the adult child of the person needing care. However, another important and often overlooked group is the parents of an adult child living with a disability. As a caregiver, you may be caring for your family member in your own home, you may be supporting them to stay in their home, or you may be providing support for them after they have been placed in a care facility. Whatever the circumstances, there are a number of changes, needs, feelings and emotions that accompany family caregiving. Family caregiving can be very rewarding. Some family caregivers talk about the rewards this way1:

I guess the most important thing I have learned from my experiences of caring for my parents is that the long-term benefits vastly outweigh the physical and emotional costs. These days will never come our way again and we will eventually have ample time to rest and recover. I find great peace in the knowledge that I gave as much of myself as I was able to when they needed me. 

My family has bonded together and even though we are spread all over Vancouver Island, we have been caring for her in shifts and keep the email and phone lines busy. I spent many hours over countless cups of tea talking with Mother about her impending death, her life and our love for the members of our family and each other. My relationship with my father has changed since Mom’s death. We are closer and more open about our feelings. Although I sometimes feel heavy with responsibilities, I love our times together. 

Caring for a loved one can bring families closer; it can enhance relationships; it can feel good to make it possible for a loved one to stay in their own home; and it can be rewarding to know that your loved one is doing what they want to do.

At times I felt emotionally and physically exhausted and wondered how I would find the strength to manage everything.

At the same time, family caregiving can also be very stressful. Some family caregivers talk about the challenges this way2

The extra work entailed in caring for an elderly relative can strain a marriage. It’s important for good communication to prevail.

At times it be can frustrating as you feel there is not enough time in the day and you don’t have enough energy.

I am always “on call” for my mother, 24 hours a day.

At times I felt emotionally and physically exhausted and wondered how I would find the strength to manage everything.

Caring for a family member can also separate families, disrupt relationships, be exhausting and stressful, and involve some difficult decisions.

1 & 2. Spotlight on Family Caregivers, Living Well Newsletter, Camosun College, Volume 9, Issue 1, Feb. 2001.